During his Monday afternoon press conference at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Pete Carroll expanded upon what he confirmed to 710 ESPN Seattle earlier that morning - that Marshawn Lynch is back in the building with the hope that he'll be able to play in this weekend's wild-card playoff matchup against Vikings in Minnesota.
“He’s ready to go," the Seahawks head coach said of Lynch, who has missed Seattle's past seven games while recovering from surgery on his abdomen. "He’s in the program working, going. He’s going to keep doing his workouts here with us today and tomorrow, and Wednesday we’re going to practice him and see how he feels and how far he can take it. He’s worked out in incredibly competitive situations, he physically should be ready to go, but now we’ve got to translate it into football and directly to us and I’m not worried about him having any problem with the system or that kind of stuff.
"It’s been a while, but he’ll be fine. So we’ll just see if he can handle it and expect that he will and we’ll see how that goes.”
Since his surgery, Lynch has been working out with trainers he's familiar with in the Bay Area, undergoing a similar regiment to what he endures prior to the start of every regular season. Lynch hasn't played football since the Seahawks' Nov. 15 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but Carroll said if Lynch makes it through the week of practice it would be realistic for him to see as many as 20 carries in Sunday's game.
"We think so, yeah, we think so," Carroll said. "This would be similar to like the first game of the year, really, is what it would be like. So we don’t have any different expectations than that. So we’re going in with the same thought.”
Carroll outlined what the Seahawks will be looking for from Lynch when the on-field preparation for their wild-card game starts on Wednesday.
"We’ve been around him for such a long time that we’re going to be able to recognize his movement," Carroll said. "That’s all we really want to see, that he can get in and out of his breaks and do the things that he always can do and that he can stand the workload and all that."
While Lynch has been out of the starting lineup recovering, the Seahawks have won six of seven games behind the NFL's No. 1-ranked scoring defense and a historic level of play from quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw for 24 touchdowns to just one interception in Lynch's absence. But the team has also maintained its run-first mentality, rushing the football an average of 29 times per game with Lynch out, including a season-high 44 times in Week 11 against San Francisco, the first of seven straight games Lynch missed with his abdomen injury. Carroll said he doesn't expect Lynch's potential return to disrupt the production the Seahawks offense has enjoyed through the second half of the season.
“I think there’s been such an upswing in our production and the style of our production," Carroll said. "If you look at the first half versus the second half [of the season], our numbers have just dramatically changed in a few areas that we continue to report on - third downs and red zones and things like that, the passing game has really been efficient. But I don’t think that’s going to be any factor at all.
"We ran the ball 37 times yesterday," Carroll added of his team's 36-6 Week 17 win at Arizona. "That’s the way we like to do it, so if we’re able to do that, we’ll do that again."
Should Lynch return this Sunday, Carroll said the Seahawks "anticipate" he'll retake the starting job he's held since the team acquired him in a 2010 trade with the Buffalo Bills.
“He feels good now," Carroll said. "That’s why he’s back. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t feel like he could go, so he’s ready to rock. We’ll just have to find out what it looks like. I really think it’s going to be just fine. I’m not worried about it at all."
Lynch has been a big reason for Seattle's success in recent years, with his 59 total touchdowns (51 rushing, eight receiving) leading the NFL since 2011. Each season from 2011-14, Lynch topped 1,200 yards rushing and scored at least 11 touchdowns on the ground. In seven games played this year, he's carried 111 times for 417 yards and three scores.
“He’s an extraordinary member of this team, he always has been," Carroll said of Lynch's impact on Seattle's locker room. "He’s been a lead-dog for a long time in this program about carrying the football and being tough and physical and stepping up when you have to, he’s never been anything but that. So the fact that we get a guy like that to come back to us is just a great boost and he’ll add to everybody’s confidence and he’s fun to have around and all that, so it should work out great.”
In their final game of the regular season the Seahawks dominated the NFC West Champs on the road with a 36-6 victory in Glendale, Ariz.