BY Art Thiel 08:31PM 01/07/2015

Thiel: Seahawks Thomas, Lynch: Friends, finally

Seahawks Earl Thomas and Marshawn Lynch had no relationship until this year. Now, their stares into each other’s eyes radiate intensity.

To say Earl Thomas in intense is to say water is wet. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

A few weeks ago, TV cameras caught teammates Earl Thomas and Marshawn Lynch along the Seahawks sidelines, staring intensely and silently into each other’s eyes. Spooky? Cool? Angry? Cosmic?

I described the scene to LB Bruce Irvin for his take. His eyes grew large.

“That’s weird,” he said. “I wonder what they were thinking. Those two are special players . . . uh, I don’t know what they were thinking.”

He paused.

“Well, Earl is Earl and Marshawn is Marshawn,” he said, laughing. “They got one vision.”

It was as good as any guess about the two most unconventionally wrapped Seahawks.

So, in the unsurprising unavailability of Lynch, I asked Thomas what was up.

“Just a mutual understanding,” said Thomas, matter-of-fact. With some prompting, he unwrapped a little of the mystery. It turns out that the two had no friendship prior to this season. Each apparently gave the other a wide berth.

“The biggest surprise to me out of this year is our relationship,” Thomas said.  “Since I’ve been here, we never really connected. I decided to go talk to him and see what kind of guy he was.

“I realized he’s just like me in a lot of ways.”

The popular mythology around team sports is that there are great friendships, brotherhood and camaraderie among teams who claim dedication to teamwork and esprit de corps. That’s how it was like when we were kids, right?

That happens sometimes, and probably more with the Seahawks than most sports organizations. But the locker room and clubhouse in team sports are like any other workplace. The variety of personalities and backgrounds can create as much friction and resentment as friendships and fun, pressurized by the hyper-competitive stakes of millions of payroll dollars and acute awareness of the brevity and vulnerability of careers.

Some get close. Some stay distant.

Then there are the eccentricities. Lynch is the ultimate iconoclast, alternately hilarious and weird even to those he trusts and likes. Thomas, too, while more open and engaging, yearns for perfection and nearly leaves radiation burns on those who brush up against his intensity.

Both have the respect of everyone as ultimate warriors who cause dry mouths and wet palms among opponents. And, now, they each have the respect of the other.

“He’s a dawg,” said Thomas, deploying a popular street term of endearment. “His whole demeanor. He’s a man among boys out there.”

Thomas approached Lynch one day in practice.

“I went up to him,” he said. “Me listening to my inner voice. My inner voice is never wrong.”

Thomas is a big believer in connections, passion and light-wave-bending concentration. Listening to his post-game chats, words come out so fast that they smash together like derailing train cars, leaving journalistic investigators to sort what he said.

Among many learnings, Thomas wants to know how and why his teammates are driven. He didn’t explain exactly what Lynch told him, but he came away favorably impressed. He was asked if he found a kindred spirit.

“Definitely,” he said. “I feel like that with all the vets. They found their love again. I’m glad to be a part of it. I think my spirit is very infectious. I think when you talk to the older guys, you see that they’re back to doing what they love again.

“I love stuff like that. When you’re on the same team with the same people . . . we do a great job of not running away; we just grow. It may be some bitter moments, but at the same time, we have a great responsibility to detach ourselves and understand the bigger picture.

“We do a great job of that.”

Some may see psychobabble here, but Thomas would happily raise a championship ring into the grill of the skeptic. These disparate guys have come together in ways common and startling to return again to the championship precipice, despite all the impediments, controversies and distractions that are embedded in the NFL system to deconstruct champions.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain. Then again, the fans’ only obligation is to enjoy.

And beware the stare. When Thomas and Lynch lock eyes, back away slowly. Forces are at work beyond what lesser mortals can bear.


  • Jamo57

    “the fans’ only obligation is to enjoy.”

    Indeed. I keep reminding myself to just soak up this run as much as possible and enjoy it.

    No taking it for granted, or fretting over who the emergency long snapper would be, or whether the win was dominating enough. The assembled talent, the personalities and characters, and the brain trust pulling the strings have been remarkable. This has been as good as it gets.

    As we know in Seattle, these things don’t come around very often in our lifetimes.

    Thanks, Art.

    • art thiel

      Jamo, you said it well. This three year run is better than any period in Seattle sports history and among the best in any market. I do hope fans realize that, turn down the anxiety meter and enjoy the view from the top of the sports world.

      I climbed Mt. Rainier once. The memory of that view is burned into my mind as if it were yesterday.

  • jafabian

    The fans “obligation:” is to enjoy but not in Seattle. When fans come to the CLink it’s like a job. And their job is to be loud when the other team has the ball, create false starts, and to quiet down when the Hawks have the ball so the offense can hear the QB. Always amazes me that the 12th Fan can be as focused as Earl or Beastmode on game day.

    Lynch has such an intensity if he was on defense he’d be an awesome LB. I saw a pic once of him in postgame after playing the Raiders and he was standing next to a Raiders defensive lineman and I noticed Lynch’s arms were bigger than the Raiders arms. Sheesh. I compare Earl to Kenny Easley a lot but really, he’s a lot like him in intensity and personality. All he needs is a rebirth of the Marks brothers in Miami to beat up on.

  • RadioGuy

    As different as they are in the most visible ways, Lynch and Thomas are very much alike in their burning desire to not just succeed, but dominate on the playing field. The difference is that when the scoreboard goes down to 00:00, Marshawn goes back to “being Marshawn” while Earl remains Earl, for whom the motor never stops running. Both have been integral to Seattle’s success.

    • art thiel

      The urge to succeed in these two burns hotter than almost any I’ve seen, short of Ali.

      • ulc

        Does Michael Jordan fit that dynamic? Or perhaps, he “just” wanted to win which is another way of succeeding. I would imagine being around those guys is like coming onto a force field, palatable, powerful and real.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Through my years of watching NFL football I have seen quite a collection of personalities… ours has many and its cool for Earl to take the time to get to know Beast as often the defense hangs with the defense ,same for the offense.
    Our star back isn’t as mysterious as it sometimes seems.
    Earlier this season cameras caught Lynch sitting on the bench almost roughing up Haush Money and clowning around with him. If I was on that team I would want to get to know Marshawn too as he deep down seems like a jovial sort who just has little stomach for spotlight/stardom attention. Kenny Easily as I recall was always brief with his words as if it were a medicine dose that needed to be dealt with…done with I’m off to dinner now style precision. Boisterous isn’t a prerequisite to play in the NFL.
    We have the Michael Bennetts and Earl Thomas types who love to articulate whatever is on their minds so its all good. We have a fun bunch to watch. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Key point, David. I’ve never seen a collection of personalities so dfiverse, funny and odd. Savor this, people.

  • notaboomer

    next thing marshawn will let earl drive his lamborghini to practice and earl will let marshawn drive his ferrari to qfc.

  • notaboomer
    • art thiel

      Um, 11 months ago, nota.

      • notaboomer

        huh? {cough cough} oh wow, man.

  • Raymond Meyers

    In the pantheon of football badassery, ET and the Beast Mode will always be members. I recently saw a meme that said, “70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. Earl Thomas covers the rest.”

    Go ‘Hawks.

    • art thiel

      Badassery. The new advanced metric in football. I will steal this. Thanks, Ray.

      • Raymond Meyers

        You’re quite welcome. I’m not sure it’s original, but I am certain the origin is remote enough not to matter.

  • Dave Mauro

    Earl Thomas is so intense he could melt ice cream just ordering it.