BY Art Thiel 04:59PM 07/25/2014

Thiel: Seahawks open camp absent their bad-ass

Pete Carroll said Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch is unique because he set the franchise standard for toughness. That might merit an exception to the rule.

On this memorable play, Marshawn Lynch knocked off the helmet, legally and formidably, of fellow bad-ass Darnell Dockett of Arizona. That is why he is special. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — Unsurprisingly for the smooth machine the Seahawks have become, as training camp opened Friday on sunny, breezy lakeside morning, everyone was reading from the same script regarding the missing Beast.

Marshawn Lynch was a holdout, and everyone was in their lanes.

“We all love Marshawn,” the general manager, John Schneider, said on the radio.

“We wish he was with us now, but this is a tremendous opportunity for the guys who will be getting their shot,” said coach Pete Carroll.

“We’re all ready to go” if he’s not here, said the heir apparent, RB Christine Michael.

“It’s a business — he isn’t getting what he feels he deserves to get,” said Michael Bennett, the defensive end.

Even the Seahawks website carried a glowing feature about Lynch’s work with kids in inner-city Oakland.

No one said, “A contract is contract — show up.” Nor did anyone suggest he be given whatever he wants.

While everyone was careful to avoid rocking the boat of a Super Bowl champion — no one wants to be that guy — Carroll did make an illuminating point, perhaps inadvertently.

Asked about what Lynch brings to the Seahawks that is hard to replicate, he said, “He’s a pretty unusual football player. He’s got a lot of great, unique qualities about him. The attitude that he’s brought in the last few years has been significant.

“When we were trying to make our mark as a physical football team, he stood right at the front of that.”

Exactly, coach. The Seahawks have many gifted players, most of them young, many of them tough in their own way.

Michael could prove to be an adequate replacement in yards per carry. There may be better pass blockers. There may be better pass catchers out of the backfield.

But when comes to ohmigawd, don’t-let-him-hurt-me-mama, baaad-maaan sci-fi villain, snot-bubble ferocity, there is only Marshawn Lynch.

And he plays offense.

It’s easy to think that most football players are like that, and many of them are. But most  are on defense. And the guys who are similarly unpleasant on offense tend to be on the line, where their menace is obscured.

But when Lynch takes the ball, it is known to the world that he will drill a stiff-arm through a tackler’s soul, and keep his knees pumping like twin jackhammers. He plays a position that can be vulnerable and weaponizes it for welt distribution. There are no metrics for this, unless “defender’s eye-width signaling terror” is a measurable.

Perhaps most important, he sets the bar so high for legal violence that he shames his teammates into doing their jobs with the same intensity.

“When you see what he does,” TE Zach Miller once said, “you feel obligated not to let him down.”

Simply, he is a bad-ass like no other in the NFL.

Which makes the case for those who justify a rare renegotiation with Lynch.

There is no running back better at yards after contact, or making a spectacle out of a three-yard gain.

A teammate made a similar point.

“He’s the engine that gets this thing going,” Harvin said. “We’re going to need him out here to piece this thing all together.”

With the possible exception of San Francisco, no team uses the running game to such great effect: Controlling the clock, reducing mistakes, allowing the passing game to deploy more high-percentage passes.

Without him, the Seahawks will attempt to adapt. But it won’t be as easy to impose their will, as was done so splendidly in the Super Bowl.

At 28, Lynch is well compensated: In the third year of a four-year, $30 million deal, he received $6 million in a signing bonus. He will make $5 million in base salary this season and $5.5 million in 2015.

But his deal is not what DB Richard Sherman for FS Earl Thomas received this off-season. And he is a bright guy who knows his time is short, especially with the Seahawks, who proved last season that is not only possible, but even easier, to win, with second-, third- and fourth-year players.

It’s not as if the Seahawks have no cap room. According to overthecap.com, the Seahawks stand $8.5 million below the $135.9 million salary cap. And he is a stubborn, prideful guy. Remember during a game he flipped off his own sideline for not calling his number on a play near the goal line?

A tough hombre who cares little for what the conventionals think.

Asked if he expected Lynch back this season, Carroll said, “I’m hoping that he will be back with us.”

Carroll is the one who called Lynch unique. It won’t be hard for the Seahawks to do something unique for Lynch, then dare any other player to who wants to renegotiate to do for the Seahawks what he has done.

Notes

As usual, there were opening-day absences of the injury variety. Carroll said that he expected the surgically repaired SS Kam Chancellor (hip) and LT Russell Okung (toe) to be back soon. LB Malcom Smith (ankle) is close to practicing . . . DE Bruce Irvin (hip surgery in late June) “looks fantastic,” Carroll. “He thinks he can do everything. We’ll take our time. We’ll probably work it all the way through camp to see how the progress goes.” . . . Rookie DB Eric Pinkins of San Diego State has a lisfranc foot injury that just happened recently. He was said to be out four to six weeks, but the injury typically takes months to heal . . . Another injury for LB Korey Toomer: This time it’s a hamstring strain that will keep him out one to two weeks.

 


YourThoughts

  • skip demuth

    You ran it down good, Art. That whole “contract” thing is the Man’s tool, and Marshawn knows that and he’s throwing it down — totally justified in his eyes. The Hawks want him, or they don’t. He’s gonna find out.

    • art thiel

      Lynch is a prideful, strong-willed guy. I know he knows what contract law says, but he may value fairness more. At some cost to him.

  • ss

    Damn it Art. You incent me deal with Discus just to make a comment about Carroll’s “He’s an unusual football player.” It’s been a pleasure of inexplicable magnitude to watch Marshawn tote the mail these last few years. Not since Jim Brown have I seen a ball carrier pack it with such attitude and success. He is one rare bird. I hope we’ll see another year of such brutal and marvelous artistry. But, nothing lasts forever and life goes on. Go Hawks.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for joining in. The Brown analogy is a good one. Also worth noting: Brown retired at the top of his game at 29 after nine seasons.

  • PokeyPuffy

    Nicely done ARt. Hard to believe the Lynch era may be over but time goes by.

    a passing observation from a lightweight fan; it seems to me he is being handled better by opposing defenses in the last year or so, maybe this is because they are focusing on him.

    It also seems he is a bit undersized for the style of running he does. This being said by a relocated Austinite who grew up watching Earl Campbell…..

    • art thiel

      Opponents know they have to deny Lynch if they hope to beat the Seahawks. That he is still so productive is another tribute to him. He’s plenty big enough to handle what he’s being given.

  • jafabian

    Lynch is the age when Shaun Alexander began to decline. The Hawks know what they’re doing here and I’m sure Beastmode does too. They hold all the cards. He’ll probably show up next Tuesday and his point will be made but that’s it. The club won’t do anything. If he’s really worried then he needs to go out and have an MVP season. I like overall how Schneider and Carroll handle players on the team.

    • art thiel

      Both sides understand each other, and who holds the leverage. Lynch’s trump card is retirement.

  • RadioGuy

    I noticed Jim Brown’s named mentioned below but as I was reading Art’s description of Marshawn Lynch, the name that came to MY mind was John Henry Johnson. John Henry was an RB who practically sought out contact with defenders so he could punish them. He once said, “You’ve got to scare your opponent. It sort of upsets their concentration. I find I can run away from a lot of guys after I get them afraid of a collision with me.” That’s Marshawn.

    • art thiel

      Good analogy, Radio. Thanks.

  • Matt712

    Personally, I hope the Hawks do something for Marshawn. They know he has outperformed even their own expectations (and therefor his contract, or at least its structure). And they surely recognize how central an example he has been to their football philosophy. A gesture of appreciation and respect can cement a strong chemical bond between between player, organization, and fans. But this is where it gets interesting with Pete Caroll – when we talk about philosophy. The Program. The Formula. “This thing we’re building… .”

    We fans tend to attach ourselves easily to the individual players, as in Marshawns toughness, tenacity, attitude, and Skittles. And I’m not saying that Pete doesn’t love it as well or even just as much. But he just doesn’t have that same relationship. He’s trying to build a dynasty. And in building a dynasty, it can never be about one guy, and there can never be an exception because no one player can last through a dynasty. A real dynasty truly is about ‘the next man up.’

    When Pete Caroll says “We’re building something special here,” I believe he’s actually speaking in the context of ‘historical.’ I believe he’s trying to create something that will beat the NFL parody system.

    He has no problem extolling the virtues of Marshawns Lynch’s toughness, but that’s probably because it resides in a culture that he and Schneider have created through pure competition at its highest level. I honestly believe they feel they can place any individual player into their system and be successful, provided the player meets certain physical requirements (e.g. SPARQ score). In other words, it’s the system that created the beast, not the other way around. An interesting test of that theory will be to watch how ex-Seahawks do with their new teams this year – Golden Tate, Brandon Browner and others.

    I really hope Marshawn Lynch will not be among them. If he is, I know a lot of fans will be disappointed. Many may see it as a failure of the organization. But perhaps we should see it as a sign of success. Because if what Pete Caroll and John Schneider are building is real and is actually working, our disappointment in saying good bye to beloved players will quickly fade as new ones come in and buy into the system, and the wins and championships continue to pile up.

    • ss

      right on, Matt. A dynasty is not winning 2 consecutive championships because you’re lucky enough to hold together the same group of exquisite players. A dynasty prevails despite the revolving door or personnel. I like watching Marshawn run. But I’ll take the dynasty, and be glad for having had the chance to see his contributions.

      • art thiel

        The Seahawks drafted Michael for several reasons, succeeding Lynch chief among them. Different kind of runner, but Pete always adjusts to the talent.

    • art thiel

      Good thoughts, Matt. You’re right about the Seahawks system prevailing above the individual. And Lynch got a good deal when he signed it

      But it was pre-SB win. Things changed with that. Both sides have reasonable positions. Moving money from next year to this year may be an option. And Lynch’s exceptionalism can be used to justify.

    • RadioGuy

      I’m just to stop short of saying “The system is the solution” because it sounds like a line from some creepy Kubrick film but in football, the system sure as hell can set a tone.

      Look at New England’s continued success despite constant turnover at almost every position but quarterback. That’s in part because Belichick has created a system that has succeeded no matter who’s playing. Go back to the Packers of the Sixties: Yeah, Lombardi had a roster full of HOFers, but he also had his own system that allowed Green Bay to move the ball and score even though everyone knew what plays they’d be running. We can even switch sports by looking at how Jerry Tarkanian’s system kept UNLV winning year after year for two decades even though he never had a truly great player to work with.

      Not to say you don’t need quality players to win, but even the best collection of individual talent will only go so far without a master plan of sorts to guide them. Schneider and Carroll seem to have that master plan.

  • Kirkland

    To paraphrase a friend’s comment on the musician Beck, “Marshawn is his own adjective.”

  • http://www.twitter.com/samjfinley Sam Finley

    Here’s my prediction: This will be over within 10 days and Marshawn will be back with a slightly modified deal. The Seahawks may not need him as badly as they might’ve a few years ago, but they want him. And Lynch knows he won’t get everything he wants, but is posturing to get the pot sweetened a bit because he’s all about that action. Thus, something will happen where both sides will claim they came out winners and everyone can get back to football.

    • John Martin

      That’s our hope, Sam Finley, and that scenario has as good a chance as any of how it will shake out. The present organization has been very good at quelling unwanted drama. At the same time I like the next guys up getting a taste . . .