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Seahawks retain leading rusher Lynch

Posted Mar 4, 2012

With the deadline to place franchise tags on players looming Monday, the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch sidestepped the need to do that on Sunday as the team's leading rusher signed a multiyear contract.


Asked about Marshawn Lynch at the NFL Scouting Combine, coach Pete Carroll spoke directly to the importance of the team retaining its leading rusher and the player around which the Seahawks have built their offense.

“We have big plans for him being with us,” Carroll said. “He knows that. And he understands that. And we’re just working it out right now.”

That was 10 days ago, and the work came to fruition Sunday when Lynch signed a multiyear contract to remain with the team that acquired him a 2010 trade with the Buffalo Bills.

"We are excited to keep Marshawn as an important part of what we are building," general manager John Schneider said after the deal was finalized. "This is what we were hoping for when we acquired him from Buffalo."

Seattle was where Lynch wanted to be.

“I mean I would like to come back,” he said as the players were cleaning out their cubicles in the locker that day after the season-ending loss to the Arizona Cardinals. “Sure, I’d like to stay here. But that’s not up to me.”

Seattle is where Lynch was going to stay, even if it meant the Seahawks designating him as their franchise player. The deadline for naming franchise players is Monday. But both sides preferred a long-term contract, rather than the one-season tag, and the ongoing negotiations intensified as the deadline approached.

“Everything’s going to fall into place,” Lynch had said when asked about the uncertainty of his future. “There’s not too much I can do about it but just wait.”

As for hitting the open market, he added, “Hopefully I don’t have to. Hopefully I can get taken care of where I’m at.”

Hope became reality on Sunday, when the waiting was finally over for Lynch and the Seahawks.

Lynch, who won’t turn 26 until next month, became the key ingredient in the zone-blocking scheme installed last season by assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable. Despite getting off to a slow start (an average of 91.7 rushing yards through nine games) and then losing three starting linemen in during a four-week period in November and December, Lynch and the running game flourished in the second half of the season – as he had six 100-yard rushing performances in the final nine games, and the team won five of its final eight games after starting 2-6.

“It’s very encouraging,” Lynch said of the drastic improvement shown by the running game. “Just to know that if we call a run play, we know we can run it and get success out of. You’ve got to be real pleased with that, being a running back, and knowing that they’re going to get the job done. And they’re young and are going to get better.”

Lynch finished his first full season in Seattle with career-best totals in rushing yards (1,204) and touchdowns (13). He became the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Shaun Alexander in 2005 and broke Alexander’s record set that season (nine) by scoring a touchdown in 11 consecutive games. Lynch also caught 28 passes, tying the second-highest total of his five-season NFL career.

After being acquired Oct. 5, 2010, in a trade that cost the Seahawks two middle-round draft choices, Lynch led the team with 573 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns, and also posted a career-best 4.4-yard average.

But with Lynch, it’s not just the yards he gains and the touchdowns he scores, but how he does it – with a “Beast Mode” style that has to be seen to be believed. And the closer, the better.

At the Combine, Bucky Brooks said no back in the league runs as hard as Lynch. “Without question. No doubt. No one else runs that hard, with that determination,” said Brooks, a former NFL wide receiver and scout for the Seahawks who is now an analyst for NFL.com.

During the season, and on several occasions, Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson marveled at what Lynch was able to accomplish – especially the way he accomplished it. At one point, Robinson said he never had seen a back generate as much power on one leg as Lynch – which explains his ability to emerge from piles of would-be tacklers and gain yards that just don’t seem to be there.

“That’s the way he is. That’s the type of guy he is,” Robinson said. “He walks aggressively. Marshawn does everything he does aggressively.

“That’s what you like about him.”

Lynch and Robinson also were teammates in the Pro Bowl, as Lynch led the NFC with 43 yards on eight carries. Each had been an alternate in balloting for the NFL all-star game; each was added to the NFC squad as an injury replacement.

It would have been extremely difficult to replace what Lynch brings to the Seahawks’ offense, huddle and locker room if he had been allowed to sign elsewhere in free agency. That’s why the team was ready to give him the franchise tag. That’s why the multiyear contract was the preferred – and better – option.

Because as last season proved, as Lynch goes, so go the Seahawks. That fact was not lost on the Seahawks’ opponents, especially after Lynch became the first player to score a rushing touchdown against the NFC West champion San Francisco 49ers last season and also snapped their 36-game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher.

“That’s the way Marshawn Lynch plays all the time,” Harbaugh said after Lynch’s Week 16 efforts. “I couldn’t say if there’s a difference from Game One to this game, or throughout his whole career.

“He’s just a great back.”

And now Lynch will remain the Seahawks’ lead back, as he tries to lead them back to the playoffs and the team’s first winning record since 2007.


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