Thomas Rawls made so much noise in his rookie season.
But it ended for him here in somber silence outside the visiting locker room.
That’s where staffers helped him onto the back of a motorized cart Sunday afternoon. The running back who burst into the NFL this fall, going from an undrafted free agent to Marshawn Lynch’s heir apparent for years to come in the Seattle backfield, grimaced with a bowed head.
His left leg was encased in a walking boot, but he wasn’t walking. He propped a crutch onto the back of the cart and was then driven out down a service hallway to the team’s bus to its flight home from this 35-6 rout of the Baltimore Ravens.
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Paging the suddenly urgently needed Lynch.
Rawls, Lynch’s replacement for the last month, will miss the rest of the season after suffering a broken ankle and torn ligaments in Sunday’s first quarter.
“I think the ligaments are really the problem,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I don’t think he’s going to have to have an operation, from what I understand.
“Thomas has had a fantastic rookie season. Just exemplifies what we are all about: toughness and hard-nosed and committed and grit and all that stuff. We love the guy, and we’re really going to miss him.”
Rawls had 47 yards on his first five carries of the Seahawks’ fourth consecutive victory. But on his sixth carry of Seattle’s opening drive he got trapped behind the line and engulfed by a swarm of Ravens. His left ankle bent under the pile. The Seahawks’ medical staff ran onto the field followed close behind by Carroll. They knew almost immediately Rawls’ impressive debut season was over, after 830 yards rushing.
“I just talked to him for a second. He’s such a stud kid that he’s trying to fire me up,” Carroll said.
“I’m sure it’s tearing him up inside because he would love to continue with his teammates.”
“That was tough,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. “He’s played such a great season, rushing for almost 1,000 yards this season. I think he’s done just a phenomenal job. He’s worked so hard. Just praying for him that he gets back quickly.”
His mother, Deadra Whitley, whom Rawls calls his rock back home in Flint, Michigan, tweeted: “I wanna thank everyone who has prayers for my SON Thomas Rawls this is his passion but I pray for all these men on the field.#LifeoveraBet”
He walked off the field slowly with a limp. He was replaced by DuJuan Harris, who was on the practice squad until eight days before.
The coach said the next move for the team will be to see how close starter Lynch is to returning from abdominal surgery Nov. 25.
“We have to see where he is. He has a chance to get back. It’s all about getting back in shape and getting right,” Carroll said. “I don’t know what that timetable is at this point; our trainers can’t tell yet. But that would be the next thing that we are looking at, to see how that works.
“In the meantime, we’ll figure it out.”
Of course, if Wilson continues this throwing — 16 touchdowns, no interceptions in his last four games — and the offensive line continues its pass blocking — no sacks allowed Sunday, only eight allowed in the last six games after 31 in the first seven — the Seahawks may be able to withstand yet another injury at running back.
Harris signed with Seattle’s practice squad Nov. 24, a day before Lynch’s surgery. The Seahawks promoted him to the active roster in time to back up Rawls last week at Minnesota.
He lost a fumble at the 5-yard line in the second quarter Sunday, or the rout of the Ravens would have been even worse.
“I have to be better,” a glum Harris said repeatedly.
He played 15 games for Green Bay last regular season, and nine combined for the Packers and Jacksonville in the 2012 and ‘11 seasons, respectively.
Seattle got another key injury Sunday when Kam Chancellor sustained “a bruised back side” in the first quarter and did not return. Special-teamer Kelcie McCray replaced him at strong safety.
Chancellor was on an exercise bike on the sidelines for some of the rest of the game after he got hurt. He walked out of the locker room carrying his own bag following the game.
The Seahawks have a policy of injured players being off-limits to talk to the media.
“He was really uncomfortable today,” Carroll said, “(but) we think he has a chance to get back next week.”
The Seahawks (8-5) host Cleveland (3-10) next Sunday. The Browns ended a seven-game losing streak by beating San Francisco.