RENTON - For the first time in his career Marshawn Lynch will play at Soldier Field in Chicago, the longtime home of one of the greatest backs ever to play in the NFL - Walter Payton.
And Lynch is hoping for a performance in the Windy City that would make Sweetness proud.
“Sweetness did it there for a long time,” Lynch said. “So I mean probably to go in there and have one of those games that he would have had would be wonderful, wonderful for our backfield. But just to get out there with my guys and just put something together and hopefully come out with a win is my biggest thing.”
Putting together a highlight reel of Payton-like plays won’t be easy. The Bears are ranked third in the league in rushing defense, giving up 78.6 yards a game. And they have one of the best middle linebackers in the game, Brian Urlacher.
“I know he’s a beast,” Lynch said of Urlacher. “I know those guys over there are good across the board. They have a solid defense. They’re fast, physical, and just with that the challenge is going to be there. So now it’s up to us to take it.”
Adding another layer to that challenge for Lynch is the fact he has had just three practices with his new team – still working hard to get up to speed in a new offense – which might limit how much he plays on Sunday.
Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said Lynch is still learning the scheme and where he needs to be in certain situations.
“Usually you have 15 to 17 OTAs (Organized Team Activities), two-a-days, and when you bring guys in three days ago it makes it challenging,” Bates said. “Knowledge is power, and so you got to be on it mentally before you get the physical game down.”
While Lynch still has a learning curve to overcome, the Seahawks have not had a back with his physical tools in at least a decade – if ever.
With Seattle ranked 29th in the league in rushing (79.5 yards a game), Lynch’s physical running style should help push the pile, especially with the Seahawks’ makeshift offensive line still finding its way.
Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck also should benefit from defenses playing Seattle’s running game more honest up front, creating more play-action opportunities.
“Adding Marshawn is pretty big,” Hasselbeck said. “He’s a different kind of back than what we have, and we’ve been talking about getting the run game going and this is definitely an adrenaline boost for our run game.”
“To me, he runs like he’s angry,” center Chris Spencer said. “So as an offensive lineman, you love that. So we’re pretty excited about it.”
Now, the key will be getting Lynch and the offensive line meshing in the Seahawks’ zone run scheme.
“Our guys have watched film of Marshawn to see what kind of back he is,” offensive line coach Art Valero said. “I think that having Mike Gibson here who played with him in college helps, so you kind of find out.
“You go through practice and you kind of see what he can do and what he can’t do. Our running game stays the same, so can he fit into the system? And we go from there.”
Tight end John Carlson returned to practice Thursday after his wife, Danielle, gave birth to a healthy baby boy at 7:25 p.m. Wednesday night. William Daniel Carlson was 8 pounds 6 ounces and 201/2 inches long. Carlson said he didn’t get a whole lot of sleep afterward. “I’m going on adrenaline right now,” he said. “It’s probably good we’re leaving on Friday this week so I can sleep at the hotel.” ... Offensive lineman Chester Pitts did not practice on Thursday and is now in jeopardy of putting off for another week his regular season debut as he recovers from microfracture surgery a year ago. ... Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane was a limited participant in practice with a calf issue. Cornerback Marcus Trufant (ankle) practiced after sitting out Wednesday’s practice. Defensive end Dexter Davis (hamstring) fully participated in practice.
RUNNING TO NOWHERE
The Seahawks acquired Marshawn Lynch to help revive a running game that has not ranked in the upper half of the NFL since 2006. A closer look at Seattle’s struggles:
YEARYDS/GAME (rank)LEADING RUSHER, YDS/GAME
201079.5 ypg (29th)Justin Forsett, 53.8 ypg
200997.9 ypg (26th)Julius Jones, 47.4 ypg
2008110.5 ypg (19th)Jones, 46.5 ypg
2007101.2 ypg (20th)Shaun Alexander, 55.1 ypg
2006120.2 ypg (14th)Alexander, 89.6 ypg