Just when he seemed back for the Seahawks at the perfecttime, the Marshawn Lynch saga continues.
Lynch will not play for the Seahawks in their playoff opener at Minnesota after the star running back declared himself out of Sunday’s game.
Coach Pete Carroll had said Friday morning on a Seattle radio station that Lynch “will play” for the first time since Nov. 15 and since abdominal surgery Nov. 25.
The team listed him as questionable to play Friday afternoon, with Carroll saying that he hadn’t, in fact, said Lynch would play.
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Then on Friday night, the team confirmed from Minnesota that Lynch did not make the trip to Minneapolis with the rest of his teammates and coaches.
“We have downgraded Marshawn Lynch to out,” a Seahawks spokesman said. “He did not travel with the team. Following our final workout Friday (back at team headquarters in Renton), he felt like he couldn’t play.”
Lynch’s choice to declare himself out — after Carroll said he had taken every snap expected of him all week while fully participating in practices on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday — means that Christine Michael will likely be the lead runner for Seattle against the Vikings.
Michael and Bryce Brown have been filling in for Lynch and injured running back Thomas Rawls for the last six games of the regular season.
The reversal came after Carroll had gone on Friday from saying Lynch was in fact playing to saying the team was hopeful — and making it clear the decision was the player’s and not the team’s.
That fits in with the last six weeks as the Seahawks have allowed Lynch to rehabilitate throughout December — away from team trainers — with his own personal trainers in San Francisco. That’s across the bay from Lynch’s hometown of Oakland, California.
“No, he’s questionable,” Carroll said following Friday’s practice, using the official NFL term for a 50-50 chance to play. “We’ve got to go (Saturday) to see if he’s OK from (Friday’s practice). That same old thing. We just want to see how he’s taken to the week’s work and all of that.
“He looked good during the week and did some really good stuff. But we’ll just use all the time we have available (until kickoff).
“So I have not said yet that he’s playing. I know that’s been out there, but I don’t know, really, until we finish the week. ... We’re hoping so, and very optimistic about that.”
As Carroll said that, Lynch was about 50 yards from his coach, shooting baskets on the side of the practice field with fellow running backs.
About an hour later, the team boarded its buses for Sea-Tac airport and the charter flight to Minneapolis. Lynch wasn’t on any of the buses or the plane, by his choosing.
The autonomy — not to mention $12 million — the Seahawks gave Lynch cuts both ways.
The team allowed him to rehabilitate where he wanted, to come and go where and when he wanted. They were OK with his trainers, not theirs, deciding if and when he could return to the team, which he did Monday. He was known to be inside the team’s headquarters in Renton one day out of 43 from his surgery at the end of November until this week.
That autonomy extended through Friday’s road trip. Lynch also made that call — to not go.
The rest of the Seahawks’ injury situation for this rematch — after Seattle’s 38-7 win at Minnesota last month — is more promising.
Several players returning from injury are expected to play Sunday — foremost among them are strong safety Kam Chancellor, left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy.
The exception is tight end Luke Willson. The team declared him out for the Minnesota game while he is recovering from a concussion he got two games ago against St. Louis.
Chancellor will play for the first time since he bruised his backside on Dec. 13 in the win at Baltimore. His return will be important as Seattle tries to stop NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson for the second time in a month and cover Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, who led Minnesota with five touchdown catches in the regular season.
“He looked really good, and he finished the week great,” Carroll said of Chancellor. “The first time in over a month or something it seems — he’s really excited about being back. You can feel it. So he’s ready to go. So that’s a great addition for us.”
Willson and Lynch’s absences aside, the Seahawks will be as fully healthy Sunday as they have been since Lynch went out in mid-November. The starting offensive line is back and healthy for the first time since Dec. 20 in the win over Cleveland.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle