It’s like homecoming day for the Seahawks.
A timely one, too.
Marshawn Lynch was back in his locker bumpin’ rap music from his box and singing along, throwing hands at the lyrics. His teammates milled around him smiling, laughing and loving the familiar scene. Brandon Mebane, Bruce Irvin, Fred Jackson encircled the star running back to share more laughs.
Then, when it was time for Seattle’s cornerstone running back to practice for the first time in nearly two months, since Nov. 12, Lynch took the field with a half-eaten candy cane emanating from his mouth. The candy cane stayed in his mouth as he skipped around the field, caught passes -- even threw a couple -- in warmups for his full participation Wednesday.
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Yes, the NFL’s rushing and touchdown leader from 2011 until this, his first injury-filled season, is back and readying to start Sunday’s playoff game at Minnesota. He hasn’t played since Nov. 15 and had abdominal surgery Nov. 25. But he’s back for the most important games of the season.
“It’s great seeing him over there, smiling,” All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said, about 10 feet to the left of where Lynch was about to turn on his stereo. “I can’t wait to here his music again.”
Offensive line coach and running-game coordinator Tom Cable said of Lynch: “He’s fantastic. ... And he has some more jokes (since he last last with the team).”
Play-caller Darrell Bevell said he expects Lynch to be “full go” on Sunday, capable of his normal workload of 20 or more carries against the Vikings in predicted zero-degree temperatures that are conducive to running the ball a lot.
Lynch wasn’t the only Seahawks starter returning Wednesday.
Strong safety Kam Chancellor (bruised tailbone), left tackle Russell Okung (strained calf), right guard J.R. Sweezy (concussion) and tight end Luke Willson (concussion) are on track to return from missing the regular-season finale last weekend at Arizona to start against the Vikings in the wild-card game. All practiced on a limited basis Wednesday.
Coach Pete Carroll also said there’s a chance defensive back Jeremy Lane makes it back this week from the oblique muscle he strained a few drives after he had an interception of Carson Palmer last week against the Cardinals. Lane also practiced Wednesday.
The practice report from the Seahawks had a new injury: rookie Tyler Lockett did not participate because of a new hip injury. Lockett was named NFC special-teams player of the week earlier Wednesday after his team-record 139 yards on punt returns in last weekend’s blowout of Arizona.
Michael Bennett was the other player to miss practice for his ongoing sore toe, but the defensive end often takes off Wednesdays. He has played in every game over the last two seasons.
So this is as healthy and fully equipped as the Seahawks have been since early November.
But there was an undeniable spark in both the locker room and practice field from Lynch’s return. It speaks of the popularity the 29-year-old running back has among his teammates, both because of his unique personality and his production and dedication on the field in his six seasons with the Seahawks.
He’d been gone from the team for six weeks, first to have his surgery in Philadelphia and then to do his rehabilitation with his personal trainers in San Francisco, across the bay from his native Oakland, California.
“(People) have no idea who he is because he doesn’t want to talk about it,” All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said. “He’s a guy that are as selfless as they come, that will go out there and put his body on the line for his teammates. That’s why guys don’t worry or stress about Marshawn not being here when he’s rehabbing or when he’s hurt ... The outside world is like, ‘What’s going on?’
“We don’t panic. We know that guy is one of the best teammates you would ever have, playing for any team, any level, any spot. And he will do whatever he can to help his team win. And you know he means no ill will. He’s not trying to hurt the team or any of that when he’s gone. You understand that -- and appreciate it.”