Thomas Rawls jabbed a finger for pointed emphasis. He smacked his hands together. His voice quickened with excitement.
And he wasn’t even on the field. He was behind a podium and microphones.
The Seahawks’ lead running back sure didn’t look as if he’s going to ease his way back into the offense Sunday against Philadelphia, his first game since he cracked his fibula seven weeks ago.
“No. There’s no easing-in with Thomas,” coach Pete Carroll said with a laugh on Friday about Rawls, who is Carroll’s hyperkinetic wrap of want-to packed into a No. 34 jersey.
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Rawls should be going hard at what will be his first carries since the first half of the Sept. 18 game at Los Angeles. Sunday will be only the third game in the past 11 months for Rawls, who led the NFL in yards per carry (5.6) as an undrafted rookie last season until he suffered a broken ankle Dec. 13 at Baltimore.
So, yeah, one might conclude Rawls is a tad eager to have healthy legs and a green light to slam into and through defenders again against Philadelphia. It’s a style Carroll cherishes — and the 2016 Seahawks have lacked.
The biggest challenge Rawls may have is staying calm enough to do his job as designed.
“This whole week, my father, my brother, and a lot of my family members, they’ve been texting me the same message lately: ‘Relax. Breathe. It’s OK,’ ” Rawls said, smiling. “Because they know the type of person that I am. I’m a real passionate person, I play with a lot of drive and I live my life like that. I’d never change it.”
Rawls’ return represents a week of overhaul in a Seattle running game that sure needs one. The Seahawks are 30th in the league in rushing offense. That’s after years of being at the top of the league, fitting Carroll’s way of winning with defense and running the ball.
“I feel better. I feel faster. I feel more elusive. I feel great,” Rawls said in his characteristic, rapid-fire cadence. “I’m actually feeling amazing.”
Rawls’ return is coinciding with the emergence of rookie third-round pick C.J. Prosise. Prosise made his first career start this past Sunday at New England and rushed 17 times for 66 yards. That was twice the yardage the Seahawks had as a team the previous week in the win over Buffalo. He also caught seven passes for 87 yards.
Prosise, a 220-pound former wide receiver at Notre Dame, was a surprisingly physical runner against the Patriots beyond the role of a third-down, pass-catching back for which the Seahawks drafted him this past spring. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin said Prosise “lit up our sideline” by lowering his shoulder and plowing over Patriots defenders multiple times while running after catches.
This week, the Seahawks also promoted Troymaine Pope from their practice squad. The undrafted rookie was Seattle’s leading rusher this preseason.
All that led to Seattle waiving Christine Michael on Tuesday. Michael was the team’s de facto lead rusher while Rawls was out and Prosise was missing more than a month into late October with a broken wrist.
Michael was claimed off waivers by the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday.
Now with Rawls returning, Prosise wowing, Pope debuting and quarterback Russell Wilson’s legs as healthy as they’ve been since the opener, the Seahawks can actually try to run the ball. For real.
“We hope it will be a pretty dynamic package for us,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
“We know the tenacity that (Rawls) brings to the run game. That’s something that we really like, something that we’re hoping we get back to. The toughness mentality he brings, the way he finished runs and hard to bring down, those are all things that we’re looking forward to having.”
Indeed, as great as Prosise was last weekend at New England, Rawls’ style is the way the Seahawks want their running game to be. It’s the way it has been since now-retired Marshawn Lynch arrived in the middle of the 2010 season.
“Honestly, it really is,” Carroll said. “(Rawls is) a guy who lit us up last year really with his aggressive style and really always in attack mode and we love that. We’ve kind of built it around that mentality. It’s really nice to get him back.”
Rawls isn’t likely to get the 20 carries he was supposed to get each game this season; that is probably a week or two away from happening. But Carroll said he won’t go light on Rawls’ workload against the Eagles’ strong defensive front, either.
“I don’t have any problem with playing him quite a few plays. I have no problem with that,” Carroll said. “I just want to see how it’s going, how it is working. C.J. did a really nice job last week. He’s ready to go.
“So we’re in a good situation right now.”
Better than even a week ago. Certainly better than at any other point this season.
And far better than Rawls’ situation while on the sidelines seven weeks ago at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Rawls paced back and forth during the second half of the Seahawks’ 9-3 loss that day, injured and useless for the second time in his short NFL career. These injuries have been the first two major setbacks of the 23-year old’s life in football.
“When you’re dealing with specific injuries, it can take a toll as far as mentally,” Rawls said. “I did have a couple things where it did kind of get to me, but it never overtakes my mind, my heart.
“That’s one thing about me is I can push through those things and I can get over those things. I bounce back like nothing ever happened.
“I’m excited about it.”
BENNETT A WEEK AWAY
Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett will miss his third consecutive game. He had arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago.
He is still targeting next Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay for his return.
“Quarterbacks should be scared,” Bennett told KING-5 television in an interview that aired this past Thursday night.
“Mike was on the treadmill (Friday). He’s working really hard. He feels great,” Carroll said following the outdoor practice. “I was with him (Friday) morning. He’s really excited about getting back next week. That’s what he’s talking about, and we’ll have to see. It will be a little bit of a hybrid return if he can do it that quickly in terms of how hard he can show us early in the week and all that. We’ll just have to see.
“We’ll play it by ear. We’re going to hold a good thought for that, but we’re not in a rush. If it’s obvious that he can go, he’ll go. He is determined.”
GILLIAM STILL THE RT
On Wednesday, line coach Tom Cable said Garry Gilliam and Bradley Sowell were competing to start at right tackle.
But Carroll said on Friday that Gilliam will make his 10th start in 10 games this season at right tackle.
That leaves Sowell, the former starting left tackle until he sprained his right knee Oct. 23 at Arizona, as a backup.
Undrafted rookie college basketball player George Fant will start his fourth game in a row — and of his football life — at left tackle against the Eagles.
Besides Bennett, the only other Seahawks player out for Sunday is special-teams linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (hamstring). … The Eagles are the only one of Seattle’s seven remaining opponents currently with a winning record. … The forecast for Sunday’s game at CenturyLink is a 60-percent chance of rain with temperatures in the low 50s.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle