Until the Seahawks placed Marshawn Lynch on their reserve/retired list Thursday, I was not convinced I’d seen him carry a football for the last time.
Now that I think of it, I’m still not convinced.
Documents pertinent to Lynch and his salary-cap status were filed that translate like this: He’s done as a player, but should he decide he’s not done as a player, the Seahawks control his contract through the 2017 season.
Of course, Marshawn being Marshawn, he hasn’t pronounced the few words that would make his retirement official on both ends of the street. Aside from the artistic tweet he sent during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, which depicted a pair of football cleats hanging on a line, Lynch has divulged nothing.
He’s 30, coming off an injury-plagued season that, to borrow the lyrics from the Rod Stewart song, really showed his age. Lynch is quite more grounded with common sense than his “Beast Mode” persona suggests — few star athletes are as frugal — and he surely understands the long-term health benefits of a safe exit from a sport he pursued as a human demolition derby.
Why no retirement confirmation? Does he have some plan to follow in the footsteps of boxer George Foreman, who returned to the ring in 1987, after a decade-long hiatus, and went on to enjoy more success (and popularity, and wealth) as a 45-year old champion than he ever realized at the age of 25?
Lynch shares some intriguing similarities with Foreman, whose comeback determination was steeped in his commitment to fund a youth center in Houston. And though Lynch has invested more wisely than Foreman did before his emergence as a ubiquitous TV pitchman, the dots can be connected.
Street-smart entrepreneurs … larger-than-life personalities … community-service types anxious to influence kids … terrific athletes whose most tangible attribute was a heart required to endure extreme punishment.
I’ve got no idea on how much stock Lynch puts in his Pro Football Hall-of-Fame candidacy — it wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t even know there’s a shrine in Canton, Ohio — but the fact the five-time Pro Bowl selection remains something of a long-shot could be another inducement to return.
With 9,112 yards, he’s 36th on the all-time rushing list, behind former Seahawks running backs Shaun Alexander and Ahman Green, but ahead of Hall-of-Famers Jim Taylor and Larry Csonka. Lynch’s numbers are complemented by the reverence his teammates held for him as the de-facto captain of a Super Bowl championship team and those breathtaking highlight videos, which have a way of humanizing statistics.
I am not privy to the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting process, a closed-door forum less transparent than a Politburo meeting during the cold war. But as I understand it, a candidate is nominated by a media member affiliated with the market most associated with the player, and the nomination contains a summary of his career achievements.
If I were nominating Lynch, I’d flip a tape into a video machine and give my colleagues a succinct order:
“Check this out.”
Numbers are numbers, and while a number such as 9,112 yards, worth No. 36 on the career rushing list, is impressive, using a career rushing number to describe Marshawn Lynch is like using lifetime record sales to describe Miles Davis.
You had to be there. You had to see it, hear it, feel it.
So now he’s retired, and any suggestion he isn’t retired enables Seahawks general manager John Schneider to offer an observation that sounds like a punch line.
“He’s riding on camels,” Schneider said last weekend, reviewing a draft class that found the Seahawks selecting three running backs.
He’s riding on camels, but that doesn’t mean Lynch has ruled out a comeback. Returning to the NFL doesn’t strike me as a prudent career move, merely a very Marshawn-like career move.
He follows his own path. Until Lynch closes the door, I’m not discounting the possibility he has visions of concluding his highlight video tape with a second burst.