RENTON, Wash. – Thomas Rawls jabbed a finger for pointed emphasis. He smacked his hands together. His voice quickened with excitement.
And he wasn’t even on a field. He was behind a podium and microphones.
The Seahawks’ lead running back sure didn’t look like he’s going to ease his way back into the offense Sunday against Philadelphia in his first game since he cracked his fibula seven weeks ago.
“No. There’s no easing-in with Thomas,” coach Pete Carroll said Friday about Rawls.
Going hard at what will be his first carries since the first half of the Sept. 18 game at Los Angeles. Sunday will be only the third game in the last 11 months for Rawls, who led the NFL in yards per carry (5.6) as an undrafted rookie last season. At least he was leading the league until he broke his ankle Dec. 13 at Baltimore.
One might conclude Rawls is a tad eager to have healthy legs and a green light to slam into and through defenders again on Sunday. It’s a style Carroll cherishes – and the 2016 Seahawks have lacked.
The biggest challenge Rawls may have Sunday is staying calm enough to do his job as designed.
“This whole week, my father, my brother, and a lot of my family members, they’ve been texting me the same message lately. ‘Relax. Breathe. It’s OK,’ ” Rawls said. “Because they know the type of person that I am. I’m a real passionate person, I play with a lot of drive and I live my life like that. I’d never change it.”
His return represents a week of overhaul in a Seattle running game that sure needs one. The Seahawks are 30th in the league in rushing offense. That’s after years of being at the top of the league in it, fitting Carroll’s way of winning with defense and running the ball.
“I feel better. I feel faster. I feel more elusive. I feel great,” Rawls said, in his characteristic, rapid-fire cadence. “I’m actually feeling amazing.”
Rawls’ return is coinciding with the emergence of rookie third-round pick C.J. Prosise. Prosise made his first career start last weekend at New England and rushed 17 times for 66 yards. That was twice the yardage the Seahawks had as a team the previous week in the win over Buffalo. He also caught seven passes for 87 yards.
The 220-pound former wide receiver at Notre Dame was a surprisingly physical runner against the Patriots beyond the role of third-down, pass-catching back for which the Seahawks drafted him this spring. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin said Prosise “lit up our sideline” by lowering his shoulder and plowing over Patriots multiple times while running after catches last weekend.
This week the Seahawks also promoted Troymaine Pope was from their practice squad. The undrafted rookie was Seattle’s leading rusher this preseason.
All that led to Seattle waiving Christine Michael on Tuesday. Michael was the team’s de facto leading rusher while Rawls was out and Prosise was missing more than a month into late October with a broken wrist. Green Bay claimed him, so he’s now a Packer.
Now with Rawls returning, Prosise wowing, Pope debuting and quarterback Russell Wilson’s legs as healthy as they’ve been since the opener, the Seahawks can actually try to run the ball. For real.
“We hope it will be a pretty dynamic package for us,” offensive coordinator and play caller Darrell Bevell said.
“We know the tenacity that (Rawls) brings to the run game. That’s something that we really like, something that we’re hoping we get back to. The toughness mentality he brings, the way he finished runs and hard to bring down, those are all things that we’re looking forward to having.”
As great as Prosise was last weekend at New England, Rawls’ style is the way the Seahawks want their running game to be. It’s the way it has been since now-retired Marshawn Lynch arrived in the middle of the 2010 season.
“Honestly, it really is,” Carroll said. “(Rawls is) a guy who lit us up last year really with his aggressive style and really always in attack mode and we love that. We’ve kind of built it around that mentality. It’s really nice to get him back.”
Rawls isn’t likely to get the 20 carries on Sunday he was supposed to get each game this season. That is probably a week or two away from happening. But Carroll said he won’t go light on Rawls’ workload against the Eagles’ strong defensive front, either.
“I don’t have any problem with playing him quite a few plays. I have no problem with that,” Carroll said. “I just want to see how it’s going, how it is working. C.J. did a really nice job last week. He’s ready to go.
“So we’re in a good situation right now.”
Better than even a week ago. Certainly better than at any other point this season.
And far better than Rawls’ situation while on the sidelines seven weeks ago at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. He paced back and forth during the second half of the Seahawks’ 9-3 loss that day, injured and useless for the second time in four games dating to last December. These have been the first two major injuries of the 23-year old’s football life.
“When you’re dealing with specific injuries, it can take a toll as far as mentally. I did have a couple things where it did kind of get to me,” he said. “But it never overtakes my mind, my heart.
“That’s one thing about me is I can push through those things and I can get over those things. I bounce back like nothing ever happened.
“I’m excited about it.”
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