Friday night, as the Seahawks were boarding the plane bound for frigid Minneapolis, it was reported on Twitter by multiple sources that Marshawn Lynch was not with them. The unsettled reaction quickly set in. Denial. Panic. Incredulity. Confusion. How could this happen?
Speculation is rampant at this point, but what we have heard is though Lynch practiced in full all week, getting a nod from Pete Carroll as “looking great,” he suddenly decided he couldn’t make it through a full game on Friday at some point. Whether or not he suffered a setback is unknown so far.
If this was any other player, it would be easy to assume a setback was suffered. Because this is Beast Mode, it only adds another chapter to his enigmatic narrative. As Seahawk fans, we’ve accepted Lynch long ago as one who marches to his own drum, who practices away from the team while rehabbing; who dodges questions from the media but is described by teammates as having the biggest heart of anyone they’ve ever met.
But this situation is unique. Because this is a playoff game, it’s fair to be concerned about Lynch’s mindset right now. He’s never had an injury that required surgery before. Despite reports of him looking good in practice, this rehab process isn’t something his body is used to. Beyond his body, I have to wonder how his mind is recovering as well. At best, maybe he’s not fully confident that he’s at a point where he can endure the punishment of 20-25 carries of NFL football in subzero temperatures. At worst, he’s wondering if he can ever suit up again.
We’ll see. The long-term expectation on Lynch is this is his last season, be it in a Seahawk uniform or anywhere else. He’s already contemplated retirement. The sports hernia recovery may end up being the final straw for him. The emergence of Thomas Rawls in the backfield may have already softened the blow for fans when they think about life without Beast Mode. The story may be writing itself as we speak.
We are now less than 24 hours from watching the Seahawks plunge into the playoffs for a fourth straight year. Sunday is all that matters now. This is win-or-go-home. The Carroll-era Seahawks are historically clutch in these situations regardless of who is or is not on the field. With a win, the Seahawks can return home and continue to map their ascent into glory. Marshawn Lynch will have another week to prepare and get himself right again, but make no mistake — this train knows its final destination, and it’s leaving the station with or without him.