SEATTLE — He remains, as always, an inscrutable man of mystery and silence.
As the Seahawks’ offseason of title-basking continues, it is doing so without Marshawn Lynch’s visible presence. No trip to the White House to hob-nob with the president. No apparent participation so far in Organized Team Activities (OTAs).
And that’s no big deal, just the latest examples of Marshawn Being Marshawn. Heck, it’s part of his charm. Lynch doesn’t just march to the beat of a different drummer, he sometimes seems to be hearing an entirely unique band.
Teammates and coaches seem largely unconcerned about Lynch’s absence. The OTAs, after all, are officially voluntary, and Lynch did just fine last year despite missing them.
The qualities that have made Lynch such an invaluable asset for the Super Bowl champions — his relentless, punishing running style — are so far above reproach that missing a few workouts isn’t going to make even a tiny dent in his stature.
And the standing he has among fellow Seahawks as a tough, invested, caring teammate is so secure as to be impenetrable. When the time comes for the carries to count, no one has any doubt that Lynch will be ready. Just as he always has been, through three straight 1,000-yard seasons in which he has defined Pete Carroll’s fundamental mantra, as stated at this past week’s Seahawks Town Hall, “to run it down their frickin’ throat.”
Yet a pertinent question sits out there, brought out into the public debate with increasing frequency: How much longer will Marshawn Lynch be the linchpin of the Seahawks’ attack?
The issue was raised in that same Town Hall meeting, when a fan asked offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell about Christine Michael’s role in 2014.
“We’re going to be running back by committee,’’ Bevell told the audience at CenturyLink Field and online, adding later, “We really like what Christine Michael is doing right now.”
Any job-sharing at running back would be a significant departure for the Seahawks, who have ridden Lynch as virtually the sole feature back for three seasons. He has averaged 300 carries per season in that span, and last year was one of just two NFL backs, along with LeSean McCoy, to exceed that number.
The toll didn’t seem to affect Lynch. It never does. In fact, he appeared to pick up steam as the season progressed. In the Seahawks’ first two playoff games, he ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns against New Orleans, and 109 yards and a score against San Francisco. In the Super Bowl, Lynch carried 15 times for 39 yards and a touchdown in a game so quickly lopsided that his typical output was scarcely needed. Lynch’s durability has been nothing short of remarkable.
But Lynch turned 28 in April, an age at which the caution flag tends to go up for NFL running backs, especially ones who run with as much reckless disregard for their own well-being as Lynch does. The decline, when it comes, can be abrupt and irreversible — remember Shaun Alexander?
My hunch is that Lynch still has some quality miles left in him. And that when it comes to the heat of the season — rather than the speculative nature of the offseason — Lynch will still be the Seahawks’ workhorse, and their go-to offensive weapon.
Yet they would be foolish not to start easing in the inevitable transition, especially with Lynch owed $5.5 million in base salary in 2015, with a $9 million salary cap hit. It’s hard to see how they can make that work without a restructuring, and who knows if Lynch would be amenable to that.
There’s also the issue of Lynch’s plea deal in February, in which he agreed to a reckless-driving charge rather than go to trial on a DUI charge from his 2012 arrest in Oakland. Lynch’s attorney, Ivan W. Golde, told Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times that he was confident Lynch would not be suspended by the NFL. But given Roger Goodell’s track record in punishing off-field indiscretions, there are no guarantees.
Since Lynch’s uncomfortable Media Day session in Newark, N.J., before the Super Bowl — 6 minutes, 21 seconds of insight and wisdom, leavened by about 30 minutes of defiant media avoidance — Lynch has stayed largely out of the public eye.
Lynch was originally scheduled to do interviews Friday to promote a coconut drink, but abruptly canceled due to what his handlers termed “a scheduling conflict.” So we’ll have to wait a little longer to find out about Lynch’s mindset.
I’m thinking that should come, reluctantly, sometime around the next Super Bowl, provided the upcoming Seahawks season goes as well as the last one. And if that’s the case, I’ll bet Lynch had a lot to do with it.