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Originally published August 2, 2014 at 6:58 PM | Page modified August 4, 2014 at 12:07 PM

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Is this Marshawn Lynch’s last season as a Seahawk? Maybe not

Lynch’s apparent fears that the Seahawks will cut him loose after this year are legitimate, but what if he rushes for 1,300 yards and leads the Seahawks to another Super Bowl?


Seattle Times columnist

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I'll believe it when I see it....1300 yards on a 28 year old RB who has taken his share of hits. If he can do it... MORE
Frank Gore is three years older than Lynch. In his 9-year career, Gore has averaged 243 carries per season. In his... MORE
Beast Mode still has something left. Don't write him off yet. He would still be a threat in short yardage situations... MORE

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Marshawn Lynch’s first action in his return to the Seahawks showed he hasn’t lost his keen instincts.

While a gauntlet of media waited for Lynch to emerge from the Seahawks’ complex on Friday, Lynch took a side exit and was well on his way toward the practice field before the defenders — er, reporters — could give chase.

And just like that, Seahawks camp had returned to normal — right down to Lynch kneeling down, gold-soled shoes glinting in the sun, to take in practice from the periphery.

He’s far too precious a commodity to overexpose to the rigors of training camp or exhibition games. When you’ve taken as many hits as Lynch has, you’d better make them count. And they don’t count at all until Sept. 4, so until then, Lynch’s usage will be minimal, as always.

The Lynch holdout ended with a whimper, not a bang. By next week, it will be an afterthought. By the time the season starts, it will be a distant memory. No harm, no foul. Any fear that this would be a disruptive event for the Seahawks should be alleviated. Lynch was not gone long enough to atrophy his skills, alienate fans or teammates, or cause any irreparable damage to his relationship with the Seahawks.

That last one, actually, we’ll have to take on faith, since Lynch is not keen on sharing his state of mind with the media. My suspicion is that if there’s any lingering hard feelings on Lynch’s part over not getting the salary bump he was seeking — about $5 million, according to sources cited by our Bob Condotta — it will be manifested on the field.

As in, Lynch running in full-flamed Beast Mode, burning to show that he’s worth the money he’s seeking. More to the point, to show that he’ll be worth it next year, when Lynch will be 29, and all the actuarial tables declare that the toll of all that violent running will come home to roost.

Lynch’s apparent fears that the Seahawks will cut him loose after this year are legitimate, though I still have a hard time envisioning such an outcome if Lynch, say, rushes for 1,300 yards and leads the Seahawks to another Super Bowl.

For all the bluster about how the Seahawks were instituting a “next-man-up” philosophy in Lynch’s weeklong absence, and for all the touting of Robert Turbin and Christine Michael as fully capable replacements, Lynch has been, and remains, an essential ingredient in their success.

It will be hard to wave goodbye to that if Lynch thrives in the upcoming season. But the statistics about the decline of running backs as they near 30 are real. So are the challenges of the salary cap, and the near impossibility of fitting in Lynch’s $9 million cap hit at a time they’ll be working on a mega-contract for Russell Wilson.

Something has to give, and cold, hard reality says it’s Lynch. But that’s a problem for down the road. Right now, they have Lynch back in the fold, which should be a beautiful thing for a team trying to hold at bay all the ominous threats to their kingdom.

“Honestly, it’s evident what he means to our team,” running backs coach Sherman Smith said Friday. “He brings toughness to our team. Our run game is predicated on Marshawn’s run style and what he does. He’s a special guy to us. I’m just glad he’s back, and we look forward to getting him back for our Thursday night game against Green Bay.’’

That would be the regular-season opener, not Thursday’s exhibition game against Denver, which is beneath Lynch’s pay scale. Smith confirmed that Lynch’s participation in the exhibition season will be bare bones. But not his impact thereafter.

“Marshawn is such a disciplined runner,’’ Smith said. “He understands the run game, understands what he has to do. Marshawn knows what his reads are. That’s his big thing. He knows what his reads are, and he makes stuff happen. That’s what we count on.’’

Sometimes the stuff Lynch makes happen can be uncomfortable, like his early exit from Media Day at the Super Bowl, or his holdout. But that’s just part of the package, one the Seahawks made peace with long ago.

Judging by the reception Lynch got upon his return to practice on Friday, I don’t think there’s any risk of any holdover resentment. A steady stream of players sauntered over to pay their respects with a hug or backslap, and Lynch seemed relaxed and engaged. Or as engaged as a practice bystander can be.

In fact, it was like he had never been away.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry



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