As the Seahawks reconvened for training camp last weekend, the usual drama followed them. And, as always, they were unfazed.
In 2012, it was a three-headed quarterback competition. Last year, it was Percy Harvin's injury and Bruce Irvin's suspension. This year, it is Marshawn Lynch's holdout.
Not unexpected. Not a big deal.
Many expect the enigmatic running back to arrive at some point -- perhaps this week -- but it doesn't really matter. The Hawks have been preparing to move on without him for two years. It's why they drafted Robert Turbin in 2012 and Christine Michael and Spencer Ware in 2013.
Lynch has always been a self-serving maverick. To this point, his selfishness has never hurt the team -- even if it may have caused minor embarrassment to the franchise: his DUI arrest (pleaded down to reckless driving), his aloofness at Media Day (I know, who cares?), his goofy antics on Super Bowl parade day, his whimsical absence from the White House visit. Fans have laughed it all off and the ever tolerant Pete Carroll has put up with it because Lynch was "all about that action" on Sunday.
Well, he might not be this year. And the Hawks -- who are very unlikely to increase his $5 million salary -- are ready to move on without him if that is his choice.
At the Seahawks Town Hall in June, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell caused a bit of an uproar when he mentioned the Hawks would be a running back by committee. He later clarified his remark to mean they were a committee in minicamp without Lynch there. But his words may have been prescient, because Lynch still isn’t there and they are still a committee.
As much as some fans and other observers might think the Hawks can't repeat without Lynch, the simple fact is they can as long as Russell Wilson is their quarterback and their defense plays like it did in 2013.
Assistant head coach Tom Cable made it clear last month that the Hawks can win without Lynch.
Cable said Turbin is fully indoctrinated into the zone running system and has learned to run efficiently, and Michael is more disciplined and accountable entering his second year.
"Whoever it is can go for a thousand. I'm not worried about that so much," Cable said. "What I'm worried about is being able to do the things that are necessary in terms of ball security, being the leader in the backfield, closing out games. And that’s one of the beauties of Marshawn. Hopefully he's with us. If he's not, then we move on. That's fine."
Lynch barely sees much action in camp and preseason anyway, so even if he doesn't report until just before the season opener, the Hawks will be fine. And if he doesn't report at all, they'll still be fine -- there just won't be any Skittles celebrations as the Seahawks march to the Super Bowl again.
Here's a look at the Lynch-less roster after the first weekend:
Locks: Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson
Contender: Terrelle Pryor, B.J. Daniels
Situation: Wilson's development in Year 3 will be a huge key to the Seahawks' dominance in 2014. He said he has worked on patience and balance in the pocket, protection calls and throwing accuracy. He said his mentality is "I won't miss." He said he is impressed with the skill players and thinks the Hawks are more explosive on offense this year. … The undercard to Wilson's continued development is the question of whether Pryor can force the Hawks to keep him. Three QBs would be a luxury on this team, so Pryor might have to beat out Jackson.
Locks: Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael
Situation: Lynch wants a raise, but the Hawks are not inclined to give him one. So either he will report with his tail between his legs or he will sit out. Meanwhile, his backups are poised to take the ball and run with it. Turbin is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery but apparently looks good. Michael suffered a minor shoulder injury over the weekend, but everyone is excited about his maturity level and ability to contribute this year. If Lynch decides to play, it appears Coleman, Ware and Small will battle for the final two spots. If Lynch stays out, the Hawks are likely to add another back to the mix -- they tried out three over the weekend. Either way, they figure to keep five. Wilson expressed confidence in Turbin, pointing out that he had several long runs called back last season. "So hopefully we can get rid of some of those couple of penalties and keep having those big runs," Wilson said. "But I believe and I hope that Marshawn will come back. He’s a great football player. He’s a guy that you love having in the locker room, and what he does on the football field is truly special."
Locks: Zach Miller, Luke Willson
Contenders: Anthony McCoy, Cooper Helfet, RaShaun Allen
Situation: This group dropped to five when Chase Dixon was released just before camp opened. McCoy is the favorite to reclaim his roster spot and round out the top three.
Top contenders: Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood, Ricardo Lockette, Bryan Walters
Other contenders: Phil Bates, Arceto Clark, Chris Matthews, Kevin Smith, David Gilreath, Morrell Presley, Randall Carroll
Injured reserve: Taylor Price
Situation: With Sidney Rice retiring on the eve of camp, the Hawks brought in Gilreath and Presley to keep the numbers up. And then they added Carroll to replace Price, who landed on IR yet again. They need the new bodies because Harvin is practicing sparingly and Norwood is out with a foot injury. Norwood, a fourth-round pick the team liked even more than that, seems to be the favorite for the fifth spot. But his injury means others are getting a chance to make the team. The coaches have praised Lockette repeatedly, and with his special teams contributions he could keep his roster spot. This might be a rare year when the Hawks keep six receivers.
Locks: LT Russell Okung, LG James Carpenter, C Max Unger, RG J.R. Sweezy, OT Justin Britt, OT Michael Bowie, OL Alvin Bailey, C Lemuel Jeanpierre
Contenders: OL Caylin Hauptmann, OL Greg Van Roten, OG Stephen Schilling, OT Garry Gilliam, OT Eric Winston, OG Nate Isles, OG C.J. Davis
Injured reserve: OG/C Jared Smith
Situation: In the past, it would have been a scathing indictment of the entire line to say that the guards were the most stable part. But the team is very high on Carpenter and Sweezy. Carpenter has nailed down the starting left guard spot and hopes are high he will finally put together a full season of good football. The tackles, meanwhile, are a work in progress. Okung is still two weeks from returning after offseason toe surgery, so Bailey is playing in his spot. And Bowie is out with a shoulder injury, giving Britt every chance to lock up right tackle. The Hawks added intrigue to the position by signing Winston, an eight-year veteran. Will they make it a three-way battle?
Locks: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams
Top contenders: Greg Scruggs, Jordan Hill, Benson Mayowa, Jesse Williams, Cassius Marsh
Other contenders: Jimmy Staten, Michael Brooks, D'Anthony Smith, Jackson Jeffcoat
Situation: The battle for backup spots will be heated, and the best one could be Scruggs vs. Marsh. Carroll said the coaches are "just accumulating information and just seeing how we’re going to figure it out. … So it’s going to take us a while to sort that out and figure out who we’re going to go with." Staten probably has no chance to make the team now that he is out 4-6 weeks with knee and hamstring injuries. DeWayne Cherrington was waived/injured, giving a few more reps to Jesse Williams, Brooks and Smith.
Locks: K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin
Top contenders: Mike Morgan, O'Brien Schofield, Heath Farwell, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Korey Toomer
Other contenders: Mike Taylor, Brock Coyle, Horace Miller, Brandon Denmark
PUP: Bruce Irvin, Korey Toomer
Situation: Toomer, who spent his first two seasons injured, was a minicamp standout, drawing large praise from Carroll. But he is hurt yet again -- placed on PUP with a hamstring injury. He has to prove he can stay healthy if he is going to make the team. Carroll said Irvin (hip surgery) will probably be out for most of camp, and it would not be a surprise to see him stay on PUP for the first six weeks of the season. That would open a spot for another LB or DL. Meanwhile, with Smith also out, Morgan is working with the No. 1 defense. He seemed like the possible odd man out, but if he's healthy and Irvin and Toomer are not, he just might keep his roster spot.
Locks: Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane
Situation: The top three are set, with Lane locked in as the slot corner. But Simon seems to have a spot nearly nailed down as well, working with the No. 2 defense. Earl Thomas gave him high praise, saying he could be as good as Sherman someday. Said Thomas: "I think he can be just as good as Sherm if he really gets his technique down. That’s all it is when you’re playing that corner position. If you stay on top and eliminate the big play and take the right angles, you’re gonna be one of the best, especially in this defense because we have a set technique." Jefferson is working opposite Simon on the No. 2 defense, so he seems to have an early lead for the fifth corner spot. But the Hawks also just signed Terrell Thomas, formerly of the Giants and also a former corner under Carroll at USC. Carroll loves DBs, so that move makes sense -- even if Thomas missed 2011 and 2012 with ACL injuries.
Locks: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor
Contenders: Jeron Johnson, DeShawn Shead, Terrance Parks, Dion Bailey, Eric Pinkins, Steve Terrell
Non-football injury list: Eric Pinkins
Situation: Shead is working at free safety behind Thomas, but he also can play corner, which seems to give him a great edge in making the team. "He’s done a great job for us," Carroll said. "We know that he can play corner. We’ve been training him as a safety for some time now. What D. Shead did last year was really established himself as a special teams force. He’s a really good player for us in teams. So it’s so helpful that he can … go back and forth whenever we need him to. That’s a big deal and very few guys can do that." Thomas said, "That’s raw. That’s raw talent. And he has a great mind for the game. You rarely see any DB switch from (corner) to (safety). It’s rare, and we have it in that guy."
Locks: P Jon Ryan, LS Clint Gresham, K Steven Hauschka
Situation: The big battle is for punt returner, and Earl Thomas seems to be leading that race. Percy Harvin is the kickoff returner, but the Hawks are making sure they are covered behind him, with Doug Baldwin and Bryan Walters leading a cadre of candidates for the backup returner spot.