Will Marshawn Lynch play again this season?
The answer is as iffy as it was weeks ago. Immediately after he had abdominal surgery Nov. 25, coach Pete Carroll gave what he now admits was an unrealistic estimate of three to four weeks. We are on five weeks, with no end in sight to his absence. Carroll really doesn’t know if and when his lead running back will return. Lynch is still rehabilitating with “his people,” as Carroll put it, back in his home Bay Area, the same trainers that get him ready for each season. Carroll keeps saying being away from the team is “the best thing for him” because it’s his usual regimen. But it has presented the appearance and feel that Seattle will be going with Christine Michael and Bryce Brown as its runners not only to end the regular season but for its first playoff game Jan. 9 or 10.
To rest or not to rest?
The Seahawks have four veteran starters questionable to play today against the Rams because of assorted injuries: Doug Baldwin, Russell Okung, Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor. They’ve also clinched a playoff berth with two regular-season games remaining. Coach Pete Carroll said Monday he won’t rest starters just to keep them out of these games, and the team still needs to win to lock up the fifth seed in the NFC for a first-round date at the NFC East division winner. Yet today is the day, if there ever was one, for the Seahawks to let some of their borderline banged-up guys heal and rest. It’s the balancing act of keeping the roll of a five-game winning streak versus ramping up for a postseason that for the first time in three January’s won’t have a bye week before Seattle’s first playoff game.
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Who’s been better longer than Charles Woodson?
Not just on the field — how cool is it that a defensive back in his 18th and final season makes another Pro Bowl, his ninth? One of the best, most honest and stand-up locker-room guys I’ve covered in any sport is retiring after Oakland’s final game next week. In my time as a Raiders beat writer at the start of the 2000s, including for their last Super Bowl appearance, he never ducked an issue or a question, a receiver or a ball carrier. He’s the only NFL player in history to have at least 60 interceptions and 20 sacks. After then-Oakland coach Bill Callahan said “we have to be the dumbest team in America” following a defensive offsides on a fourth-and-short punt return that enabled Denver to clinch a 2003 win in Oakland, Woodson heard the audio of what his coach had declared minutes earlier and replied with unvarnished anger: “He said that?!” Callahan’s tenure was over after that. A salute to a winner, best wishes to No. 24.
What should have happened to Odell Beckham Jr.?
For his repeated targeting and cheap-shotting of Carolina’s Josh Norman in their nasty spat during the Panthers-Giants game last weekend? How about an ejection, no later than five seconds after he aimed at Norman’s head and nailed the side of it with his helmet at the end of a play? Inexplicable that game officials allowed him to stay in that contest. He’s fortunate to have only a one-game suspension. But that game he’s missing, Sunday night at Minnesota with New York having to win to stay in the NFC East race, is the game that could end the Giants’ season.
Will the opening of the Will Smith movie “Concussion” change popular opinion of the game?
At the very least the film that opened Christmas Day, based on the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu finding evidence in former NFL players who met tragic death that damage from their playing career fatally altered their brain chemistry, should make football fans who go see it think. I wrote about how damning the film is to the league after seeing an advance screening this month — and that was after the NFL had Sony take out some of the dialogue and depictions. Those who have read up on Dr. Omalu’s findings, the league’s reaction to and stonewalling of them, its initiatives around the concussion issue plus more former player deaths, lawsuits and settlements over brain injuries in football see the sport differently than we did even a couple years ago. Now the wider public likely will, too. Not that it will stop all of us from watching, writing about or discussing its games and those who risk so much to play it.