For Seahawks fans who follow RB Marshawn Lynch’s spectacular, sometimes provocative, tenure in Seattle, it comes as little surprise that this is likely his final year with the Seahawks. He’s approaching the traditional expiration date for NFL running backs — age 30, and he’ll be 29 next season — and will have a salary cap hit of $8.5 million.
Plus, he can be cantankerous, which is either amusing or annoying, depending on your perspective. It can be both, as I discovered during Super Bowl week. At a mandatory group interview session at the team hotel, Lynch, who hates these sort of things, fidgeted for a few minutes and then rose abruptly from his seat in front of a table and walked gingerly across empty chairs to escape the horde.
My first thought was here’s a guy, legendary for his off-the-charts pain threshold and fearlessness, who may tumble from one of the chairs and miss the Super Bowl. That was the amusing part — and the annoying part, because many of the Twelves who worship him would have been denied his skills at the pinnacle moment for no good reason.
But his run to daylight left him unharmed, the Seahawks won and, atop the hood of his parade vehicle several days later, Lynch stood and danced — alone, to the surprise of no one — delighting many of the 700,000 gathered downtown to celebrate him and his teammates.
But now, after a 3-3 start, came Sunday an ESPN report claiming, via anonymous sources, that the Seahawks bosses “have grown tired of his ways, including pulling a no-show at the White House Super Bowl ceremony, his training camp holdout and his possible contribution to locker-room distractions.”
The story claimed that the Seahawks may have sought to trade Lynch by Tuesday’s 1 p.m. deadline if not for the broken foot of FB Derrick Coleman that robbed the team of its depth. Lynch and head coach Pete Carroll were said to barely speak.
The story came on the heels of reports of locker-room discord over the firing of WR Percy Harvin and claims of dismay by some players over the nature of Russell Wilson’s leadership. All, of course, have been denied by coaches and players.
At his weekly Monday presser to discuss the Sunday game, Carroll was plainly weary of the stories of club discord, especially after a grueling 13-9 win at Carolina that ended a two-game losing streak.
“I have nothing to say about that because there is nothing to that,” he said of the Lynch dust-up. “At this point I don’t think it behooves us to try to respond to all of these things.
“Our players have told you how they feel, our coaches have told you how we feel about it and we are in a really good place right now . . . there is nothing to that report. I don’t know where that came from.”
Asked whether it was safe to assume Lynch will not be traded, Carroll smiled and said, “You are strong. You can go with that.”
But Carroll was not amused when asked about whether he speaks with Lynch, saying he banters with the Beast “whenever I need to.”
In his position, Carroll has no choice but to say what he’s saying, because his job is to win football games, not to be a broker of honest information. He later attempted to take a little higher road.
“They are fine,” Carroll said of his players. “Our locker room is solid. They are together. They are really determined. I don’t think you can get any other thought than that. And they are surprised as we are as coaches that you guys have these questions about us.
“But we understand it’s part of it and we are not going to get frustrated by it. We are just going to keep working our business.”
Yet Carroll is getting frustrated by the controversies. But who started it?
Without getting into the particulars of the stories — it would be nice to hear Lynch’s side, but he would prefer to juggle chain saws — Carroll has to realize he put a match to the tinder by firing Harvin at midseason. By his own, albeit minimal, admission, he “couldn’t make it work.”
Had Carroll and GM John Schneider in the offseason decided that they couldn’t deal with Harvin’s toxicity, or had they decided after 2014 season that he had to go, the fallout would still have been substantial, but more manageable.
But to calve off a superstar player in the middle of weak start by the defending Super Bowl champions, well, it doesn’t get much juicier for sports media.
Regardless of the merits of the subsequent stories, Carroll had to know the episode would reap the whirlwind, particularly since it was the Seahawks who craftily tightened the lid on Harvin’s disruptions so successfully, then leaked the news when it suited their purposes.
Carroll can’t assume a posture of bewilderment, then of indignance, over media coverage when it was his whiff on an expensive personnel gamble that triggered the scrutiny. Difficult as it apparently was to manage Harvin, it is impossible to manage non-NFL media for a story this size.
Lamentable as have been some excesses in coverage, the media interest is part of the risk in bold moves with outlier personalities like Harvin and Lynch. The risk paid off in a Super Bowl title. But Carroll didn’t ride off after that; he proposed to repeat the feat.
He may yet do so. But in sports, especially in pro football, forces are strongly at work to preclude that. It is an industry in relentless pursuit of something new, and yesterday just gets in the way. Because of the timing and manner of Harvin’s walk of the plank, the Seahawks bosses should figure to get comfy being made uncomfortable for the rest of the season.
While taking Lynch off the market, Carroll said Schneider is on the phone prior to the trade deadline. “John’s working on it,” Carroll said. “You never know. All the way until the final hour he’s looking at stuff and entertaining thoughts and things like that. That’s just the way we’ve always been. So he’s still doing it.” . . . Carroll was vague about the returns of two key starters, TE Zach Miller (ankle surgery), and MLB Bobby Wagner (foot), both of whom saw a noted foot specialist in Charlotte . . . C Max Unger, CB Byron Maxwell and DT Jordan Hill may make it back for Sunday’s 1:30 p..m. game against Oakland . . . SS Jeron Johnson had a concussion and awaits results from the standard protocol.