By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — It’s not uncommon to hear a running back described as an “angry runner,” and if anyone ought to be running angry these days, it’s Robert Turbin.
After all, the Seahawks running back, who has spent the past two seasons as Marshawn Lynch’s backup, has been largely overlooked by fans and media heading into this season because there is so much hype surrounding Christine Michael, a second-round pick who most assume is the heir apparent to Lynch. Never mind that Michael barely got on the field last year because Turbin was ahead of him on the depth chart.
And the largest media gathering around Turbin in training camp so far? That came when everyone wanted to ask him not about his productive camp, but rather about the return of Lynch from a week-long holdout.
But even if Turbin is sometimes overlooked, he insists that isn’t what’s fueling the success he’s enjoyed this preseason. Turbin has every right to be annoyed with the hype surrounding a player who’s yet to move ahead of him on the depth chart, but the third-year back insists that isn’t the case.
“To be honest with you, I just don’t pay attention to that,” Turbin said after rushing for 81 yards and a touchdown in the first half of Friday’s preseason game. “I don’t read the articles. If there are articles about that, I don’t even know about it. I know that there’s excitement about Christine and there should be, because he’s a very good running back, man. But it doesn’t affect me in a negative way. It’s not like, now I’m more motivated.”
And even if he does notice it a little, maybe Turbin doesn’t let the Michael hype bother him, because he’s used to being doubted. Turbin played at Utah State in college, hardly a powerhouse, then was a fourth-round pick in 2012, so it’s not like external expectations have ever been that high.
Turbin also has an unusual amount of perspective for a man his age having lived through more far too much family tragedy, from his older brother Lonnie being shot and killed prior to the 2012 NFL scouting combine, to having his sister Trina die from multiple sclerosis at age 21, to having to, as a young child, care for another sister, Tiffany, who has a severe form of cerebral palsy.
“I started taking care of her on my own when I was about eight years old,” Turbin said matter-of-factly on the day the Seahawks drafted him in 2012. “She’s in a wheelchair, the only thing she can move is her head. My role was to feed her when it was time to feed her and give her water and change her diapers and put her to sleep and pretty much do everything that you would do with a newborn baby. … That was my role whenever my dad was gone at work.”
So no, being doubted a little, being overlooked because people are enamored with Michael’s speed, that’s not going to get to Turbin.
“I’m kind of used to it,” he said. “I’m not even supposed to be a professional running back. People thought that guy was supposed to be better than me, or that guy was supposed to be better than me, and I’m still here. So I’m already driven, man.
“It is what it is, Christine is a great friend. I love Christine to death. So there’s no animosity or anything like that. I don’t care about what the media or fans think about who should be the next guy or whatever. I just want to play football.”
Most assumed going into this season that Michael, about whom coaches raved during offseason workouts, would push Turbin for the backup job, or at least a few carries per game. But so far Turbin looks like a player who has no plans to see his workload decrease, nor is he running like somebody happy to be a career backup — just ask Chargers defensive back Marcus Gilchrist, who was on the wrong end of a nasty stiff arm Turbin used to punctuate a 47-yard run Friday.
“Each and every year he comes back more focused and more prepared,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “And when the opportunity presents itself for him to be able to get in the game, or get a number of carries, he’s positioned himself to be ready for that. I saw him running physical, he’s got good speed … He’s just really a true pro. He’s committed to getting himself better anyway he can.”
And if you think Turbin looks a little quicker, a bit more explosive this year, that’s because he is. Turbin hates talking about it, and likely never would have admitted it had Pete Carroll not volunteered the information, but Turbin played with a meniscus injury for most of last season that required offseason knee surgery, and also battled other injuries last year while still rushing for 264 yards as Lynch’s backup.
“He’s so fast and so physical,” said quarterback Russell Wilson, one of Turbin’s closest friends on the team and his roommate on road trips. “He put his foot down (on the 47-yard run), stopped on a dime and kind of cut back to the right and just accelerated past everybody. He was physical at the end of the run, too.
“Those are the things that Robert Turbin brings to our offense. You obviously think about Marshawn and what he can do, too, but to have a guy like Robert Turbin, who last year had so many huge runs, and they got called back for whatever reason, the thing about his ability, catching the football, protecting and also running the football, he’s truly an exceptional player.”
So yeah, go ahead and get excited about Michael’s explosiveness, he might very well be a great running back someday. But don’t forget about Turbin, who after training camp and two preseason games, still looks like Seattle’s best option behind Lynch.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.