Seattle Seahawks

Plenty of distractions for Seahawks, but none named Marshawn

News Tribune sports columnist Dave Boling on Thursday, June 26, 2014.
News Tribune sports columnist Dave Boling on Thursday, June 26, 2014. Staff photographer

Seattle Seahawks training camp 2015 has spawned the usual array of distracting headlines about holdouts, contract brinksmanship and injury concerns.

But there’s news in the absence of certain specific news: None of this has involved Marshawn Lynch.

Remember him? Remember those questions every season: Is he going to hold out? Is he going to retire? How’s his back, his ankle, his attitude?

After years of providing the most dramatic plotlines to Seahawks preseasons, Marshawn Lynch is not only in camp, but appears to be in game-ready shape, running with his typical destructive purpose, and taking obvious joy in being on the field.

What’s with the sudden and conspicuous conformity of the team’s resident nonconformist?

Having written dozens of columns on Lynch since he arrived in Seattle in 2010, and I’m going to write a line I’ve never used: I think I know what he’s thinking.

Marshawn Lynch is entering the Legacy Phase of his career, and as much as he would probably scoff at the notion, he just might be thinking how a strong finish would impact the long-term judgment of his career.

He’s 29, with five Pro Bowls and 8,695 rushing yards on his career résumé. That’s an amazing career.

There had been rumblings about his retirement the last year or so. And if he’s done soon, or suffers the kind of decline expected of backs at this stage, he’ll be remembered as a supremely tenacious runner who carried the Seahawks to a franchise golden age.

But now that he’s had a contract extension that appears to make him satisfied in that regard, he has to see that just a couple more good years on the field can elevate his career even higher, to Hall of Fame status.

I ran the theory on Lynch’s future past Seahawks running back coach Sherman Smith. And he was way ahead of me.

“Hall of Fame? No doubt about it,” Smith said. “I’ve talked to him about it. I think he plays it down a little bit, saying it’s not that big of a deal. But in the back of his mind, I think he’d love that.”

Smith said he knows Lynch’s talent and toughness is deserving of the honor, but “you have to get the numbers” to get the votes.

Lynch is the league’s 35th all-time rusher now. With 12,246 yards, Edgerrin James made it to the Hall of Fame semifinals this year, his first year of eligibility.

If Lynch could sustain two more seasons averaging 1,250 yards, he’d be up to 11,195 yards.

He’s already on a streak that has him as the league’s top rusher since 2011 (5,357 yards). That is a string of excellence that allows evaluators to start considering the critical phrase “best in his era.”

Lynch has two other factors in his favor, and one that might be a concern.

His punishing style could earn him something of an Earl Campbell Discount when it comes to the Hall of Fame. Campbell’s highlight reel of serial assault and battery committed upon would-be tacklers is enough so that nobody would quibble that his yardage total (9,407) and longevity (eight seasons) is not up to what might be considered current standards for enshrinement.

Another factor working for Lynch is the success of the Seahawks, and his role as the primary weapon and standard-bearer for the competitive relentlessness key to the championship runs.

“He defines us,” Smith said. “He’s the epitome of what we’re all about; everybody on our team feeds off his toughness.”

At this point, some will suggest that Lynch’s acrimony toward the media would cost him Hall of Fame votes when the time comes. After all, he famously commented that he was only at Super Bowl press conferences to avoid the league fines.

Continued excellence could render that testy relationship irrelevant.

“If he keeps having great years,” Smith said, “then you start talking about the great running backs, then there’s no way you can exclude him from the conversation.”

Can Lynch continue at this pace? It’s obvious through early camp that he’s not just here to avoid being fined.

He’s here to cement his legacy.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440