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Pete Carroll: Thomas Rawls will be back for training camp, will likely replace Lynch as new lead back

VIDEO: Pete Carroll at combine on Marshawn Lynch's legacy with Seahawks

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talks with the media Thursday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talks with the media Thursday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

The Seahawks will be bringing in more backs to compete for the job of replacing retiring Marshawn Lynch. But their coach expects Thomas Rawls to be Seattle’s new main man on the ground.

He’s earned it, Pete Carroll says.

“Well, Thomas is going to get a great shot at it,” Carroll said of Seattle’s 2015 undrafted rookie wonder on Thursday here at the NFL’s scouting combine. “He did everything he could his rookie season to make a statement that he belongs.

“We love the style. He’s a great kid. I can’t imagine that he’s not going to be right in the middle of it.”

That was after Carroll began with a lengthy ode to Lynch, whom he thanked for “extraordinary memories”:

Rawls wasn’t even at this combine last year, after his lone season as a transfer to Central Michigan. Then last fall Lynch had the first and only injury-filled season of his nine-year career, which he ended two weeks ago. Seattle had already traded one-time heir apparent Christine Michael and sent fellow runner Robert Turbin away before the season started. The rugged Rawls entered -- and romped. He became the first undrafted rookie to rush for at least 160 yards in a game twice. Then he broke his ankle and tore ligaments in the Dec. 13 win at Baltimore.

“I just saw him two days ago. He’s in really good shape right now,” Carroll said. “He’s getting ready for it. It’s going to he a haul for him but he’ll make it for camp and be ready to go.

“And we’ll expect a lot out of him.”

Carroll went further Thursday than general manager John Schneider had the day before here, when the GM stopped short of saying the job of being the lead runner for what has been among the NFL’s top rushing teams for years was Rawls’ to lose. Schneider chose to emphasize the competion he was about to bring onto the roster for Rawls in the preseason.

“Always Compete” Carroll acknowledged that competition is coming -- but emphasized Rawls.

“I don’t know who else is going to be added to the team. But he’s coming in as the guy that we re looking to him to give the ball to,” Carroll said, “and he’s recovering really well.”

Off the stage in a suite-lounge area of the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium, Carroll called these next weeks and months through free agency into training camp this summer “a very crucial time for us.” Seattle has 17 players whose contracts have ended making them potential free agents when the market opens March 9, and the coach made clear he, his GM and the player-personnel staff are trying to figure out how to prioritize and keep the most important few while staying under the $154 million salary cap. The Seahawks are estimated to have just over $23 million in available cap space for 2016, 14th-fewest in the 32-team league.

And there is scant wiggle room for Seattle. The league’s players’ union announced Thursday the carry-over totals for each team left over from last year’s cap to use under this year’s. In more proof Carroll, Schneider and the Seahawks are indeed “all in,” as they say, Seattle is carrying over just $11,587. That’s relative pennies in this league. Only three teams are carrying over less than $1 million, and the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions are all above $862,000.

“John and I were communicating at 3 o’clock in the morning (Thursday) getting back to the room,” Carroll said of his GM and ongoing discussions on whom to re-sign and how.

The coach talked about how well undrafted wide receiver Jermaine Kearse played this past season -- and added of the Lakewood native and former University of Washington standout intent on testing the market as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in two weeks: “There’s some work to be done there; he’s unrestricted.”

Carroll also acknowledged Russell Okung’s unique situation of representing himself in negotiations with the team. The left tackle may prove too expensive for Seattle to retain, given his premium, valued position in the NFL.

“It’s a challenge. No, it doesn’t change the dynamic, but it is a challenge,” Carroll said. “It poses a challenge for him to do a nice job with this process. It’s a very complicated process. He’s very close to us. We care a tremendous amount about him. We’re hoping it all works out right. Of course we’d love him back – just like our other guys.”