Not sure there’s a record for such a thing, which doesn’t mean the feat can’t be acknowledged. After nine seasons playing pro football the hardest way possible, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch had his first sports surgery Wednesday.
For a guy who runs to and through contact as if it meant saving children’s lives, the avoidance of surgical repair is astonishing. The odds against it are slightly less than firing a bullet in Seattle and have it splash down in the Atlantic. Going west.
For five years, Lynch has thrilled and astonished the 12s for not just surviving so many games with so many hard hits by many of the biggest, strongest, meanest people on the planet, but flourishing amid the physical violence.
My favorite Lynch response — and the smart man has had many, which is why his reticence to publicly talk much outside of late-night comedy shows is too bad — was when he was asked, “What does Beast Mode feel like?”
“You don’t feel Beast Mode,” he said. “Beast Mode feels you.”
That was his wonderfully original way of explaining that he sees himself as the initiator, not the responder.
Here’s how teammate, longtime friend and fellow Seahawks running back Fred Jackson put the notion this week.
“You rather be giving pain than receiving it,” he said. “That allows you to play a lot longer too.”
Ironically, he said that in regard to a question about Thomas Rawls, the rookie sensation who is replacing Lynch Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers and for at least the next several games as Lynch recovers from the successful operation to repair a sports hernia.
Rawls shares enough running-style characteristics with Lynch that fans are smitten with the potential for a seamless transition when the day comes that the Seahawks move on from Lynch.
Because Lynch is on the salary cap books for $11.5 million in 2016, some logic dictates that the signs this season of physical vulnerability entering his age-30 year, a moment nearly fixed in NFL culture as the expiration date for running backs, means that he will be cut before the contract year begins.
I wouldn’t get too far ahead on this subject. Too much football is left to be played. Which is why this column is not a career obituary but an appreciation for Lynch’s endurance as much as his spectacle. We should have learned with this guy to assume nothing.
For Rawls, who seems even more determined than Lynch to deposit a bruise wherever he travels, there’s is more to NFL success than cleat marks on a linebacker’s throat.
“He’s got a great person to learn from in Marshawn,” Jackson said. “To continue to (run so hard) throughout your career, you got to take care of your body. Marshawn knows how to get himself ready week in and week out, in the weight room and rehab. To go this long before his first surgery is a testament to how he takes care of his body.
“There’s tricks to learn from Marshawn.”
At 22, Rawls appears possessed of few tricks and so full of reckless abandon that there’s a legitimate question as to how much is too much. So I asked it of coach Pete Carroll.
“I don’t have any concern about that,” he said. “That’s who this guy is, and we wouldn’t want to change that about him. There may be a time when we talk about an opportunity — you know, he could’ve taken off and not been the heat-seeking-missile kind of thing.
“But at this point, I wouldn’t want to do anything to take away from his instinct to go after it, and be aggressive and be physical. We talked about it on the sidelines: He’s got a real clear thought of what he’s doing. He’s not going out of bounds. He’s not going to run around guys. He’s going to find somebody to attack and take it to him.”
That’s probably the greatest virtue of being 22 in the NFL: He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. At this point in the season, with Lynch down, Rawls’ nearly fully formed arrival on the scene could not have been timed better.
If the optimistic projections for Lynch’s rehab prove true, and he comes back before the end of the regular season, the possibility is that both runners will be relatively fresh-legged for the finale against Arizona. There is little doubt Lynch would start.
“Why would we not?” Carroll said. “I would think so. Let’s see how much we get a chance to work Thomas and see how he returns. We might be able to bring him back on a temporary basis. Of course (Lynch) is the guy that we would lean on.”
Even though Rawls caught three passes against the 49ers, including one for a touchdown, he has little experience as a receiver out of the backfield, something Lynch does as well as any running back in the NFL.
“He’s a great receiver,” Carroll said. “He can run routes, he can get out of the backfield, and he’s got great sense for finding the areas to get open. We’ve seen him catch a lot of balls and make big plays when Russell (Wilson) starts to move around. He’s very, very instinctive. He’s always brought a great attitude.
“Beast Mode. He’s got a nickname, so obviously he’s done something.”
He also has a nick. But it’s been repaired. The Seahawks also have patched the hole he left in their lineup. The idea that Rawls and Lynch may be a tandem in late December is a present likely to light up any 12’s Christmas.