Thomas Rawls is leaving Seattle thanking "all the people—janitors, nutritionists, chefs, front office and many more" and "my 12s...you are worthy, you are fighters."
That's Thomas Rawls. The former heir to Marshawn Lynch, until he broke his ankle at the end of a breakout season as an undrafted rookie for the Seahawks in 2015, signed a free-agent contract with the New York Jets on Friday.
Rawls is the same heart-on-his-sleeve man and proud native of rugged Flint, Michigan, who dressed as Santa Claus and passed out practical gifts to the homeless and less fortunate last Christmastime in Seattle's Pioneer Square. It was at the end of a frustrating season when the Seahawks mothballed him off the field and eventually out of town:
In 2016 he said and did this for Flint, where he described he was once "at the bottom"—yet for which he still brims with pride and boils with dismay over the inexplicable water crisis in his city.
Friday, to say goodbye to the city and the Seahawks, Rawls wrote this:
It is a classy way to exit. And not a surprise.
It came weeks after the Seahawks didn't give him a tender offer to return in 2018 as a restricted free agent. It came months after the team made him a healthy inactive for games for the first time in his career. After he played just one snap in the late-September loss at Tennessee, Rawls was told just before pregame warmups against Indianapolis he wasn't even dressing.
"I was a little surprised," the presumed starter for 2017 said in early October.
The Seahawks instead chose Chris Carson to be their lead runner to start last season. Carson was what Rawls was two years earlier: decisive, relentless, versatile with blocking and catching in the passing game. Then Carson broke his leg in that Colts game Oct. 1. Rawls didn't seize his chance. He gained no more than 39 yards rushing in any of the five games he played in after Carson's injury. Instead going with Rawls or splashy 2017 offseason acquisition Eddie Lacy, coaches promoted Mike Davis off the practice squad in November to be the lead back.
Rawls knew then he was done with the Seahawks.
He signed as an undrafted rookie in the spring of 2015 out of Central Michigan, where he transferred for his final college season after transferring from three seasons mostly on the bench at Michigan. When Lynch had the first injury-filled season of his Seahawks career later that fall, Rawls didn't emerge. He burst into the league. He became the NFL's first undrafted rookie to have multiple 160-yard rushing games in his debut season.
He was leading the NFL in yards per carry (5.6) and romping again early in a game at Baltimore in December 2015 when he broke his ankle.
He and his Seahawks career were never the same.
He wasn't back to full health until September 2016. In the second game of that season, Rawls got his first start since that Baltimore game the season before, at the Los Angeles Rams. In the second quarter in L.A., he got kicked in the shin and sustained a hairline fracture in his shin. He wasn't right again until late in 2016.
Then came last year's frustration. The Seahawks had moved on.
This month they chose to re-sign Davis instead. Davis and Carson, returning from his injury, will compete for the lead job beginning in mimicamp this spring.
Rawls will be in New York, trying to re-start his career.
But as his writing Friday showed, some of his heart will remain in Seattle.
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