Maybe Marshawn Lynch’s career with the Seahawks isn’t in its final days. But planning the wake seems a reasonable contingency.
The indicators are there. The missed games, the cumulative injuries, the slumping yards per carry.
But Lynch has never followed the trodden path or anybody else’s blueprint, so he could end up being the rule-breaking outlier when it comes to running-back longevity.
News from the Seahawks on Wednesday was that the injured running back was not expected to be ready for the regular-season finale Sunday at Arizona, and even his return for the playoffs was a matter still undetermined.
It could be the predictable epilogue to the brief and unforgiving life cycle of the NFL running back. The final stages tend to be about as subtle as the fate of the aging wildebeests on the Serengeti.
He’s missed eight games this season, the last six for an abdominal injury that required surgery. His rehab has been conducted in the Bay Area rather than under the Seahawks’ purview at the headquarters.
Coach Pete Carroll has tried to convince everyone that he’s comfortable relying on third-party updates from nonstaff, off-site trainers regarding the rehabilitation and readiness of a high-priced and exceedingly valuable player as he tries to prepare and game plan for the postseason.
On top of that, it sounded as if the team not only hasn’t always been sure how Lynch has been progressing, but even where he’s been at times.
I’m not believing they’re thrilled with any of that for a second.
Equally absurd are the naive questions of the media to Carroll and other Seahawks about if they see Lynch’s treatment as a double-standard. Of course it is. The stars get treated differently. What’s next, being surprised that some players make more money than others?
It comes down to a simple balance sheet. It was the same when they were asked if Lynch’s previous holdout was a distraction, or if his Theatre of the Absurd press conferences were bothersome.
The answer always was: No, because he helps us win games.
At some point, with all running backs, that cost-effectiveness doesn’t pencil out. Lynch will turn 30 next April, and his salary cap number is $11.5 million.
His most recent contract update was geared to getting him more up-front money, with his being around to collect salary in 2016 an unlikely development.
We won’t hear Lynch expound on his position, his career, his future aspirations, etc., as his public statements have been limited mostly to commercials in which he advises viewers how to deal with clogged commodes.
All the things we haven’t heard from Lynch are merely the inessentials, leaving us to know him by his on-field persona. Which has been more than enough.
We may wonder how a thick-shelled, at-risk kid from Oakland become so endeared in this land of techies and foodies, hemp-wearing socialists and dumpster-burning anarchists.
It was because nothing mattered besides what he did on the field. And there, he played with a competitive ferocity that shook their foundation. He created memories and moments that raised goosebumps on all their Gore-Texed surfaces.
He did it more with his effort than his statistical achievement. How often do you even hear fans mention Shaun Alexander? He was the only Seahawk to be named NFL MVP. He gained far more yards and scored more touchdowns than Lynch in Seattle.
But when Alexander got his money, his production dropped. When Lynch got his money, he somehow seemed to run with even more determination.
The decline is inevitable, though, and we’re left to imagine how Lynch will deal when his legs betray him, or there comes a time when he can be dragged down by fewer than half a dozen defenders.
It sounds as if he’s been well-represented and fiscally secure. Maybe he’ll just fade away.
One of the rare times when he’s opened up publicly, on an insightful ESPN “E:60” feature, he described his iconic Beast Quake run in the 2010 playoff win over New Orleans as a metaphor for his life.
His explanation was an impressive bit of self-awareness and articulation.
To complete that theme, maybe retirement would be represented by the final part of that run, when he capped it all by diving backward into the end zone, looking back toward the bodies of those vanquished in his wake.
In midair, he grabbed himself with a gesture that was somewhat crude but distinctly Marshawn.
It seems a signature statement for his career: I did it my way. And you’ll never forget it.