The Seahawks want Marshawn Lynch to remain one of them in 2015.
That was Pete Carroll’s most unequivocal public proclamation yet about his 28-year-old star running back, the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher whose contract ends after next season.
Carroll’s position Friday directly refutes two unsubstantiated national reports from last month that said the Seahawks are tired of Lynch’s “act.”
“That came from totally somewhere else,” Carroll said today of the report on Oct. 26 by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen — plus one by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that same morning before Seattle’s game at Carolina that said “I would not be surprised if the Seahawks took a RB very early in the draft and essentially replace Beast Mode on their roster.”
“We want him around here for as long as he can play,” Carroll said after the Seahawks (6-4) finished Friday afternoon’s indoor practice for Sunday’s mammoth game against NFC West-leading Arizona (9-1). “There’s never been any hesitation. There’s never been another thought about that.
“He’s under contract for next year. We’d be thrilled to have him playing for us next year. So we’ll do everything we can to get that done.”
That is consistent with what has become Seattle’s reality the last two years, including the 2013 season that ended with Seattle’s first Super Bowl title. Lynch is too essential, too consistently and dependably productive, too emblematic to Carroll’s football philosophy of power running and defense, just plain too important to the Seahawks’ offense and team for the franchise to suddenly disown him a couple months from now.
Carroll prefaced his comments on Lynch with “if you ever would have asked me.” But on Oct. 27, the day after the ESPN and NFL Network reports on the Seahawks distaste for Lynch’s “act,” Carroll was asked in a press conference whether those reports had any validity.
“I have nothing to say about that because there’s nothing to that. I have no idea where that came from,” Carroll said then. “We have nothing to say about that. At this point I don’t think it behooves us to try and respond to all of these kinds of things in the locker room. Our players have told you how they feel, our coaches have told you how we feel about it and were in a really good place right now. It’s just not worth it so there’s nothing to that at all. I don’t know where that came from.”
Carroll got a follow-up question that day, on if he gets a chance to talk to Lynch regularly or infrequently.
“Whenever I need to,” Carroll responded curtly. “Look, what do you want me to say? Are you asking me about my personal relationship with my players now?”
Lynch, who turns 29 in the spring, has had a recurring lower-back issue that had him on the sidelines getting it massaged last weekend in Kansas City while Seattle’s defense was on the field. His back even kept him outside getting treatment in 10-degree wind chills during halftime of the loss, in which he rushed for 124 yards.
As for that “act” the Seahawks were supposed to be tired of: Lynch is fourth in the league in rushing with 813 yards and first with nine rushing touchdowns. His power running remains the basis for quarterback Russell Wilson’s read-option runs and play-action passes. Lynch is the only NFL player to rush for 1,000 yards and score at least 10 rushing touchdowns in every season since 2011.
His contract’s final season of 2015 calls for him to receive $5 million in base pay with up to $2 million in roster and performance bonuses, with a salary-cap charge to the Seahawks of $8.5 million in 2015.
As for the “we’ll do everything we can to get that done” part of Carroll’s comments, the Seahawks are likely to attempt to renegotiate with Lynch before next season. They are likely to offer more money for Lynch in bonuses on a new deal for perhaps two or three years, to end after 2016 or ’17. At those times he will turn 30 and 31 years old, the age of well-documented decline in prolific running backs (see: Alexander, Shaun). The Seahawks are likely to ask in return for Lynch to agree to lower base pays for lower salary-cap hits in any extended contract.
In that scenario it will likely come down to whether Lynch is willing to accept that to stay in Seattle, or if he wants to try his fortunes at free agency after his contract expires following the 2015 season. Either way, that would keep him a Seahawk next year.
As for the here and very urgent now: Just in time for their biggest game this season — and then the next biggest game four days later at San Francisco — the Seahawks’ injury report looks substantially better.
Bobby Wagner will make his first start Sunday since he tore a ligament and broke the sesamoid bone in a tendon in his right foot Oct. 12 against Dallas. Carroll said the team is going to have to be smart with monitoring how many plays Wagner gets in his first game back.
“You take him out. Really, we will take him out,” Carroll said. “We will know how many plays he’s playing and see how it’s going.
“He’s in great shape. He really worked hard to be in great condition, so we don’t think that’s a factor. We just want to watch and see how he plays and see what happens.”
Wagner says he’s going to be a full go.
“I’m not planning to conserve energy,” he said. “I’m planning to go out there and make as many plays and as many tackles I can make over the 60 minutes of the game.”
Wagner was on a team-record pace for tackles before he got hurt five weeks ago. His return will greatly help a defense that got steamrolled by the Chiefs with 190 yards rushing last week. Seattle has been mixing and matching with usual outside linebacker K.J. Wright and undrafted rookie Brock Coyle at middle linebacker while Wagner’s been out. Wright will now go back outside, and Coyle goes back to special teams.
That plus the fact Carroll says strong safety Kam Chancellor is as healthy as he’s been all season — after getting two games off earlier this month to rest bone spurs in his ankles and a groin injury — leaves the Seahawks with 10 of the 11 defensive starters healthy and available. That’s the first time that’s been the case since the fifth game of the season, the loss to the Cowboys. The exception is nose tackle Brandon Mebane. He is out for the year with a torn hamstring.
Carroll said Travian Robertson had a good week of practice after signing on Tuesday off Atlanta’s practice squad. Even though the 320-pound nose tackle hasn’t played in a game since August, the Seahawks are going to play him there Sunday.
Carroll said Lemuel Jeanpierre, injured Max Unger’s backup for the previous three seasons that Seattle re-signed off an injury settlement on Tuesday, has surprised the team with how in shape and ready to play he is.
Carroll wouldn’t say whether Jeanpierre or fourth-string fill-in Patrick Lewis will start at center against the Cardinals. Lewis played the final nine minutes for Unger at Kansas City, after the starter sustained a high-ankle sprain and twisted knee in the fourth quarter. Carroll said Jeanpierre is ready to play center or guard.
Left guard James Carpenter is questionable with a sprained ankle that’s had him out since he injured it Nov. 2 against Oakland. If Carpenter has to miss a third consecutive game and the Seahawks decide their trust in Jeanpierre warrants him starting off the street, Alvin Bailey could start again for Carpenter.