RENTON, Wash. – The comeback road of Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch took a strange turn Friday when he told the team after Friday's practice that he couldn't play and did not accompany the team to Minnesota for its wild-card playoff game against the Vikings on Sunday.
Indications all week had been that Lynch would return for the game. He was listed as a full participant for Friday's practice and could be seen shooting baskets during Pete Carroll's news conference after the workout.
But Lynch did not board a bus to the airport and did not make the flight to Minneapolis with the team. The team said in a statement Friday night that Lynch had been declared out and that "following our final workout Friday he felt like he couldn't play."
Carroll had sent mixed signals during the day about Lynch's availability.
The coach had said during his radio show on KIRO 97.3 on Friday morning: "He's going to play. And he's looked really good in practice. He's practiced as hard as he ever has throughout the week just to prove to himself that he was right, I think, as well as everybody else. So he's ready to go, and we are anxious to see him fit in."
But when he met the media around 2 p.m., following the team's practice he said: "I have not said yet that he's playing. I know that's been out there, but I don't know until we finish the week. He's looked really good, and we're hoping so. Very optimistic."
Everything during the week seemed to indicate a likely return for Lynch against the Vikings after a seven-game absence. He jovially took part in a little post-practice basketball-shooting contest with fellow running backs Bryce Brown, Christine Michael and Fred Jackson.
But after practice Friday, one in which Lynch was listed as a full participant, Carroll said that "I don't know really" if Lynch will play against the Vikings and added that the team will assess how he responds to a full week of work.
"He's got to go tomorrow [Saturday] and make sure that he's OK after today [Friday]," Carroll said.
That Lynch was able to fully participate in practices week — something he rarely does during the season — had sent further signals that he would be back. And the rest of Carroll's comments about Lynch indicated nothing but optimism.
Lynch has played in only seven games this season and not since the Nov. 15 home loss to Arizona. He had abdominal surgery Nov. 25 in Philadelphia and then spent much of the next month or so in the Bay Area working out with MMA trainer Tareq Azim.
Carroll had reiterated Friday that if Lynch was ready to play there was no reason he couldn't have a usual workload.
"If he's playing, he's playing," Carroll said. "And we'll see how that works out. We are encouraged by his work. This would be like the first game of the year, as we would approach, so we have been here before with him, and I know we know how to handle that."
But Friday night the team ruled out Lynch out and the Seahawks will now go with Michael, Brown and Jackson as tailbacks against the Vikings.