RENTON — Anyone questioning whether Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson has returned to health and strength might collect testimony from a few Tampa Bay defenders.
In Sunday’s Seahawks win, Robinson once flat-backed 312-pound defensive tackle Gary Gibson, and twice eclipsed Buccaneers cornerbacks Mark Barron and Leonard Johnson, who had charged up in run support.
In these cases, Robinson’s emphatic blocking helped spring running back Marshawn Lynch for solid ground gains on the way to a season-high 125 rushing yards.
All these efforts were customary for Robinson during his three previous seasons with Seattle, as he’s been a team captain, a Pro Bowl selection, veteran leader, and unofficial liaison between Lynch and the rest of the world.
“It felt good to be back at full strength and see the emphasis on the run game,” Robinson said in the Seahawks locker room Wednesday. “We put an emphasis on getting back to what we do and I’m happy to be doing my part.”
The quality of his play on Sunday made it easy to forget that the 30-year-old Robinson’s career seemed perilously close to an end until just a few weeks ago.
He became sick in the preseason with what he thought was a case of the flu, which led to dehydration and then a reaction to drugs. With his health in doubt and his contract calling for a $2.5 million salary, he was waived in the final cutdown.
Few knew how sick he was, as he ended up in the hospital twice. “I got down to about 215 pounds, and I’m a 245-pound guy,” he said.
While a cheaper replacement, Derrick Coleman, played well both as fullback and on special teams, Robinson recovered, worked to regain strength, and watched the Seahawks progress from week to week.
“I knew I could help this team,” Robinson said. “But I knew it would take the right situation.”
He had a few inquiries with other teams, but “I really didn’t want to play for another team,” he said. “I really wanted to be here. I love the city, I love the fans, love the coaches.”
Robinson said that he had reached the point where it was smart to start applying for media jobs. But Coleman suffered a hamstring injury, and the Seahawks benefited from a bit of fateful timing.
“NFL Network offered me a job hosting a show on the day that I was brought back for my physical here,” he said.
Having played eight years in the league, he wasn’t ready to give up on the game, though. And his connection to the Seahawks was never severed even once he got cut.
“They did a great job communicating with me all along, keeping me abreast with a little text here and there,” Robinson said. The messages were coming from general manager John Schneider, Robinson said, “letting me know they still had love for me.”
Is that the way teams and GMs usually treat waiver victims? “Nope,” he laughed. “That’s what makes it different around here.”
Head coach Pete Carroll saw the old Mike Robinson on the field against Tampa Bay. “Mike had a particularly good game,” Carroll said. “He really played well this week, he was physical, he read really well, it seemed like there was a great rhythm for him … he had a couple knockdowns and real physical blocks.”
It showed, Carroll said, “there’s a real chemistry” between Robinson and Lynch.
“I can’t explain it, or put it into words,” Robinson said of his working and personal relationship with Lynch. “We’ve been playing together for a while and he knows what I’m gonna do and how I’m going to target a guy. I talk to him about what I’m going to do when we see a certain look, so, yeah, we communicate a whole lot.”
Since Lynch doesn’t communicate with the media, I wasn’t able to ask him his thoughts on the value of Robinson’s return.
But we can give you Lynch’s comment on the matter, second-hand, through Robinson.
“Well, he told me on Monday, after this game, ‘Man, I’m so glad to have you back; I’m happy to be going to war with you again,’” Robinson said. “You know, that was good to hear.”