But Lynch's work to get ready began in secret a couple of weeks ago, after a visit to the Seahawks' facility left him with the sense that maybe, just maybe, the city where "Beast Mode" became legendary might need his help one more time.
Lynch's long-time coach, Tareq Azim, told me on Monday that Lynch went through 16 sessions over eight days or so with Azim in San Francisco, not far from where Lynch makes his home and played the past two seasons with his hometown Oakland Raiders. And when you're a 33-year-old running back who hasn't been hit in 14 months, getting ready for a playoff push requires some unusual measures.
"We went 'hood' on preparation," said Azim, who has a background in boxing and mixed martial arts.
Azim hit Lynch with boxing gloves. He walloped him with power bags. Each workout ended with aggressive core work that included, you guessed it, Azim beating the pulp out of Lynch -- anything to simulate the pounding of an NFL game. The two also spent a lot of time on muscular and cardiovascular endurance, with a focus on "activation and acclimation" that's just the first step in getting Lynch ready to play.
"The one thing I can tell you is you can be 100 percent certain that he's well aware of what his body can and can't do," Azim said. "He's made a choice to contribute to a team and a city that's given him a lot."
The Seahawks lost promising running back Rashaad Penny to a season-ending ACL injury Dec. 8 against the Los Angeles Rams. Four days later, Lynch visited the Seahawks' facility -- an appearance that the team was required to report to the league office but downplayed at the time as just Lynch catching up with old friends.
Then came Sunday, when starter Chris Carson suffered a fractured hip and C.J. Prosise broke his arm, leaving Seattle with just one healthy back (rookie Travis Homer, a sixth-round draft pick from Miami who has eight career carries). By Monday morning, Lynch was on his way for another visit to meet with coach Pete Carroll and take a physical with the Seahawks, who also re-signed veteran Robert Turbin.
Only six Seahawks players (including one on injured reserve) were with the team when Lynch last played there in 2015. There has been a huge turnover in player leadership. And there's a new run scheme under the direction of coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and line coach Mike Solari. But one thing that hasn't changed is coach Pete Carroll's commitment to a physical running game, which Lynch personified through parts of six seasons and two Super Bowl runs, including a win after the 2013 season. He retired after the 2015 season, only to inform the Seahawks a year later he wanted to return with his hometown Raiders. They worked out a trade, and he played parts of two seasons in Oakland before landing on IR last October with a groin injury.
A fan and loyal supporter of the rival 49ers, Azim -- who has been sought by the likes of former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan and Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters for his reputation of training the head and heart as well as the body -- hinted there's more to the story behind Lynch's return that he hopes to share soon. For now, he's as curious as anyone else to see what his star pupil can do.
"His true test of anything is going to be this week," Azim said. "If anybody can do it -- it's the reason he's called Beast Mode, right?"