RENTON Pete Carroll says Marshawn Lynch did not have a health setback on Friday when the lead running back decided he couldn’t play in Sunday’s wild-card playoff win at Minnesota.
So the Seahawks are entering this week of preparation for the weekend’s divisional playoff game at top-seeded Carolina in the same spot with Lynch they were at this time last week: hopeful he can play for the first time since Nov. 15 -- but with no clear indication whether he will or won’t, waiting on how he responds to practices.
I asked Seattle’s coach on Monday if Lynch had a “setback” in practice on Friday or the three practices in which the team listed him as a full participant last week. Those were his first practices since Nov. 12, and it had Carroll saying Lynch was “ready to rock” and as late as Friday around noon time telling Seattle’s 710 AM radio Lynch “will play” against the Vikings.
Multiple reports Saturday quoted Lynch’s Bay Area-based agent, Doug Hendrickson, saying Lynch “had a little setback on Friday” when he did not accompany the team to Minnesota.
”No,” Carroll said Monday. “He just didn’t feel like he could go.”
Lynch informed the Seahawks following Friday’s light practice and just before they were leaving for Minneapolis that afternoon he didn’t believe he was in good enough health to play. He also decided he wasn’t making the trip to Minnesota. He stayed back on the West Coast Sunday while his teammates pulled out a crazy, 10-9 win over the Vikings in the third-coldest game in NFL history; the game-time temperature was minus-5 with a wind chill of 25 below zero.
”He really didn’t have the confidence that he would be able to go,” Carroll said Monday of the NFL’s leading rusher and touchdown maker from 2011 until this season, the first injury-filled one of the 29-year-old Lynch’s nine seasons in the league. “You know, this is his first surgery, and it happens to be right in his core. You all have watched him and you know what kind of runner he is, and all of the lateral things that he does with his body (that) is so abrupt and so sudden, he needs to feel that he can do those things in the end.
”Even though he can run fast and look like he is moving (in practice), he didn’t have the confidence he could go out there and react to (defenders) and do that.
”So, there’s nothing we can do about that.”
This follows the Seahawks having years ago set the precedent of allowing Lynch to determine his own training regimen and readiness for games. It’s how Carroll and the team have gotten so much excellence and production on game days out of him as the foundation for the best five-year stretch in the history of Seahawks football, by giving him autonomy in exchange for yards and touchdowns on Sundays.
So will he play this Sunday?
”We’ll see how it goes,” Carroll said. “Get him out there practicing and see what that means. We don’t know yet.”
Carroll indicated “it really could” go up to Sunday’s 10:05 a.m. Pacific game time at Carolina before the Seahawks know whether Lynch can play against the Panthers.
”I don’t know. I can’t tell you. He doesn’t know yet,” Carroll said. “So we’ll have to wait and see.”
Lynch has six 100-yard rushing days and nine touchdowns in his 10 career playoff games. He has four 100-yard days and six rushing touchdowns in his last six postseason starts, including 102 yards and a score in last February’s Super Bowl. So, yes, the Seahawks (11-6) would absolutely be better off with him starting in their backfield Sunday at Carolina (15-1) instead of hanging out again on the opposite coast this weekend.
Christine Michael had 70 yards on 21 carries against the Vikings with tough running through holes often clogged by defenders.
Carroll was impressed, saying Lynch’s fill-in “played like a pro” against Minnesota.
We’ll likely find out Friday, Saturday or Sunday morning if Michael or Lynch will be doing that against the Panthers.