Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is the kind of football player who leaves it all on the field, which is what made his brief and mostly ineffectual performance Sunday curious to the point of bizarre.
On an afternoon distinguished by Tyler Lockett’s electrifying kick return, Jimmy Graham’s revival as a go-to target and Kam Chancellor’s reunion with the defense, Lynch’s contribution to his team’s highlight video was his belated arrival from the locker room.
Midway through the first quarter of the Hawks’ 26-0 victory, Lynch showed up on the sideline in a blue robe with a hood. He wore the hood, I presume, not because the temperature was 60 degrees during the most pleasant autumn day in the history of autumn. He wore the hood because it gave Lynch the look of Floyd Mayweather Jr. shadowboxing after stepping through the ropes at the MGM Grand.
Watching Lynch accept hugs and handshakes from his teammates, I could almost hear the voice of ring announcer Michael Buffer.
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“And on the south sideline, ladies and gentlemen, from Oakland, California, in his ninth NFL season, Marshawn BEEEEAST MODE Lynch!”
With 3 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Lynch finally got into the game. He would carry the ball four times for 14 yards and make one juggling catch for a 9-yard gain before leaving the game at halftime.
The cause of the departure was described as a bothersome hamstring, the latest ailment in a week that found Lynch dealing with what the Seahawks described as a sore neck after the Green Bay game. Upon returning to Seattle, Lynch was held out of practice with a tender calf.
“He had a hard time getting loose today,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We left him in the locker room to keep getting ready. He has a sequence he goes through to get ready to go. It’s happened before, where he just can’t in rhythm and get right and all that.
“He had a calf during the week, and his hamstring kind of bothered him a little today. He just couldn’t get ready. He tried to get out there, and did a little bit of running and all, but couldn’t answer it in the second half.”
Time out. Lynch had a calf during the week? No wonder he had such a hard time getting loose.
The tight hamstring, in any case, did not appear to concern Carroll.
“We’ve checked it all out, and there is nothing to be alarmed by, so we’ll just have to wait and see...This has happened a number of times in the past, so it’s OK.”
Lynch’s struggle to loosen up before games may be nothing new for the Seahawks, but his inability to carry the ball more than a handful of times sure was. His 14 rushing yards against the Bears was his second-lowest output in a Seattle uniform. Not since Sept. 18, 2011, when the Steelers held him to 11 yards on six carries, had the Hawks offense gotten less production from the guy it’s built around.
Lynch’s health had little effect on the Seahawks because, for one, rookie running back Thomas Rawls did a bang-up job impersonating the fearless veteran. (When Rawls attempted to bull into a pair of downfield defenders rather than seek refuge out of bounds, it was vintage Beast Mode.)
For another, the Seahawks’ opponents for their home opener were the Chicago Bears, quite possibly the worst Bears’ team I’ve seen — and I first saw the Bears in 1963. If ever the Hawks could afford to take the field without Lynch, it was Sunday.
Still, three games into a season in which he’s rushed for 128 yards and scored zero touchdowns, I’m wondering about an issue more problematic than tightness in his calf and hamstring. I’m wondering, specifically, if all the recent drama at Seahawks headquarters has made Lynch feel ignored.
Think about it: The major controversies about the Hawks usually involve Marshawn Lynch. When he avoids voluntary offseason workouts, it’s a story. When he finally shows up, it’s a story. When he doesn’t get the ball at the goal line against the Patriots, it’s a story. When he gets it on fourth-and-short and is held for no gain against the Rams, it’s a story.
Between Chancellor’s decision to end his contract holdout and the difficulties of assimilating Graham into the offense, Lynch was just another member of the Seahawks roster. Perhaps it occurred to him that he wasn’t noticed.
If nothing else, it explains the grand, conquering-hero entrance of a running back who’d end up rushing for 14 yards.