Seattle Seahawks running back Thomas Rawls endured a lot his first two seasons in the NFL. After bursting onto the scene as an undrafted rookie, his first season ended early because of an ankle injury and his second was hampered due to a fibula injury.
This offseason is different for Rawls, however. Not having to sit on his couch, learn how to walk again or go through a serious injury rehab isn't in his summer 2017 plans. But the process of going through those injuries in the past has helped Rawls become stronger as he looks to re-gain his form next year.
"I feel even better," Rawls said Friday after the final day of Seahawks OTAs (Organized Team Activities). "I actually get an offseason. I just remember coming off those injuries and everything, it was kind of tough. You also learn from being a professional and in a way, it kind of humbles you in a lot of different ways. I've been having a great offseason and I've been feeling way better moving a lot, taking no days off and getting back to the grind."
Rawls said that he really didn't feel the same until the end of last season because of the injuries. It showed, as he struggled on the ground before missing time and couldn't really get into a flow until Week 12 when he ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries against the Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks' running game as a whole struggled last season because of injuries.
"Towards the end, I felt like I was coming back to life a little more," Rawls said. "Just coming off that ankle injury is not easy, it's never easy and I understand that. That's one thing a lot of people don't understand is that when you have to learn how to walk again and then you have to be on the football field — you've got to be able to cut, run, be explosive and still try to maintain that mentally — it is a big deal."
The injuries did teach him a valuable lesson about the importance of maintaining your body on and off the field.
"Take care of yourself, take care of your body and as long as you prepare mentally, the physical side of the game is going to be OK," Rawls said. "That's one thing that I pride myself on also in the offseason, just being at peace and understanding the game more at the running back position. Now as I'm out there, I get to play faster, I get to run my routes right, I get to be in a passing offense a little more. That's one thing I prided myself on this offseason, it was very beneficial. That's one thing that I've done.
"One thing that you learn is you're going to have ups and downs, nothing is going to be perfect and nothing is on my time. I believe everything is God's timing. The only thing you have to do is keep your head above water and maintain and I believe that everything is going to work out in my favor."
Not only did Rawls say Friday he feels lighter while running, he believes he's actually faster than before and said his body percent is roughly back to where it was his rookie season, which was around 8.5-9. He also spent time this offseason working on his pass-catching with trainer Tom Shaw and aims to become a three-down back.
"I've been feeling so good, strong, feeling real balanced being able to be decisive and getting in and out of cuts and everything like that. I worked on my hands this whole offseason. I'm looking forward to a great year, a great season for this whole football team and just playing my part and being beneficial to the team."
The Seahawks have a crowded group in the backfield with Rawls, veteran Eddie Lacy, C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins, rookie Chris Carson and Mike Davis. Head coach Pete Carroll raved about the level of competition and depth his roster has and the running back group is a prime slot if all of them can remain healthy in 2017. Rawls is motivated to avoid missing time entering his third season and getting the Seahawks' ground game back to the grove Carroll likes.
"I haven't played a full season, but I know who I am and I know what I'm capable of and at the same time, I'm still learning and that's one thing I take my pride in and that's a growth mindset."
The Seahawks held their seventh and final set of Organized Team Activities on Friday, June 9 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.