It's hard to find an athlete who possesses a more positive attitude than Thomas Rawls, yet even the Seahawks running back admits he got down for a little while earlier this season. After battling his way back from the ankle injury and subsequent surgery that cut short a promising rookie season, Rawls left Seattle's Week 2 game this season with a leg injury that turned out to be a fracture in his fibula. All of that hard work, all of that rehab work, then an injury in his second game back—it was enough to get even the upbeat Rawls down for a little while.
Rawls walked off of the field at halftime of that game with Richard Sherman, hurting not because he had a fracture in his leg, but because he knew he wouldn't be able to keep playing with his teammates.
"I was talking to him, eyes full of tears, and said, 'I want to finish this game, I'll do whatever I got to do to finish this game," Rawls said. "He said, 'Rawls, you have a team. Lean on your team.'"
Rawls admits that the injury "took a toll" on him mentally: "I did have a couple things where it did kind of get to me, but it never overtakes my mind, my heart. That's one thing about me is I can push through those things and I can get over those things. I bounce back like nothing ever happened. I'm excited about it.
"I think it's most exciting about my whole journey through these injuries is pushing myself and understanding that adversity is there, but it doesn't have to be a part of my life. Just overcoming it and just keep pushing."
Now, Rawls has fully bounced back and was his usual upbeat, smiling, ball of energy as he talked to reporters following Thursday's practice. Any "why me?" feelings were gone after "just a few days" Rawls said, replaced by the drive to overcome another injury, and on Sunday Rawls is expected to get back on the field for the first time since that Week 2 loss in Los Angeles.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said earlier this week that while Rawls should "play considerably" on Sunday against the Eagles, the team will also be careful not to overdo it with Rawls after a seven-game absence. Rawls, on the other hand, is ready for as many carries as the Seahawks want to give him.
"I'll be ready," Rawls said. "I'll do whatever I have to do to help this team win. I train myself for more than (20 carries a game). I train myself to take on the load alone, and whatever the result is during the game Sunday is just whatever it is. I am excited to get out there, I can tell you that. I want to bring all my energy and do as much for this team and to help my teammates as much as possible."
If anything, the goal this week has been to be a little less excited, Rawls said. Family and friends back home in Flint, Michigan have been sending messages to Rawls telling him to relax as he prepares for his first game in two months.
"This whole week, my father, my brother, and a lot of my family members, they've been texting me the same message lately: 'Relax. Breathe. It's OK,'" Rawls said. "Because they know the type of person that I am. I'm a real passionate person, I play with a lot of drive and I live my life like that. I'd never change it. That just shows the support from close friends, family and people who really care about me, genuinely. I want to thank them for that."
After leading the NFL in rushing yards-per-carry as a rookie, Rawls hopes to be a part of a second-half resurgence for a running game that struggled early in the season, but showed life last week in a win over New England.
"I just feel like we can bring more energy, more passion to the run game," Rawls said. "Being a physical run team and being a physical back is so important because of what it does to other people, what it does to the defense, what it does to the offensive line. When sometimes the blocks aren't perfect and offensive linemen, if they can't get the push, sometimes you have to run it up them. You have to make them mad. But guess what, they're not going to fight me. They're going to fight the defense, they're going to fight them. You got to have different techniques, I feel like, being a running back, and you want to get the most out of it. Not just for yourself, and I think that's what it is—just being unselfish. We got to find a way to get everybody involved, because sometimes some guys may not have it on that day. I think that's a little bit of what I can possibly bring."
Photos from the Seahawks' Thursday practice at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center ahead of the team's Week 11 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.