Thomas Rawls’ passion and “violence” became his hallmarks when he emerged as an unlikely Seahawks star as an undrafted rookie.
Sunday, his foolishness may have sealed the end of his three-year run in Seattle.
The deposed Rawls--who in 2015 was the heir in place for retiring Marshawn Lynch as the Seahawks’ featured running back, whom assistant head coach Tom Cable values for his “violence” on defenders--stood over Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon in the third quarter Sunday. Rawls woofed at and taunted the former Washington State Cougar at the end of Rawls’ 12-yard catch and run on a screen pass. Officials flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Instead of first and 10 for the Seahawks at the Arizona 25 down 23-14, Rawls’ penalty pushed Seattle back to the 40-yard line and out of range for a field goal that would have made it a one-score game.
The Seahawks ultimately punted on that drive again, and stayed down by nine points into the fourth quarter. They lost 26-24 in their regular-season finale, and are missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“Yeah, I was kind of surprised” to get the penalty, Rawls said in the locker room at CenturyLink Field on New Year’s Eve. “I feel like I cost the team, and I apologized to my teammates and our coaching staff. But I felt like I was just being myself out there, doing what I always do, getting up there, being excited. The game of ball, a lot of guys talk a lot of stuff.
“But in that situation, the flag was on me. And I apologize. I definitely--I definitely--lick my wound on that one and take that one.”
Asked what he said to Bucannon, Rawls said: “I’m not sure. I’m not sure. We both were going back and forth. I was trying to get up. As I’m looking up I see the ref reaching for his flag and he threw it. I’m not even thinking it’s on me.
“I’m not sure. The guy started saying something, and we started going back and forth. And that was it.”
It’s likely Rawls’ last act as a Seahawk.
He played one more snap Sunday, the ensuing third down when Russell Wilson threw incomplete to Tyler Lockett before the punt. Rawls then sat for the fourth quarter while J.D. McKissic got his backup reps behind lead back Mike Davis instead. Rawls finished the season playing just 13 of Seattle’s 58 plays on offense in the finale.
The team has to decide whether to tender him a contract offer this spring as a restricted free agent. Judging by how far he was out of the Seahawks’ plans for most of 2017--he was a healthy inactive for the first three times in his career, and didn’t touch the ball in three other games--it’s unlikely Seattle will tender him an offer. Teams don’t usually extend many coins to guys who rush for 157 yards for an entire season, and have had injuries limit him in each of his three years with the team.
No tender would make Rawls an unrestricted free agent available to sign with any team beginning in March--thus likely an ex-Seahawk. Seattle seems destined to upgrade at running back beyond Davis, whom they claimed in the spring off waivers from San Francisco and who is also a restricted free agent, and McKissic, a converted wide receiver who became the third-down back when C.J. Prosise went on injured reserve in the middle of the 2017 season.
“Do I like it here? I love this organization, yes,” Rawls said. “A good time here. Still having a good time. Good staff. Good teammates. I know the system. I know the schemes and everything.
“We’ll just see how everything plays out, man. I’m just going to enjoy my day today, man, enjoy my family, and think about that in the future.”