He’s back, for the biggest time of the Seahawks’ season.
Marshawn Lynch has rejoined his team at its headquarters in Renton after six weeks away. The Seahawks expect their cornerstone running back to start Sunday’s playoff opener at Minnesota and perhaps carry the ball 20 times.
That was coach Pete Carroll’s upbeat update Monday.
“He’s ready to go,” Carroll said. “He’s in the program, going, working ... He’s going to continue doing his workouts here today and tomorrow, and Wednesday we are going to practice him and see how he feels and how far he can take it.
“He’s worked out incredibly (in) competitive situations. He physically should be ready to go, but now we’ve got to translate it into football. ...We’re just going to see if he can handle it — and expect that he will.”
Carroll said the Seahawks want to see that he is “able to get in and out of his breaks” and do what they’ve seen him do since they traded for him from Buffalo in 2010.
He had abdominal surgery Nov. 25 in Philadelphia and was seen in the team’s facility just once in the previous 43 days before Monday. He was rehabilitating with his own trainers in San Francisco until Monday.
After missing just one game in his first five seasons with Seattle, Lynch has played in just seven games this season. He rushed for 417 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season, with an average of 3.8 yards per carry.
Asked if the Seahawks (10-6) can expect Lynch to have his usual workload, 20 or so carries Sunday at Minnesota (11-5) in his first game in almost two months, Carroll said: “I think so, yeah.”
His injuries — hamstring and calf strains and pulls before the sports hernia-like abdominal one — have kept Lynch to only two games with 20 rushes this season.
“This is similar to the first game of the year, really, is what it would be like. So we don’t have any different expectations than that,” Carroll said of Lynch this week. “So we’re going in it with the same thought. We’ve been around him for such a long time that we’re going to be able to recognize his movement. That’s all we really want to see — that he can get in and out of his breaks and do the things that he always can do and that he can withstand the workload and all of that.”
Put it this way: The Seahawks didn’t endure their lead back, to whom they are paying $4.5 million guaranteed this season, going away to his native Bay Area to rehabilitate for more than a month for him to not play in the postseason. He’ll start, even if his coach didn’t unequivocally say so six days before the game at the Vikings.
“He feels good now,” Carroll said. “That’s why he’s back. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t feel like he could go, so he’s ready to rock. We’ll just have to find out what it looks like. I really think it’s going to be just fine. I’m not really worried about it at all.”
Lynch has four 100-yard rushing days and six touchdowns in his last six playoff games. That covers Seattle’s Super Bowl title for the 2013 season and its Super Bowl loss last year.
Since Lynch went out, the Seahawks have changed. They’ve gone from a run-first offense with a passing game based on quarterback Russell Wilson’s mad-dash scrambles and escapes from sacks (during a 4-5 start) to a more effective, more balanced attack. Wilson’s suddenly confident passing from a sustained, trusted pocket made him the first NFL player with 4,000 yards passing, 500 yards rushing and 30-plus passing TDs in a season. He set Seahawks’ regular-season records with 4,024 yards passing and 34 touchdown throws.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks stayed at the top of the NFL in rushing (third, 141.8 yards per game). Remarkable rookie Thomas Rawls romped in Lynch’s absence until he was lost last month to a broken ankle. Then Sunday in Seattle’s 36-6 blowout of the Cardinals at Arizona, Christine Michael continued his revitalization on his second Seahawks go-around with 102 yards rushing.
Last week offensive line coach and running-game coordinator Tom Cable said Lynch would have to adjust to this new offense upon his return.
Monday, Carroll wasn’t as candid as Cable had been about Lynch.
“I think there’s been such an upswing in our production and in the style of our production. If you look at the first half versus the second half, our numbers in the half have just dramatically changed in the few areas that we continue to report on: third downs, and red zones and things like that,” Carroll said. “The passing game has really been efficient.
“I don’t think that’s going be a factor at all. We ran the ball 37 times (Sunday). That’s the way we like to do it. If we’re able to do that, we’ll do that again (with Lynch). We never want it to go in the other side of the scale like it did two weeks ago (41 passes to 22 runs in the baffling home loss to the Rams) and a couple times during the season.
“It’s going to work out just fine. I’m not worried at all.”
Carroll said again he expects SS Kam Chancellor (pelvis), LT Russell Okung (calf), RG J.R. Sweezy (concussion) and TE Luke Willson (concussion) to all return for Sunday’s game after missing the regular-season finale. … The coach wasn’t as sure about DB Jeremy Lane, who left the Arizona win with an oblique strain after an interception. Lane sounds like the one Seahawk with a new injury who might not play at Minnesota. …. The league’s final regular-season games ending Sunday set the Seahawks’ home and away opponents for 2016. Seattle will host Atlanta, Carolina, Buffalo, Miami and Philadelphia, plus its three NFC West rivals Arizona, San Francisco and St. Louis. The Seahawks will play at New Orleans, Tampa Bay, New England, the New York Jets and Green Bay, plus the return games at the Cardinals, 49ers and Rams. There are only four playoff teams from the 2015 season on Seattle’s schedule next season: the Panthers, Cardinals, Patriots and Packers.