Marshawn Lynch back, but sits out
Lynch returns to camp after weeklong holdout, but just watches. He essentially got the same deal the Seahawks offered in May. Running backs coach Sherman Smith said Lynch will not see much action in exhibition games, something Lynch also did in 2013, rushing five times for 9 yards.
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — Marshawn Lynch usually gobbles up yards in punishing chunks.
But for now, it is one patient step at a time for the Seahawks’ star tailback.
Thursday, Lynch agreed to end a weeklong holdout and report to the team’s training camp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
Friday, he took to the field at the VMAC but was limited to watching from the sideline as teammates conducted a light 75-minute workout in preparation for a scrimmage Saturday afternoon.
Lynch figures to sit that out as the team eases him back into action. He has not participated in a practice with the team since before the Super Bowl, having also skipped OTAs in the spring and sitting out the June minicamp with an ankle injury.
Soon, though, the Seahawks say Lynch will get back on the field in full.
Running backs coach Sherman Smith said after practice Friday that Lynch has been cleared to practice, with the ankle apparently no longer an issue.
“We are looking for him getting out there and getting some reps,’’ Smith said. “I can’t wait to see it.’’
What you may not see is much of Lynch in exhibition games. It’s common for running backs to be limited in the preseason to avoid taking unnecessary hits, and Lynch has been no exception. He got just five carries for 9 yards last year in the preseason.
“Not much more than he’s gotten in the past,’’ Smith said of how much Lynch might play in the preseason. “Marshawn doesn’t do a lot of running in the preseason, so that’s the way it’s going to be. He comes back, nothing is going to change. Absolutely nothing.’’
What has changed a little is Lynch’s contract — a four-year deal worth up to $31 million that he signed before the 2012 season.
The modifications, and the manner in which they developed, came into clearer focus on Friday.
Lynch ultimately ended his seven-day holdout by agreeing to a deal in which the team will turn $1 million in incentives and roster bonuses for the 2014 season into base salary.
Specifically, a $500,000 incentive for rushing for 1,500 yards this year is now base salary, as is another $500,000 he was due to earn as a roster bonus.
The team also will turn $500,000 he was due to earn in 2015 and include it in his 2014 base salary. Those moves will bump his 2014 base salary from $5 million to $6.5 million.
Sources said it was the same deal the team offered to Lynch in May when he began sending hints that he wanted some changes to his contract.
There are two years remaining on that deal, and there has been much speculation that the team might consider releasing Lynch after this season with his contract scheduled to count for $9 million against the salary cap in 2015 (the team could save $7 million off the cap by releasing him).
The Seahawks made similar moves after the 2013 season with receiver Sidney Rice and defensive linemen Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, which helped clear the space to re-sign the likes of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas.
Lynch is said to have wanted $5 million — essentially his base salary for 2015 — along with the incentive and bonus money as a hedge against being released.
The team, though, held firm to its stance of not wanting to renegotiate existing contracts, in part so as not to set a precedent that other players could reference later.
The team also felt Lynch had a fair contract — according to OvertheCap.com, the average-per-year salary on his contract remains fifth among NFL running backs.
The Seahawks also agreed not to enforce a fine of recouping some of Lynch’s signing bonus as a penalty for holding out.
However, it remains unclear if the team will waive $210,000 Lynch can be assessed as daily penalties for holding out ($30,000 for each day he missed). It’s thought that the knowledge that the team might try to enforce that penalty helped compel Lynch to return.
Whether Lynch is bothered that he didn’t get what he was reportedly asking for remains unclear, as he refrained from talking to the media.
“Just to see his jersey number 24 is special to all of us,’’ said receiver Doug Baldwin. “He carries the team on his back literally, so we are excited to have him back.’’
• The Seahawks placed defensive tackle Jesse Williams on injured reserve after he suffered a knee injury Wednesday that will require surgery. Williams, a fifth-round pick in 2013, also missed all of last season due to knee issues. The Seahawks also released recently signed free agent wide receiver Randall Carroll. Those two moves cleared space on the roster for the return of Lynch, who had been on the reserve/did not report list, and linebacker Marcus Dowtin, who the team added on Friday. Dowtin, from North Alabama, played three games last year for the Giants and five for the Bills, and three with the Jets in 2010.