Marshawn Lynch was back in the Seahawks’ locker room – wearing full Seahawks gear.
Sweatshirt, shorts and sandals, all Seahawks logo-ed. More team gear than he wore when he played with the team, in fact. He was more apt while an active player to wear his person “Beast Mode” brand of apparel, or that of his hometown college team for which he played, the University of California.
I asked the 30-year-old retired running back as he walked through the expansive locker room during Tuesday’s team-meeting day how he’s been.
“Smooth,” Lynch said, with a cool nod.
That’s more than he said one on one to me in five years when he played for the team.
But, no, he’s not back on Seattle’s roster – though its currently sickly running game could use him. The Seahawks’ rushing offense was first in the NFL when he led it from 2010 through his injury-filled 2015. It’s 28th now.
Lynch has been on the Seahawks’ reserve/retired list since May. He was visiting his old pals while likely in Seattle for former Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette’s charity launch. Tuesday was one year to the day Lynch’s good friend got the life-threatening head and neck injury covering a punt at Dallas that ended his career.
Fullback Will Tukuafu was one of Lynch’s former teammates who talked to him again Tuesday.
“We always talk, whether he is here or he wasn’t,” Tukuafu said.
The Seahawks walked a couple blocks from their team hotel in downtown Oakland while there for Sept. 1’s exhibition finale against the Raiders to visit Lynch at his “Beast Mode” apparel store in his hometown.
I asked Tukuafu on Tuesday what influence Lynch still has on the locker room and the Seahawks.
“Oh, he’s a huge influence, just on his style of play, you know what I mean?” the fullback who blocked the last two years for Lynch said. “When we are watching pass film and stuff like that, that’s the style we want to emulate.”
Tukuafu was a part-time defensive lineman for San Francisco before he joined the Seahawks for the 2014 season. He was asked if while with the 49ers on defense he ever had to tackle Lynch.
“Yeah. He tackled me,” Tukuafu said.
“There was a fumble recovery I caught and he tackled me. We still talk about that. He actually did cause a fumble (with his tackle after the first fumble recovery), but they gave me the ball. Yeah, but hey, we got the ball.”
On Sept. 8, during NBC’s broadcast of the NFL’s first game of the season, Carolina at Denver, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported Lynch was “up in the air” about a possible return to football this season.
“Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Lynch is currently ‘up in the air’ about returning to the NFL. The source said that Week Four or Week Five could be the hot spots for a possible unretirement,” Florio also wrote for Pro Football Talk.
The Seahawks technically have Lynch under contract not only for this season but for 2017, as well.
So here comes the public-service announcement for each time Lynch gets in the news and Seahawks fans go batty wishing for his return: The Seahawks, not Lynch, have the first authority on if and with whom Lynch would return to play this season.
On May 5, the Seahawks put their star on the reserve/retired list. The move coming before June 1 meant Seattle has all of the $5 million remaining of Lynch’s salary-cap charges this year. That moved saved the team $6.5 million for 2016.
Then in June, Lynch stared into a television camera on Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports and said sternly: “I’m RETIRED. Is that good enough?”
Then he turned to a producer.
“Which camera do you want me to look into? This one?” Lynch said. “I’m done. I’m not playing football anymore.”
Now, on to the hypotheticals again:
Lynch’s contract is essentially held in abeyance while he’s on Seattle’s reserve/retired list. If he was to ask the team to reinstate him from that list, he is currently scheduled for a $9 million base salary. The team would immediately prorate that pay depending on when Lynch would theoretically return to playing, and that cost would be in addition to the $5 million sunk cost already accounted for on Seattle’s 2016 cap for his signing-bonus cash.