RENTON, Wash. – When Christine Michael arrived back at the Seattle Seahawks’ training facility last week, he was humble and quiet. He didn’t speak about himself, only of the opportunity he was getting again with the team that drafted him.
Then Michael went out and made the conversation about him again. But for the first time in his professional career it was about what he accomplished on the field when he rushed for a career-high 84 yards on 16 carries in Seattle’s win over Cleveland.
It was the kind of performance Seattle waited to see from Michael since he was a second-round pick by the team in 2013. But it took getting traded away to Dallas, being released by the Cowboys and later released by Washington for Michael to recognize the opportunities at a professional career were slipping away.
“(He’s) very determined to be right where he’s supposed to be. Not in stuff on the outside, not having too much fun with what’s going on, and just being in the moment,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “His mindfulness has really shown up, trying to be there for his teammates. He demonstrated that throughout. He cherishes this opportunity more than he ever has, I think.”
Michael has a chance to be the Seahawks’ featured running back for the final two games of the regular season, beginning with Sunday’s home finale against St. Louis. Seattle won’t have Marshawn Lynch back this week from abdominal surgery, and whether he’ll return for a potentially meaningless regular-season finale at Arizona is unclear.
Even when Lynch returns, assistant head coach Tom Cable said it’ll be on Lynch to adjust to the type of offense the Seahawks have become late in the season.
“We’re counting on him to get healthy whenever that is and then once that happens, it’s for him to come back in and be able to adapt to this football team and the way it acts and the way it’s moving right now collectively,” Cable said. “That will be his challenge, but right now his No. 1 thing is getting healthy.”
Because of the uncertainty about Lynch, it will be up to Michael and Bryce Brown – with veteran Fred Jackson sprinkled in on third downs – to carry the load in the backfield for the rest of the regular season. Seattle is hoping what it saw from Michael against the Browns can be repeated.
“(I’m) just staying focused,” Michael said. “Taking advantage of the opportunity and staying focused and just going out there and giving it all I have. Being patient and knowing my assignment.”
Michael’s circuitous season began in training camp when he was beaten out by undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls to serve as Lynch’s backup. He was traded to Dallas and even with the turmoil among Cowboys running backs couldn’t become an established option and was eventually released. That led to a short stint on Washington’s practice squad before ending up back in Seattle last week after Rawls was lost for the season to a broken ankle.
What Michael did well last week against Cleveland was make a decision and go. He wasn’t indecisive with where he ran. He didn’t dance around trying to break a big play. If the run was only going to gain a few yards, Michael put his head down and bulled ahead. He didn’t get his first carry until early in the second quarter and still led the Seahawks in rushing.
“What I really liked was he was doing things right, and then I really liked the tenacity he was running with,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He was running very hard. He was lowering his pads, he was running behind his pads. Obviously we know his quickness and the speed that he’s got, but he kind of had a fierceness to him in that game, and that was something I liked to see.”
Carroll remains uncertain about the status of SS Kam Chancellor (tailbone) and LT Russell Okung (calf) for Sunday’s game. Chancellor was injured two weeks ago against Baltimore and sat out last week. Okung suffered a calf strain in the second half and was replaced by Alvin Bailey. … DE Michael Bennett wore a “Bernie 2016” hat during his availability on Wednesday and said he would vote for Bernie Sanders if he was the Democratic nominee for president.
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