BRADY HENDERSON

Seahawks’ Thomas Rawls wants to run with more patience: ‘I just think I need to be more calm out there’

Jan 23, 2017, 2:10 PM | Updated: Jul 6, 2017, 2:47 pm
In nine regular-season games, Thomas Rawls rushed for 349 yards and a 3.2 average. (AP)...
In nine regular-season games, Thomas Rawls rushed for 349 yards and a 3.2 average. (AP)
(AP)

RENTON – When the Seahawks convened for a final meeting the day after their playoff loss to Atlanta, Thomas Rawls arrived at team headquarters with a bag of McDonald’s. With the season over, he could finally indulge.

Speaking with reporters in the locker room, he recited his mouthful of an order without hesitation and in rapid-fire speech, as if it was all one word:

“Two-double-cheeseburgers-no-onions-add-Mac-sauce-extra-pickles-with-a-small-fry-with-a-lot-of-barbecue-sauce.”

Rawls is a mile-a-minute type of person. He speaks that way and he also tends to play that way, which is generally a good thing in football but it can sometimes get in the way of the patience required to play running back. The idea is to run hard but not headlong into a hole that hasn’t yet opened.

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As Rawls reflected on his injury-shortened 2016 season and looked ahead to next year, he said that’s an area of his game he wants to improve.

“I just think I need to be more calm out there and just let the game come to me instead of actually just trying to take a game,” he said. “I think later on in the season, I displayed that. I probably was more patient and those things.”

That was in response to a question about whether he would ever think about altering his rugged, punishing rushing style as a means of self-preservation after his first two NFL seasons were cut short by serious injuries – a broken ankle as a rookie and a cracked fibula that sidelined him for seven games in 2016 (Rawls also missed half a game late in the year with a shoulder bruise).

“Not at all,” he said.

So Rawls may not be any less inclined to seek out defenders in the open field, but he does want to be less frenetic on his way there. Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell might be the NFL’s poster child when it comes to patient rushing styles, sometimes coming to a near standstill in the backfield while waiting for a hole to develop. It’s an extreme example and they are two completely different backs, to be sure, but that’s what Rawls means when he talks about letting the game come to him.

“It’s the same thing we talked about: trying too hard, trying to force the issue, trying to make things happen, trying to make a run be a big run when it’s a 4-yard play,” coach Pete Carroll said. “And in that, sometimes you make mistakes and make bad judgements and see things that aren’t there, and seeing ghosts and stuff. He wasn’t as patient as he needed to be, and he’s not a very patient person. He’s a charger and he’s a goer and he’s a mad dog. So just quelling that.”

Rawls rushed for 349 yards on 109 carries (3.2 average) and three touchdowns in nine regular-season games. Much of that came during a monster performance against Carolina in December (15 carries, 106 yards, two scores). He also set the Seahawks’ postseason record with 161 yards in the wild-card round against Detroit. But in seven of his 11 total games in 2016, Rawls averaged fewer than 3.5 yards per carry. He led the league at 5.6 in 2015.

Carroll said part of Rawls’ tendency to force the issue was wanting to “prove that he was back” from his injuries, first at the start of the season when he was coming off his broken ankle and then once he returned in late November from his cracked fibula.

“He didn’t need to do it all in one play,” Carroll said. “We talked about that a lot, but you could still see it in him. So it took him quite a while because it burdened him to have the injuries that he had and not be able to impact his team like he wanted to. So he just over-tried, I think, is really what he’s saying. Just relaxing, quieting down your feet and being more patient, which is exactly what he’s shown us.”

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