Their coach says the Seattle Seahawks might have to wait until kickoff to find out if they will be missing star running back Marshawn Lynch for just the second time in six years.
Fred Jackson knows Lynch better than any Seahawks coach or other teammate. He says because there is some doubt about Lynch’s availability his great pal and the NFL’s leading rusher since 2011 must have a “severe” hamstring injury.
So, yes, there’s doubt as big as Lynch’s popularity whether Seattle (1-2) will have him as its lead back Monday night for its home game against Detroit (0-3), or whether it will be undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls making his first start with Jackson in a supporting role.
Yet every Seahawk from the head coach through the offensive coordinator to the groundskeeper spent Thursday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center team headquarters saying their power-running, smash-mouth foundation that Lynch has built into a Super Bowl championship system will not change.
“Obviously, Marshawn’s a huge part of what we do and we want him in there and feel like we need him in there as much as we can,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “Anytime somebody goes down like that, we expect the next guy that’s behind him to be able to step up, and Thomas was able to do that.”
So, can Bevell honestly say he will dial up the same calls against the Lions whether it’s Lynch — who has 8,823 yards rushing and 71 running touchdowns in his career — or a 22-year-old with 109 career yards and zero scores?
“You’ve lost personnel before; all of a sudden you go from having five wide-outs, now you’re down to three or a tight end goes down. There’s adjustments that happen all the time,” Bevell said.
“But we have a philosophy. There’s things that we like to do. We’re going to stick with who we are.
“We’re not going to, all of a sudden, become the New England Patriots if Marshawn Lynch isn’t playing because that’s not who we are.”
They are, foremost, defined by how punishingly — and how often — Lynch runs. No one has run it more often in the league. He’s the reason no team threw it less than Seattle last season.
But so far this season has been different. Falling behind early in the first two games meant more Russell Wilson passes in the losses at St. Louis and Green Bay, and he has thrown at least 30 times in three consecutive games for only the second time in his four-season career.
Last weekend, when they were without Lynch for the first 12 minutes and then the final two quarters against Chicago, Bevell had Wilson get tight end Jimmy Graham involved right away with a pass on the first play. Wilson ended up with 30 more passes, completing 20, and Rawls romped for 104 yards carries in Seattle’s 26-0 win.
And now Lynch is hurting. Will they be without him Monday as they try to get to .500 before heading to undefeated Cincinnati?
“It’s going to take us all week to figure it out and see how it is,” coach Pete Carroll said Thursday, three days after a magnetic resonance imaging examination of Lynch’s hamstring.
Asked if it was the type of injury that might lead the Seahawks to be conservative and not play Lynch on Monday, given the fact there are 12 other games still left in the regular season and potentially beyond, Carroll said: “We’ll just wait and see. We don’t need to make any big declarations right now.
“We are just waiting and gathering information on where he is. I know he wants to play and we are going to try to do that. We’ll see how it goes all the way through. It may go all the way til game time.”
Perhaps there’s no better Seahawk to ask about Lynch than Jackson — because Lynch himself doesn’t talk to the media, that is.
The two were teammates for three-plus seasons in Buffalo. They shared lead roles in the Bills’ backfield in 2009 and at the start of 2010 before the Bills traded Lynch to Seattle. The 34-year-old Jackson, who was signed by the Seahawks in August after the Bills released him, even considers the 29-year-old Lynch as the fifth kid of his family.
So Jackson’s view of Lynch likely counts more than merely another Joe’s opinion among so many about the Seahawks’ star runner.
“Oh, man, if he’s questioning it, you know, it’s a severe injury,” Jackson said.
“He wants to be out there and contribute as bad as anybody. We’ll take it day to day and see how it goes. And if we get him out there, if we are fortunate enough to have him on Monday, it makes us better as a team.
“If not, you know, we’ve got to pick up the slack.”
Carroll left open the possibility Jackson gets an increased role on first and second downs. The Seahawks signed Jackson to be their third-down back for the passing game.
Jackson is all for whatever his role is against Detroit. He has five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown plus five carries for 26 yards rushing through his first three Seahawks games.
“I’m always prepared as if I’m the No. 1 guy,” Jackson said, knowing Seattle’s actual No. 1 guy is as questionable to play as he has been since he missed his only Seahawks game in October 2011 at Cleveland.
“I’ll be prepared for whatever it is they need me to do.”
MONDAY: Detroit Lions (0-3) at Seattle Seahawks (1-2), 5:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field, ESPN, 710-AM