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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

September 5, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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Robert Turbin and the value of a backup plan

Marshawn Lynch's status unclear for Seahawks' season opener
By Danny O'Neil | The Seattle Times

There was one game that served as a reference point for Seattle's selection of running back Robert Turbin in the fourth round of last April's draft.

That game wasn't one that Turbin played in so much as the one that Marshawn Lynch missed in 2011. That was the team's Oct. 23 loss at Cleveland when Lynch suffered back spasms during the pre-game warmup, which kept him from playing. He wanted to play. He even kept his uniform on for the start of the game, but he just wasn't able to go, leaving Justin Forsett and Leon Washington to run the ball in his place. The Seahawks failed to score a touchdown in the game, held to a field goal and 137 yards of offense, which was the lowest total since Pete Carroll became the head coach.

So just how much did that game loom in the mind of Carroll when it came to the selection of Turbin?

"There's no one game at all," Carroll said after the selection. "We liked the thought that when Marshawn comes off the field, we still have that impact player, big-time guy who can keep the rhythm going."

He didn't say it, but they also had young legs behind a player with five years of wear on his tires and a back that requires a special stretching protocol.

We bring this up now not just because Lynch's status became a national question mark on Tuesday, but to point out that Turbin gives Seattle something it didn't have last year: Namely, someone running with comparable size to Lynch.

Turbin is listed at 222 pounds with a massive upper body, but more burst than expected from a guy whose biceps are that big.

Turbin gave a glimpse of what he can do in the third exhibition game when he rushed 14 times for 93 yards. More than have those yards were gained in the first series of the third quarter when Turbin carried three times, gaining 8 then 17 and then 25 yards at a time when a good chunk of Kansas City's starters were still in the game.

None of this is to say that Seattle wouldn't miss Lynch. He's the focal point of the Seahawks' offense and the key to running the ball Carroll wants to.

It's just that if Lynch were unavailable this weekend or any time this season, Seattle would have an option it didn't have a year ago when it was left with only smaller alternatives like Washington.

"We know that Leon can flash and do all of the cool stuff that he does," Carroll said, "but we wnated to see if we could keep being physical when Marshawn came out. We've been looking for that."

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