Rookie back outshines Lynch just by showing up to work

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comJune 4, 2013 

The burst of speed shows on one play, the balance and elusiveness on another. And on one catch over the middle, Seattle rookie running back Christine Michael flashed both, with good hands as a bonus.

He gathered in a low pass in tight coverage, hit the brakes as if a bridge were collapsing in front of him, and was off in another direction before the defender could touch him.

With a number of attention-getting plays in the offseason practice sessions, the second-round draft pick out of Texas A&M is making it easier to envision a future without star ballcarrier Marshawn Lynch.

Part of that is because Lynch has been mostly invisible in the present.

Michael is getting a lot of carries while Lynch is … elsewhere.

The Seahawks’ Pro Bowl rusher was again absent from the “optional team activities,” meaning practices, at the team headquarters on Monday. He’s been in and out – mostly out – and is the only Seahawks player adopting a literal interpretation of the “optional” description.

Lynch plays so hard in the season that he’s earned some latitude for his eccentricities and absences. He’s a different-drummer sort, but is expected to be in attendance for next week’s mandatory minicamp.

Being on a team carries responsibilities, but especially so when you have a salary averaging $7.5 million annually. And if he’s somewhere else, guys like Michael and second-year back Robert Turbin are getting more chances to carry the ball.

Michael, Turbin and Lynch are similarly sized, but have different styles. Michael stays low behind his shoulder pads through the hole, and can somehow maintain speed while spinning out of contact.

“I’m trying to take my opportunities and run with them,” he said.

With Lynch and Turbin on the roster already, Michael seemed redundant as a second-rounder.

But his physical gifts were so stunning, from his 40-yard dash time of 4.43 seconds (only .04 slower than Percy Harvin’s in 2009), to the 43-inch vertical leap (one inch lower than LeBron James), to the 27 bench reps of 225 pounds (four more than guard James Carpenter at his combine).

It all seems to translate to football acts committed on the field.

“He’s very quick, very quick – and sudden,” coach Pete Carroll said after the first day of rookie minicamp. “He didn’t have any trouble picking things up and understanding the system.”

After practice on Monday, Michael gives a handshake with the force you might expect of someone who can rep 225 pounds 27 times. If they timed such things at the combine, he might have been the fastest back in an interview, too.

“I’m here to work and to learn, learning from Marshawn and Turbin and big Mike Robinson,” he said. “I watch them, watch them on film, watch how they carry themselves, and I try to bring that out onto the field.”

The best message the vets have passed on? “Learn your assignments so you know what you’re doing at all times … and take good notes.”

The things he must improve upon? “I want to become a better blocker, a better inside runner, goal-line runner – improve my game in all aspects. Being a great pass protector is part of being a complete back – protecting the quarterback, blocking the big linebackers; you’ve got to work at it.”

What does a rookie back do off the field, when he’s not watching film and taking notes?

“I sit at home, call my daughter, talk to my daughter, Skype with my daughter.”

Oh, how old is your girl?

“Seven and a half weeks.”

You Skype your baby of less than two months? She must be very technologically advanced.

“Oh … uh … good one,” he said. It turns out that Michael’s fiancée works the computer.

After being considered one of the top prep backs in the nation, and picking Texas A&M over the likes of LSU, Florida, Oklahoma and others, Michael missed parts of two seasons with leg injuries, and saw his playing time diminish as a senior when a new staff took over. Questions rose whether he got sideways with the coaches.

He’s certainly gracious and genial in interviews – especially when he talks about his young Skype partner, daughter Mia.

“It changed life for the better,” he said. “I’m seeing things more clearly now, just trying to be a great person so my daughter can see that as she grows up … treat people the way you want to be treated, being respectful, being responsible, helping her grow up right.”

Her dad was setting another good example for little Mia on Monday: Part of winning a job is showing up for work.

It’s called taking an opportunity and running with it.

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