Here we are, another episode of NFL Reality: Seattle Seahawks.
In practicing for their postseason opener, running back Marshawn Lynch was rehabilitating strongly from what is euphemistically called “sports hernia,” which pertains to painful bulges in the abdominal area. Google it if this is not enough information for you.
Anyway, America was looking forward to a matchup of the two most accomplished running backs in football: Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings and Lynch of the Seahawks.
Peterson is this season’s rushing champion, but Lynch has played in the past two Super Bowls and appeared to be in shape to be the hammer for another championship run.
But when Friday’s practice ended and the team was preparing to fly to Minnesota for the wild card game, BeastMode was in rest mode. He wasn’t even going to be there for moral support and fist bumps.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was surprised when Lynch told him “he just didn’t feel right.”
He didn’t have confidence all his internal organs would hold in place. Sports hernia has ruined careers of other running backs. Perhaps the weather forecast — minus six degrees for Sunday’s game — entered his thinking. It would have entered mine if I were recovering from a traumatic injury and pondering being chased and tackled by the Minnesota Vikings.
At any rate, Lynch stayed in Seattle while his teammates played in weather the Vikings of the Dark Ages would have understood and gouged out a 10-9 victory.
Never has there been a shakier 1-point win.
Seattle advances to the divisional playoff at Carolina, Sunday afternoon, only because Blair Walsh misplanted his plant foot and hooked a 27-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds.
As for Lynch and his absence, he was replaced, ably enough, if barely so, by Christine Michael, a name that does not put fear into NFL safeties assigned to tackle him.
Michael was cut by the Seahawks early in the season and was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys, in their mission of helping out homeless backs. Christine, who pronounces his name KRIS-tin, was Chrissie for the Cowboys. They soon cut him because his effort and professionalism did not meet their standards. Seriously.
Anyway, Michael at 25 seems to have discovered self-motivation at precisely the same time Lynch is suspected of losing it. The New York Post called what Lynch is doing – practicing but not playing – a “work strike.”
Before this season began, Lynch signed a three-year contract with the Seahawks at about $11 million per. At 29 he is earning about the same salary as Peterson, who is 30, and more than LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray, who are 27.
If Lynch is complaining, in his most silent of ways, about economic inequality, he’s not likely to attract much sympathy.
It may be more of a strike against The System that’s currently in place. The postseason, in contrast with the regular season, provides much better for the owners than for the players.
Of course I would not want to put words into Marshawn’s mouth. He will talk when he’s ready to do so, which may be the Super Bowl or never.
So every day the speculation will continue. Will Lynch play or not?
There could be debate over how much he will be missed. Against the Vikings, Michael rushed for 70 yards on 21 carries and outgained Peterson, who had declared Lynch “football’s second-best back” behind himself.
Peterson should have done like Marshawn and called in sick. He fumbled for the eighth time this season and apologized for “losing the game.”
Seattle-Carolina is the only divisional playoff game that Las Vegas expects to be close. Carolina at home is a 3-point favorite and has the edge in running backs. Jonathan Stewart appears fully recovered from a sprained foot.
When the Panthers and Hawks played in Seattle in October, Lynch was not much of a factor. He carried 17 times for 54 yards in a 27-23 loss by the home team.
Both teams have improved their defenses since then, and Russell Wilson has improved his quarterbacking for Seattle. Wilson is better protected now than he was then.
But if Lynch isn’t playing, Wilson will miss him. The running game is needed not so much for scoring but for providing rest for the magnificent Seattle defense.
Michael helped move the chains just enough for Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and company to catch their frozen breaths.
But Carolina, while more hospitable than the tundra of Minnesota, is more likely to steal the ball. And is harder to run through.
Without BeastMode charging up the middle, Wilson will be back on his feet, facing pressure comparable to what will be unleashed on Carolina’s MVP2B Cam Newton
It may be unfair to read too much into what Lynch isn’t saying. My guess is that he will play his silent-screen role for NFL Reality, that he will gain strength and confidence through this week of practice, while his mother gives us a tweet or two about his true feelings.
On Saturday he steps onto the charter for Charlotte.
And on Sunday we will see him as beastly as ever, though a half step slower than he was a year ago, when he was still young in running back years, at 28.
Maybe Carroll won’t ask him to run jet sweeps and counters. Maybe Lynch just bangs up the middle whenever the Seahawks need a yard or two. Maybe they work this thing out, whatever it is. And maybe if they’re at the goal line in the final seconds and they need a touchdown, they give him the damn ball.