RENTON, WASH. – When teammates invoke Marshawn Lynch’s nickname, they are paying tribute to his reputation.
All the runs, over all the years, that earned him the title of Beast Mode.
That is the level where Lynch has been, but the question is: Will he remain there if he returns for the playoffs after having abdominal surgery in November?
Lynch rejoined the Seattle Seahawks on Monday, which means he might play in Sunday’s wild-card playoff game vs. the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. Teammates expressed full confidence in him.
“Beast Mode,” tackle Garry Gilliam said. “Let him do his thing.”
“I mean, there’s nothing like having Beast Mode,” receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “You know what I’m saying?”
But what will the Seahawks get? Lynch hasn’t played in almost two months and was in only seven games this season because of various injuries. Seattle went 6-1 the past seven games without him.
When he played, he averaged 3.8 yards per carry, his lowest average since 2010. By other measures, Lynch was the same as ever. Pro Football Focus ranked Lynch as the league’s third-best running back as late as December. More interesting, though, is this tidbit from PFF: Lynch was one of the league’s most elusive running backs, having forced 37 missed tackles on 124 touches.
If healthy — a big disclaimer — Lynch gives the position stability and experience. No one understands what the Seahawks want from their running backs better than Lynch. And no one should be better suited to readjust to how the offensive line is playing, how all the pieces are fitting together, on the fly.
He has seen it all before, and he has six 100-yard performances in 10 playoff games.
“He’s a master craftsman,” safety Earl Thomas said. “He understands how to flow with what’s going on, and that just adds power to what we bring to the table.”
There always has been something almost mystical about what Lynch has meant to the Seahawks. For years, Lynch infused the team with an identity. But the offense’s dynamics have shifted this season. Quarterback Russell Wilson had the best season in franchise history, and the offense has clicked in ways it hasn’t before.
Running the ball is still Seattle’s top priority, with Thomas Rawls, Christine Michael and Bryce Brown having taken turns filling in with Lynch sidelined. Michael ran for a career-high 102 yards in Sunday’s 36-6 victory at Arizona.
The Seahawks won’t know for sure what they will get from Lynch until he is on the field practicing Wednesday. Coach Pete Carroll believed the signs would be obvious in that first practice whether Lynch is back to his standard.
“We’ve been around him for such a long time we’re going to be able to recognize his movement. That’s all we want to see — him getting in and out of breaks. Things he always can do and that he can withstand the workload and all of that,” Carroll said. “It isn’t a rigorous time of practice schedule and we do build up throughout the week. The running backs do run at full speed. We’ll get to see him move and if we need to do anything extra we will.”