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Marshawn Lynch rejoins Seahawks, might play against Vikings

The Seattle Seahawks players are excited to see running back Marshawn Lynch return to the lineup in the playoffs.
The Seattle Seahawks players are excited to see running back Marshawn Lynch return to the lineup in the playoffs.
By Jayson Jenks Seattle Times

When teammates invoke Marshawn Lynch’s nickname, they are paying tribute to his reputation.

All the runs, over all the years, that earned him the title of Beast Mode.

That is the level where Lynch has been, but the question is: Will he remain there if he returns for the playoffs after having abdominal surgery in November?

Lynch rejoined the team Monday, which means he might play in Sunday’s playoff game at Minnesota. His teammates expressed full confidence in him.

“Beast Mode,” offensive tackle Garry Gilliam said. “Let him do his thing.”

“I mean, there’s nothing like having Beast Mode,” receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “You know what I’m saying?”

But what will the Seahawks get? Lynch hasn’t played in almost two months and played in only seven games this season because of various injuries.

When he played, he averaged 3.8 yards per carry, his lowest average since 2010. By other measures Lynch was the same as ever. Pro Football Focus ranked Lynch as the league’s third-best running back as late as December. More interesting, though, is this tidbit from PFF: Lynch was one of the league’s most elusive running backs, having forced 37 missed tackles on 124 touches.

If healthy – a big disclaimer – Lynch gives the position stability and experience. No one understands what the Seahawks want from their running backs better than Lynch. And no one should be better suited to readjust to how the offensive line is playing, how all the pieces are fitting together, on the fly.

He has seen it all before, and he has six 100-yard performances in 10 playoff games.

“He’s a master craftsman,” safety Earl Thomas said. “He understands how to flow with what’s going on, and that just adds power to what we bring to the table.”

Lynch gives the Seahawks a trusted source in big moments, when they need a yard or two, on second and third down.

“Ain’t nothing to worry about,” receiver Doug Baldwin said.

There always has been something almost mystical about what Lynch has meant to the Seahawks. For years Lynch infused the Seahawks with an identity. When you thought of the Seattle Seahawks over the past few years, you thought of Lynch and the defense, often in that order.

“Just the way he runs brings energy,” Gilliam said. “Regardless of it’s a long run or a short run, just the way he runs and the physicality he brings to the game, we all feed off of it, from offense to defense to special teams. I’m excited.”

But the offense’s dynamics have shifted this season. Quarterback Russell Wilson had the best season in franchise history, and the offense has clicked in ways it hasn’t before.

Running the ball is still the Seahawks’ top priority, but Lynch is returning to a different team than the one he last played for in November.

Offensive-line coach Tom Cable hinted at this change, however big, a couple weeks ago.

“I think if he’s right and ready to and all that, I’ve said this before, he’s a fine football player,” Cable said in December. “So it’s his ability to adapt to us, really, who we are and how we’ve come together as a group and as a team.”

Cable added, “That will be his challenge.”

It’s unclear how Lynch will play, how it will all fit together. But his teammates look forward to welcoming him back.

“His leadership, his presence,” Baldwin said. “Even though he was gone, he was very present with our team and talking to people, sending text messages. To have him in our huddle, it gives us a different mentality. I’m excited to get him back.”

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