SEATTLE, Wash. — When it comes to Chris Carson, Doug Baldwin has been one of the rookie running back's biggest supporters, but also a strong critic when necessary.
So when a tired Carson was looking to the sideline late in Sunday's 12-9 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Baldwin told the rookie that it was his time to finish the game.
"There were a couple of times I looked to the sideline just because I was tired, but Doug Baldwin has been in my head about being tougher, staying in there," said Carson. "Once I looked over there, he was like, 'Stay in, you're going to finish this off.' That gave me a little more juice to try to finish it."
Baldwin has also been hard on Carson dating back to training camp, but only because he sees in Carson a ton of potential. And on Sunday, Carson showed why so many of his coaches and teammates are excited about him, rushing for 93 yards on 20 carries in what was a continuation of a strong training camp, preseason and first regular season game for the seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State.
"He's the real deal, he's the real deal," Baldwin said. "I've been telling y'all that since training camp, he is the real deal. There's an aspect to him mentally that you don't find in football players; it's very hard to find that aspect mentally in a football player, and Chris Carson has it. He's going to be a phenomenal running back in this league for as long as he wants to be. He can take this as far as he wants to. Don't tell him I said that, we've got to keep him humble, but like I said in camp, he has all the tools in the tool bag, it's up to him to make it happen.
"He's a professional. He has shown us nothing short of professionalism since he has been here. The way he runs the ball, the way he catches the ball, the way he blocks, the way he picks up his assignments. It doesn't matter what it is, he's just on top of his game, and it's a beautiful thing to watch, especially for a young kid coming in."
Some of Carson's best carries came on the game's final possession when he and the offensive line helped the Seahawks run the final four minutes, 47 seconds off the clock. Carson carried five straight times to open that drive, gaining a total of 41 yards. That gave the Seahawks three first downs, allowing Russell Wilson to take a knee three times to end the game.
That's not just a big workload for a rookie playing in his second game, but some very important carries with the game on the line. Carson didn't necessarily know he'd have that many carries or be asked to close out the game, but he was ready for that moment.
"It was a blessing, just to have the trust of the coaches to put me out there in that time, I didn't want to miss that opportunity, I didn't want to take it for granted," he said. "… I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity I was given. My number was called, so I wanted to be ready.
"I knew I was going to play. Did I know I was going to finish it off in the fourth quarter? Nah, I didn't know that. But I knew when my number was called, I wanted to be ready."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who has talked excitedly about Carson since the day the Seahawks drafted him, continues to like what he sees from a player few would have expected to be the team's leading rusher two games into the season.
"Chris has shown us nothing but really positive stuff," Carroll said. "… I think he's a really good football player. I say that because he's a good pass-blocker, and he's a good catcher, and he's a good route runner, and he can contribute on (special) teams too. That's a lot of real positives for a first-time guy.
"Really, he has very little background—a junior college kid, didn't play much as a junior, I think he carried the ball 80-something times as a senior, so he has not had a lot of football behind him, but you would never know it. That's not what we're seeing, and that's not what we saw in the offseason in finding him. I'm really fired up for him."
Yet as fired up as Carroll and the Seahawks are about Carson, that doesn't mean they don't still have high hopes for the rest of their running backs. Thomas Rawls returned from the ankle injury that kept him out of the opener, and because of the time he missed, Rawls was limited to just five carries—"We were not going to overwork him," Carroll said.
Eddie Lacy, meanwhile, was inactive for the game, but Carroll said that was just a case of Lacy getting caught up in the numbers game at his position, and not a reflection of their opinion of Lacy.
"I hate that he wasn't out there," Carroll said. "I love Eddie, and he wanted to be part of it, but in this matchup with the guys that were healthy and all that, this was the way we had to go."
Asked about where Lacy fits in, Carroll said, "He's part of our guys. I'm fired up about our group."
The Seahawks come out victorious for their home opener at CenturyLink Field 12-9 against the 49ers.