Lynch hopes to regain ‘Beast Mode’ in Seattle

As much as Buffalo must have become a foreign land to former first-round pick Marshawn Lynch, Seattle seemed to feel like home for the 24-year-old running back. After four years of losing records, his own problems with the law, an entirely new front office and coaching staff, “home games” in Toronto, and a franchise that has become the poster child for the small-market side of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, it was time for Lynch to find a change of scenery. The Bills seemed to sign off on this notion when they selected Clemson running back C.J. Spiller in the first round of the 2010 draft, leaving Lynch as the odd man out.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks had a problem: their running game was faltering without a big back. Head coach Pete Carroll had tried to solve this problem with LenDale White, but that went out the window quickly. A fourth-round pick in 2011 and a conditional pick in 2010 was all it took to pry Lynch away from Buffalo and back to the West Coast. The Cal alum arrived in Seattle near midnight on Tuesday evening and was at the Seahawks’ facility at 6 a.m. Wednesday. Reunited with former Golden Bears teammates Brandon Mebane, Cameron Morrah, Mike Gibson, and Justin Forsett, and playing for a coach he knew well in Carroll from their days in the Pac-10 wars, Lynch may have been surrounded by more familiarity in his new NFL home. He looked strong and quick in his first practice with the Seahawks.

Of course, Lynch’s experiences with Carroll weren’t always entirely positive, as he recalled after his first practice as a Seahawk. “I couldn’t stand him,” Lynch said with a laugh of the former USC coach. “Straight up, I couldn’t stand him. He was one of those coaches who would run up and down the field like he was playing in the game, jumping around and high-fiving his players. He’s there dogging us, and I’m just sitting watching him having all this fin, and I thought, ‘What is he doing? Run me to that sideline so I can hit him one time.'”

Lynch will have to get used to Carroll’s excitability – he’s constantly on the field during Seahawks games – but sharing a backfield with Forsett will be old hat. The two backs made up Cal’s explosive rushing attack in the 2005 and 2006 seasons, leading a ground game that finished seventh in the nation in that first season. When asked what his old and new teammate brings to the field, Forsett said that Lynch has a surprising mixture of skills. “He’s got a toughness and intensity about him that is rarely matched. I mean, he runs really hard, and when people see him coming, they usually get out of the way. But his speed is a surprise, because he’s so big and so strong.”

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Lynch has the strength and durability to be a lead back, but in Seattle, there’s still a pecking order. Forsett has surprising power for his 5-foot-8, 190-pound frame, but he’s the guy who’s best at getting outside the guards and putting on the moves. Leon Washington, as he did with the New York Jets, is a multi-purpose threat. So, although Carroll has already said that Lynch will be a major part of the offense, the breaking-in point will take time. That’s one reason that quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who was also excited about the Lynch trade, will be spending more time at the team facility than usual during the team’s upcoming bye.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a guy like him,” Hasselbeck said of his newest back. “He’s a beast. It’s a boost to have that kind of weapon. We’ve been talking about getting the running game going, and this makes it a lot tougher for people to defend us. It gives us huge opportunities with play action and the naked bootleg – just all kinds of things. Winning first down, winning second down, making third down more manageable. I know Pete is really excited about him, the offensive coaches are excited about him, and Justin is excited about him. It’s a good thing.”