Marshawn Lynch has had to stay outside on the sidelines getting treatment during halftime in 10-degree wind chill at Kansas City because his low back was aching. He's had to sit out two drives in the first half of yesterday's game against Arizona in Seattle while spending some of the time next to the bench sitting on a stationary bike and not pedaling.
The last three weeks, the Seahawks' star running back had to sit out practices on Wednesday and Thursday. The first week it was rest and a calf injury. The second week it was calf and then a rib. Last week it was his back. Yet he's played in all three games, rushing for 303 yards and four touchdowns as Seattle has gone 2-1.
If there was ever a game week that could change Lynch's ability to play and be at full effectiveness it would be these three days between the win over Arizona and Thursday night's showdown at San Francisco.
As Seahawks defensive end and former Lion Cliff Avril said today about Thursday games that he learned in five seasons playing for Detroit in the annual Thanksgiving-afternoon game there, "Your body doesn't start feeling good (from a Sunday game) until Thursday."
Yet coach Pete Carroll says it will be the same ol', same ol' for Lynch come game time in Santa Clara. The bullish runner has missed one game in his five seasons with the Seahawks while leading the league in rushing attempts since 2011.
"No. We're just going to go through the process and see how he is, see if he's OK," Carroll said today, before the Seahawks had an evening walk-through practice. "We'll take good care of him, and he's really smart about how he handles it. So we'll expect him to be ready to go. He won't want to miss this thing and will be ready to play."
I asked whether the last few weeks have been increasingly difficult for Lynch to play with the back pain he's had for years, because of the bruising manner in which he runs and what will Thursday become three games in 11 days for him.
"There's just been a lot of attention paid to it, but this is how it's been for the last few seasons for him, basically. I don't know -- you'll have to ask him on how he feels comparatively.
I had to interrupt with a chuckle and a "I'll do that."
"You can take care of that," Carroll said,
"He's played great. Just great. He's been able to respond every week. For any player, this is a challenge to play on Thursday. This is a huge physical challenge for these guys across the league -- there's a benefit on the other end of it, too, and we'll try to cash in on it (next week). But he should be OK.
"He just has an ongoing ... he has back issues, the ones he's always had. He's just managing it really well," Carroll said. "Other than that it's just normal bangs and bruises."
Other news from today at Seahawks headquarters:
--Carroll said starting left guard James Carpenter was "as close as you can get" to playing yesterday. That suggests Carpenter will play at San Francisco after missing the last 3 1/2 games with a sprained ankle. Alvin Bailey has started the last three games for him.
--The starting center for Thursday's game will either be Lemuel Jeanpierre or Patrick Lewis, depending on who wins what Carroll said is an open competition in practices Tuesday and Wednesday. Lewis, a fourth-stringer signed off waivers early in the season, released and then re-signed, played yesterday and the final 9 minutes of the loss at Kansas City two games ago after starter Max Unger was lost for at least a couple more games with a high-ankle sprain and twisted knee. Jeanpierre didn't play yesterday, five days after he re-signed with Seattle after it gave him an injury settlement in September for a neck-stinger injury.
My sense is Jeanpierre, Unger's backup the previous three seasons, is back in the swing of things now and will start at San Francisco. He hasn't played since mid-August.
--Sounds like Kevin Pierre-Louis may be going on injured-reserve. The rookie outside linebacker and fourth-round draft choice missed yesterday's game with a shoulder injury he got at Kansas City Nov. 16. He was coming on as a speed rusher in nickel packages and getting more plays in base defense before the injury.
"More news to come," Carroll said about him.
Bobby Wagner not only coming back but playing 53 of 54 snaps yesterday in his first game in six weeks following a turf-toe injury solidifies the linebacking corps and moves K.J. Wright back to his normal outside spot. So as disappointing as the team may be in losing Pierre-Louis, it would have been a bigger loss a week ago.
--Tight end Cooper Helfet, who caught a pass for the only touchdown yesterday and also had a big hit after Arizona scooped up a punt Seahawks' defensive back DeShawn Shead blocked, has a sprained ankle. "We'll see," was Carroll's word on Helfet's status for Thursday.
Recently signed Tony Moeaki had four catches yesterday, and Carroll said to expect more this week from the Chiefs' former starting tight end. Moeaki, Helfet and Luke Willson are filling in with starter Zach Miller out for the season needing a second ankle surgery.
--Carroll's press conference ended in a weird way.
A local television person from behind a camera asked Carroll the following:
"Hey, coach, I was trying to cut some audio last night of the interviews, the postgame interviews, and, um, it was a challenge for some of the guys to say some stuff. How do you guys make sure that moving forward that that's not a story, that those guys are saying something?"
Carroll responded, "I'm not sure, who are you referring to?"
"Marshawn. Couple of the others."
Carroll, with his tongue firmly in his cheek: "I'm not sure who you are referring to. Marshawn had a great press conference yesterday. 30 guys around him (in the locker room)."
TV cameraman: "Sherman, too. I mean, when my job is to go in there and get some stuff, you don't want that to be the story. You want the team to be the story, right? So how do you make sure that's the case moving forward? I mean it's an obvious question, it feels like."
Carroll: "So what are you asking me?"
"Well, after the game you want to be talking about the win and San Francisco and stuff like that. And we are getting phone calls that we want to see that, we want that audio and stuff like that ..."
"Well, I feel for you. You've got a tough job," Carroll said. "The guys didn't have a lot to say to help you out, give you options to go back and edit and all of that. Those that don't have as much to say don't give you as much opportunity to do that."
Beyond that bizarre bi-play, Carroll got to more telling and instructive comments. What follows offers a glimpse into why players love playing for him -- and why I say again that I don't see any evidence the Seahawks are "tired" of Lynch's "act," as ESPN and NFL Network reports from last month stated.
"I think our guys need to be the people that they are, and the individuals that they are," the coach said. "They have a responsibility (per the NFL collective bargaining agreement) and they have to live up to it. But I don't think that Marshawn can do more to show you who he is.
Got to hand it to Avril, by the way. As I and others approached him at his locker to ask some questions about Thursday's game the defensive end was wearing a plaid, fuzzy hunter's cap with ear flaps like Lynch wore in the locker room after yesterday's game.
Avril then began answering the first question with his head down while saying one word: "yeah."
"No, just joking," Avril finally said, laughing. "That's funny."
The hat? Yep, Avril borrowed it from Lynch.
"What was the question again? I'm sorry," Avril said. "While you were asking it I said, 'I'm going to do this.'"
--Here's a link to our day-after chat we had before -- and during -- Carroll's press conference today.