BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 11/20/2014

Thiel: The gravitational pull of Marshawn Lynch

His halftime stay on the sidelines Sunday illustrated the pounding Lynch has taken. How much is too much? Then again, how can the Seahawks succeed without their badass?

Marshawn Lynch: The action for which he is all about. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

RENTON — On his off-day, Marshawn Lynch dealt with three things he doesn’t like: School violence, unwanted publicity and someone telling him what to do. All this came on the heels of a national non-story Sunday that his decision to stay on the field at halftime in Kansas City to get treatment and save energy was a telltale on his allegedly fraught relationship with coach Pete Carroll.

It’s not a big surprise he has a sore back. He’s carrying a pro football team and, in his view, a boxcar of BS.

A disappointing 6-4 season has brought the delights and fears around Lynch into the hottest spotlight. Then comes this from offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, when asked Wednesday to describe Lynch:

“I think he’s a very interesting guy. I don’t necessarily think that what you see is what you get. There’s a lot of layers to him, lot of hidden things. He’s a good person who does a lot of good things for people. You want him on your side.”

Then: What about the prospect of not having him on your side, which has been speculated as likely by next season?

“I don’t even want to think about it,” he said. “He’s so special to us. He does great things in every game, whether it’s the runs he makes, whether in the protections, how he takes care of the quarterback and see things other backs don’t; and his ability as a receiver —  he’s outstanding running routes and making catches.”

Skeptics may argue that Bevell is saying what is necessary to calm the waters around Lynch, for whom even the doing of a good deed is cause for sensation. But the point is that Bevell has been saying more or less the same thing for four years about Lynch, and the sentiment has been echoed around the locker room.

Lynch is the Seahawks’ best player, whose ferocity gave the Seahawks their bad-ass image in 2013.

Now more than ever, the Seahawks want and need Lynch. The only concern should be the pounding he’s taking. Not his contract, not his fine, not his eccentricity.

“He’s just been banged up,” coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “It’s classic wear and tear on a guy that plays the game the way he plays. We had to give him an extra day last week before we practiced him and we will see how it goes this week. I think it’s pretty typical and he’s been one to really be able to endure it over the past few years.”

How long can he last dishing out punishment as no other offensive player in the NFL?

Carroll is right, Lynch has always rallied. But how much is too much?

Of all the drama and comedy in the last few days that has swirled about him — Wednesday’s media session in front of his locker at VMAC might have sketch potential for  Saturday Night Live — his unusual halftime decision to stay where he was instead of going to the locker room was the only important matter.

In the second half, he ran 12 times for 58 yards and caught a short pass, so it seemed whatever treatment and stretching he had done pulled him through. Hell, it might be recommended for the rest of the Seahawks.

His physical well-being, and nothing else, exerts a gravitational pull on the franchise that I have seen locally only with the Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr. and the Sonics’ Gary Payton. But with only 16 games in the NFL, any physical slippage by Lynch will have a more profound effect on the franchise. As Bevell said, he doesn’t want to think about it.

Of course, the Seahawks have to think it about it. And they did, drafting Christine Michael in the second round. The wisdom of the judgment has yet to be determined; no one watching closely is saying with certainty that Michael is the next man up, particularly when it comes to blocking and receiving.

The graveyard, Charles DeGaulle observed, is full of indispensable men. So the Seahawks will find a way to move on from Lynch. Someday. But having lost four games by margins of nine, six, two and four points, the Seahawks know that they are not that far away right now.

So, with so many others around Lynch dropping this season, his importance rises. Two weeks ago the club set a franchise record with 350 yards rushing and added 204 in Kansas City. Behind a bandaged offensive line, Lynch made it possible.

There is no danger Lynch will deliberately slow down, as did Sean Alexander after he earned his big contract in 2006. Lynch is playing for his future, be it in Seattle or elsewhere. He has a year left on his contract. If he wants an extension with serious guaranteed money, from Seattle or another club, he can show no weakness.

Lynch does himself and the team no favors by resisting the NFL’s collectively bargained mandate for media cooperation. He loses money and market, the team loses patience, and by mocking with non-answer answers, he annoys where he has more allies than he realizes.

Lynch wants more guaranteed money, plain and simple. When his teammates in Monday’s team meetings watch him destroy opponent defenses to help make their jobs easier, they want him to have more money too. As does Bevell, they want him on their side.

But the Seahawks, chastened by watching last week as Arizona QB Carson Palmer went down with a season-ending knee injury two days after signing a $50 million contract extension, look at the 28-year-old Lynch linger in repetitive pain on the sidelines at halftime and ask: How much is too much?

Tough call. In Percy Harvin, they already lost on one big investment. But can they also afford to lose their center of gravity too?

As long as he remains intact, the Seahawks need to reach for their wallet for Lynch. If they have trouble, he’s a proven help.


  • Big

    I’m sure Marshawn Lynch wishes he could carry on as the man with no name.

    • art thiel

      Don’t many of us have an occasional similar wish?

      • Big

        True, but no man can run out of his own story.

  • Greg

    Forgive me, I’m about to go off… I am so sick and tired of all of this crap about what Marshawn does or doesn’t do off the field… Really, what would you rather do, watch him carry the Hawks or listen to him? Oh, my, he stayed on the field at half time, that MUST mean that he and Pete aren’t communicating. I saw a guy being attended to on a gurney for C sake not reading Hustler and sipping a latte. If he chooses to placate the football mafia (NFL) by giving up a hundred large, so be it. Art, I think it’s only a distraction because the media makes it so, I doubt the team considers Marshawn a distraction, has anyone ever heard a Hawk say they can’t get their swerve on because Marshawn won’t play nice and be glib with the media? You don’t poke a badger with a stick and expect it to then lick your face in appreciation. If Marshawn goes all Alexander, highly unlikely, then you’ve got something to bitch about otherwise STFU.

    Run Marshawn, run….. You ARE the man!

    • I only dream of marching to the beat of my own drummer the way Marshawn does. I haven’t seen anything in anything that suggests that he’s done anything remotely wrong away from the field, and he does everything right on the field. His unwillingness to talk should be respected, and is respected, by anyone who understands sports and sportsmanship. He plays the game and plays it well and lives discreetly off the field. The media’s need for soundbites should be the media’s problem only, not the players’. There are enough players willing to talk that the ones who aren’t should be respected for that. It’s called humility and reticence on their part, and human decency on the reporter’s part. I’d like to witness more of all of that.

      • art thiel

        Raymond, see my response above to Greg. I’m happy to let Marshawn be, but his thoughts have value — even, and especially, when he mocks NFL values, as well as the media’s.

        • I agree that his thoughts have value. The fact that his thoughts may mock the values of the NFL and the media should be food for thought for the NFL and the media. He prefers to let his game speak and keep his expression of his thoughts non-verbal. It would seem to validate your response if the values of the NFL and the media respected the value of his thoughts.

          • art thiel

            But the only way to value his thoughts is if he shares them.

          • Actions speak louder than words.

    • art thiel

      Greg, I understand your lament, representative of lot of other fans too. Lynch is an outlier, in talent and personality, and will always be a poor fit for the highly corporate NFL. It’s often that way for other outliers in business, law, medicine, etc. The only place where people like Marshawn thrive is in the arts, where there is little money.

      He’s also a member of a union that collectively bargained the NFL’s right to demand cooperation from its members, and fine them if need be.

      So he’s stuck. Play along or lose money. If you’ve held a job, I think you know the drill. Professionally, I don’t care if he talks. But I will say that when he does talk, I enjoy it, because he thinks and speaks originally. I am eager to hear one-of-a-kind personalities.

      • Greg

        Art, thanks for the thoughts… I confess to being modestly hypocritical, I do enjoy hearing Marshawn speak (can’t count the times I’ve said, “it’s just the action, boss), not quite Bob Dylan but it is with certain poetic flare and definitely not the standard pro babble. As for the arts, you have a witness, in the game my entire life (a dribble away from 70) and church mouse poor, it is what it is.

  • Gerald Turner

    More interested in the effect BW’s return to the defense will have. lacking in cohesion last week, Mebang out lost the rallying point, the focus and center was gone, rattling Stanton will be key. The teams identity is the defense. Lynch helps, but even with a legend at RB game will be won or lost by the D.

    • art thiel

      That’s always as it has been with Carroll. Wagner’s return is large, and the Seahawks hope he’s in shape for four quarters.

  • notaboomer

    how about an article about cte, junior seau’s brain, and the hall of fame?

    • art thiel

      I’ve written several, including my first column for this site, and will continue to do more.

      • notaboomer

        thanks, boss-:)

  • kth2001

    “But how much is too much?”

    I’m not sure how relevant this question really is. The Gulls simply don’t have a passing attack, I don’t see any other choice but to ride as far as Marshawn will take them.

    • art thiel

      The question is very relevant, because as with any business, short-term vs. long-term is a weekly factor in decision-making. They will ride him, and he will allow himself to be ridden, but the price long-term may be heavy.

      • kth2001

        Relevant was the wrong choice of words on my part, Art. My apologies for that.

        I guess what I was trying to say was that they just really don’t have a choice. Turbin/Michael haven’t shown the ability to carry this team on their shoulders like Lynch has, and they have no passing game. Aside from the QB Jesus gaining yards with his legs at the rate he has been over the last 6 weeks (which is both a long and short term risk in my opinion), Lynch is all they have on offense.

        It’s incredible to me how badly this team has bungled the WR position, I want to say that this year we’re seeing the Harvin debacle come home to roost but that still doesn’t excuse what appears to be a pretty bad miss on the Richardson (and perhaps Norwood as well) pick.

        • art thiel

          It’s true the options are limited. Biggest problem is Miller’s absence. He’s so much better than Willson/Helfet.

          • lb

            Zach being out is killing Wilson

  • jafabian

    The memory of Shaun Alexander and his big contract is still very fresh in the everyone’s mind with the Seahawks. I understand Marshawn wanting more guaranteed money but nothing in life is guaranteed. He’s got a big contract and a lot of money already. Wanting more just smacks of greed to me. Financial security? Then don’t spend the money you’re earning already. Invest it.

    As long as he plays hard and throws up his usual Beastmode numbers he won’t have anything to worry about. He’d help his case though if he’d be more cooperative with the league and talk to the media every so often.

    • art thiel

      Money in the NFL can be be guaranteed, j, but not nearly as much as in MLB and NBA. Given what happens to NFL players’ bodies and minds, I understand fully his need to get all he can now, because he may not earn much the rest of his life.

  • 1coolguy

    Art – here’s a “food for thought” suggestion for Marshawn:
    I know this is a radical idea, but given he is an excellent receiver, putting Lynch part-time at the slot receiver would do a few things; Give his body a rest, get him immediately into the second level so the pounding is less and his opportunity for significant gains increases, shakes the hell out of the defense, he’s an excellent blocker so whether Michael or Turbin are in they will be better off, it extends his career.
    Can you imagine the defense trying to adjust to a two-back look where Lynch shifts to the slot after the D gets set? There would be absolute chaos and a quick pass to Lynch would net real yards. I’ll take Lynch 1 on 1 against a db or cb anytime – the results would border on the unfair.
    As he slows down he could be there full time in 2 years. I would have him in the slot over a high performer like Welker any day.

    • Big

      Slot routes are tough on receivers. The hits can be devastating. It’s hard to stay healthy running many routes out of the slot. ML is a running back who at times has shown he can catch the ball most of the time in the flats or a distant check down of progression by the QB. Db’s tackling ML perhaps, more likely LB or safety. Would be interesting to see the results out of the slot with ML or not a wise idea.

      • art thiel

        Agree with Big. Slot receivers take max damage to their bodies because they can’t protect themselves on crossing routes. Lynch typically initiates contact with tacklers who have little or no momentum.