Fred Jackson knows Marshawn Lynch better than anyone in the NFL. He’s known him since Lynch was a rookie with Buffalo in 2007 and Jackson was a second-year running back sharing snaps with Lynch on the Bills. They were teammates and even for a time co-lead backs in Buffalo, until the Seahawks traded for Lynch during the 2010 season.
Now that they are teammates in Seattle, the 34-year-old Jackson says the 29-year-old Lynch is “like a little brother” to him.
So I asked Jackson Wednesday, hours after a specialist in Philadelphia completed successfully surgery on Lynch’s abdomen, if he thought Lynch’s first surgery and extended time missed due to injury of his 10-year NFL career might Lynch more likely to walk away from the Seahawks and the game after this season.
“I think when you get nine, 10 years in the league you start trying to figure out the plan after football, anyway. But talking to him, I can’t tell you what he’s going to do after the surgery or not,” Jackson said. “I think that’s a decision he’s going to have to make, when it comes a time to make that.”
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Another Seahawks teammate and friend of Lynch’s, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, said Wednesday he’s talked to Lynch over the last couple days and that the running back is “in good spirits,” somewhat frustrated by his first surgery and time missed by resigned to “it is what it is.”
“When he comes back,” Sherman said, “it will be like he never left.”
Coach Pete Carroll said Lynch’s surgery repaired an unspecified abdominal issue “related to” a sports hernia and doctors are optimistic the Seahawks’ star running back may be able to return in “three or four weeks.” That was a couple hours after specialist Dr. William C. Meyers performed the procedure in Philadelphia.
Carroll said that while there is “a chance” Lynch will not be able to return to a regular season that has six games remaining, Meyers and his staff have given the team all indications the NFL’s rushing leader since 2011 can return before the end of December.
Lynch has been in Philadelphia since Monday to see Dr. Meyers, a specialist on core-muscle injuries many consider to be the best in America in his field.
The five-time Pro Bowl selection and 2012 All-Pro first felt pain in his abdomen at the end of practice Nov. 12. He last played three days later against Arizona but carried the ball just eight times, and Carroll said Lynch felt worse pain by the end of that game.
"Surgery to repair the torn tissues in the groin can be done as a traditional, open procedure with one long incision, or as an endoscopic procedure," the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states. "In an endoscopy, the surgeon makes smaller skin incisions and uses a small camera, called an endoscope, to see inside the abdomen.
"The end results of traditional and endoscopic procedures are the same. ... Most athletes are able to return to sports six to 12 weeks after surgery."
So coming back within a month could be optimistic. When I mentioned that to Carroll, he said he hadn’t looked at it that way, that it was bad enough the team would be without Lynch for any amount of games during a stretch in which Seattle (5-5) is trying to rally back into the playoffs. The Seahawks are one game out of a playoff spot right now.
Lynch will miss Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, Dec. 6’s at Minnesota, Dec. 13’s at Baltimore, and likely the Dec. 20 home game against Cleveland. The Seahawks have two games in the regular season remaining after that in their drive to get into the playoffs again, Dec. 27 against St. Louis and Jan. 3 at Arizona.
For now, it will be undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls leading Seattle’s NFL-best running game. And that’s worked out just fine so far for the Seahawks.
Lynch missed last weekend’s win over San Francisco in which his backup romped for a Seattle rookie-record 209 yards rushing. Rawls has two 100-yard games and that 200-yard rushing day while Lynch has been out with calf, hamstring, nausea and now the abdomen issues the last two months.
Since late September Lynch has missed three games plus all but one quarter of a fourth contest. He’d missed just one game over his first five seasons with Seattle.
He’s had calf, hamstring, nausea and now abdominal issues this season since playing only the second quarter of the win over Chicago Sept. 27. His 417 yards rushing this season is almost 800 yards fewer than his lowest season total as a Seahawk.
The contract extension he signed in March through the 2017 season calls for him to earn a non-guaranteed $9 million in base pay next season. That’s a price the Seahawks will almost certainly seek to renegotiate down -- if not shed.
"We’ll hopefully have Marshawn back. To have one of the best running backs in the game makes my job a little bit easier to have him out there making plays," quarterback Russell Wilson said Monday. "Just praying that he’s healthy, for his own sake, then also for our team’s sake. He’s a difference maker, for sure.
"To think about Thomas Rawls and how he’s stepped up for us, it’s big."