He’s (apparently) back.
Marshawn Lynch was one of the last Seahawks to board the team bus to SeaTac Airport and the flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, the most clear sign yet the star running back will play for the first time in more than two months on Sunday in the NFC divisional playoff game at Carolina.
Coach Pete Carroll had said about an hour earlier Lynch’s “bags are packed” and added with a wry smile there’s “a really good chance” he plays Sunday. He’s officially listed as probable.
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Lynch hasn’t played since Nov. 15 against Arizona. He had surgery on Nov. 25 in Philadelphia then spent all of December in his native Bay Area rehabilitating with personal trainers away from the team. He rejoined the Seahawks last week and practiced fully all three days. The Seahawks listed him questionable to play. Then he told the team after the Friday practice and just before it got on buses for the trip to the wild-card game at Minnesota that he would not be able to play. He chose to not go on that trip to the game. Seattle won 10-9 to advance to Sunday’s conference semifinals.
“He had a great week, he really did. He was faster and more explosive this week than last week,” Carroll said following Friday’s practice. “You can see that he made an improvement.”
Carroll was asked by a Canadian reporter if he knows what to expect from Marshawn Lynch this week.
“Have you been around here very long, with Marshawn and all of that?” Carroll said. “Not always do we know. He’s somewhat unpredictable in certain ways.
“But he’s really pumped to play football and play with his team. So I’m looking forward to him playing like he has in the past. We’ll make sure and watch and see how he’s doing, and how much we can play.
Carroll said he feel Lynch, 29, has rediscovered his confidence that he can play Sunday like what he was from 2011 until this his first injury-filled season of his nine-year career.
“I don’t think there’s any question. All indications are (that he’s confident again).”
The coach said even with Lynch’s return, fill-in Christine Michael will remain a part of the offense. But it’s obvious Michael, re-signed in November after Lynch’s injury after Seattle had given up on its former second-round draft choice in September by trading him to Dallas, goes back to a secondary role behind Lynch Sunday. Michael had 70, tough yards on 21 carries in minus-6 degree temperatures last weekend at Minnesota.
“He’s going to play a lot,” Carroll said. “We’re expecting him to be in and out of there regularly.”
Strategy-wise, it’s not as if Carolina has to change everything now that Lynch will (apparently) be playing. The Panthers have faced Lynch five times since 2012. In six career games Lynch has five touchdowns and averaged 61.1 yards per game rushing against Carolina. He had 54 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown Oct. 18 when Carolina rallied from being down 23-14 with 5 minutes left to beat the Seahawks in Seattle 27-23.
Don’t be surprised if offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has quarterback Russell Wilson run more read options with Lynch than he has in the last seven games Lynch has missed. Seattle hasn’t run that almost at all with Michael at running back for the last month.
Here’s the official injury report for the game, which shows Seattle as healthy as its been in more than two months: