RENTON, Wash. – While Marshawn Lynch is away, Christine Michael is happy to play.
Robert Turbin, too.
It’s Michael, though, upon whom the spotlight will shine the brightest.
Lynch is holding out from Seahawks training camp, angling for a new contract. Or falling short of that, at least some sort of alteration that would give him more upfront money.
The Lynch holdout began with the start of training camp Friday, costing him $30,000 – the routine daily NFL fine for being absent – in the process.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll, in comments afterward, confirmed the idea the team is not eager to give in and redo the four-year, $31 million deal Lynch signed in 2012.
“We’ve had a substantial plan working for us for years now and Marshawn was a big part of this plan and just a couple of years back we made a big statement about making a big effort for him,” Carroll said. “We wish he was with us now. But this is a tremendous opportunity for the guys who will be getting their shot.”
Michael stands at the head of that list.
Michael, in his second year out of Texas A&M, and Turbin, in his third year, are splitting time at the tailback spot, as they did throughout the spring when Lynch was either absent from voluntary OTAs, or present but not participating in minicamp due to an ankle injury.
It’s Michael, though, for whom the expectations are the highest. The Seahawks made a somewhat surprising move to take him in the second round (their first pick) in the 2013 draft.
With Lynch set as the starter in 2013, it was conceded that Michael was picked for the future, and he wasn’t called on to do much last season, gaining 79 yards on 18 carries, all in Seattle blowout wins. He was inactive for all of the playoff victories.
The perception, though, was that Michael also needed to prove he could pass block, contribute on special teams, and simply become more of a professional, to find his way onto the field more.
As a new season begins, Carroll said they are seeing what they hoped for from Michael.
“He had an offseason where he just seemed to grow up,” Carroll said. “He seemed to become really clear about the expectation of the workload, the job, the position that he’s playing, the responsibility of it and all that. He was just kind of bright-eyed, this was just a young pup his first year. But he’s made a big shift.”
Michael doesn’t dispute that he needed to learn what being an NFL player is all about.
“Just taking my time with the game, actually studying the game, learning the game, watching more film, asking more questions, taking better notes and just becoming an overall pro,” he said of what he learned during his rookie season. “And still trying to become an even better pro.”
The evolution continued when Michael returned to his native Beaumont, Texas, during breaks in the offseason, where his time mostly consisted of “straight training.”
He worked alongside several other players, including Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles, in exercises that included boxing and swimming.
Michael, who is 5-feet-10, weighs 227, up a little bit from his 221 of last season.
“He’s in great shape,” Carroll said.
Michael said he’s willing to help on any special team the Seahawks want, which could include non-return duties such as working on the kickoff team.
Pass blocking, though, he says is the biggest area of improvement this season.
“If I had to take something out of my game that I could work on it would be pass blocking,” he said. “I’ve been studying more film. I know who I’m blocking now, I know what to block. I know different defensive schemes. Now it’s just go out there and have fun with it and show them proof.”
And for now, the stage is his.