Marshawn Lynch was back at his locker, poppin’ rap music from his stereo and singing along.
Seahawks teammates milled around him smiling, laughing and loving the familiar scene. Brandon Mebane, Bruce Irvin, Fred Jackson encircled the star running back for more laughs.
Mebane, a former college teammate of Lynch’s at California, joked he would ensure a one-on-one interview with his famously no-media friend. For a large fee.
“It’s great seeing him over there, smiling,” All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said, about 10 feet to the left of where Lynch was about to turn on his stereo. “I can’t wait to hear his music again.”
Wednesday was like homecoming day for the Seahawks.
A timely one, too.
Seattle’s cornerstone running back practiced for the first time since Nov. 12. And he did it his own, unique way, of course. Lynch took the field with a candy cane protruding from his mouth. The candy cane stayed in as he skipped around the field, caught passes, even threw a couple, in warmups for his full participation four days before Seattle (10-6) plays a wild-card playoff game at Minnesota (11-5).
Yes, Lynch is back and readying to start Sunday. He hasn’t played since Nov. 15 and had abdominal surgery Nov. 25. But he’s returned for the most important games.
“He’s fantastic,” offensive line coach and running-game coordinator Tom Cable said of Lynch upon his return: “And he has some more jokes (since he last was with the team).”
Play-caller Darrell Bevell said he expects Lynch to be “full go” Sunday, capable of his normal workload of 20 or more carries against the Vikings. As Bevell mentioned, the predicted near-zero-degree temperatures in Minneapolis on Sunday would be conducive to running the ball a lot. And that’s what Seattle’s offensive coordinator plans to do with Lynch.
“If he’s going, that’s what I would expect. I’d expect him to be full-go, full speed and just do like we normally do,” Bevell said.
Lynch wasn’t the only Seahawks starter returning Wednesday.
Strong safety Kam Chancellor (bruised tailbone), left tackle Russell Okung (strained calf), right guard J.R. Sweezy (concussion) and tight end Luke Willson (concussion) are on track to return from missing the regular-season finale last weekend at Arizona. All practiced on a limited basis Wednesday.
Coach Pete Carroll also said there’s a chance defensive back Jeremy Lane makes it back Sunday from the oblique muscle he strained a few drives after he had an interception of Carson Palmer last week against the Cardinals. Lane also practiced Wednesday.
The practice report from the Seahawks had a new injury: rookie Tyler Lockett did not participate because of an unspecified hip ailment. Lockett was named NFC special-teams player of the week earlier Wednesday after his team-record 139 yards on punt returns in last weekend’s blowout of Arizona.
Michael Bennett was the other player to miss practice for his sore toe, but the defensive end often takes off Wednesdays. He has played in every game the past two seasons.
This is as healthy and fully equipped as the Seahawks have been since early November.
There was an undeniable spark in the locker room and on the practice field from Lynch’s return. It speaks of the popularity the 29-year-old running back has among his teammates, because of his unique personality, his production and dedication on the field in his six seasons with Seattle.
“Just watching him out there he looks like he can come out and do whatever he needs to. We’re excited about that,” said Jackson, Lynch’s best pal in the league from their days together in Buffalo until 2010.
“He’s a tremendous weapon for us. He’s a tremendous guy to have in the locker room. We’re excited about it. Hopefully he can go full-go. We know with a player like that it gives us a better chance to win a game.”
Lynch had been gone from the team for six weeks, first to have his surgery in Philadelphia and then to do his rehabilitation with his personal trainers in San Francisco, across the bay from his native Oakland, California.
“(People) have no idea who he is because he doesn’t want to talk about it,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “He’s a guy that is as selfless as they come, that will go out there and put his body on the line for his teammates. That’s why guys don’t worry or stress about Marshawn not being here when he’s rehabbing or when he’s hurt ... The outside world is like, ‘What’s going on?’
“We don’t panic. We know that guy is one of the best teammates you would ever have, playing for any team, any level, any spot. And he will do whatever he can to help his team win. And you know he means no ill will. He’s not trying to hurt the team or any of that when he’s gone. You understand that. And appreciate it.”
The updated forecast from the National Weather Service for Sunday in Minneapolis: a high of 2 degrees, low of minus-6 with 10 mile-per-hour winds that will make it feel like 15-25 below zero. Carroll remembers coaching the Jets to a win in a particularly cold game at Buffalo. He said the biggest effect will be on the “handling of the ball” and kicks not going as far as usual. … The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s rushing champion this season, did not practice in Minnesota because of a sore lower back but is expected to play as usual Sunday. … Minnesota’s top defensive linemen, Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen, were limited participants in practice but are also expected to play.
Staff writer Don Ruiz contributed to this report.