Marshawn Lynch is on his way to Carolina and likely his first game for the Seattle Seahawks since mid-November.
The Seattle running back was listed as probable for the NFC divisional playoff game Sunday against the Panthers. And a week after deciding he wasn’t ready to play and not joining his teammates in Minnesota, Lynch was one of the last players to step on the team bus on Friday afternoon at the team’s headquarters as it left for the airport.
“Bags are packed,” Seattle Coach Pete Carroll said about his running back after the Seahawks concluded their final practice.
Lynch being listed as probable is the most encouraging sign that Seattle will get its starting running back on the field for the first time since Week 10 against Arizona. Lynch underwent abdominal surgery on Nov. 25 and was away from the team doing his rehab until last week.
Lynch has been a full participant in practice each day the last two weeks.
“He had a great week, he really did,” Carroll said. :He was faster and more explosive this week than last week. You can see that he made an improvement.”
Bucs hire Koetter
Longtime NFL assistant Dirk Koetter was hired by Tampa Bay to succeed Lovie Smith as head coach. Koetter, an offensive coordinator for three clubs in the last nine years including the Buccaneers this season, is the team’s fifth coach in eight years. The Bucs were 8-24 in two seasons under Smith and have finished last in their division five consecutive seasons. The hiring wasn’t a surprise; Koetter was identified by General Manager Jason Licht as a “very strong candidate” when Smith was dismissed.
Lions keep Caldwell
The Detroit Lions retained Coach Jim Caldwell for a third season, giving him a chance to work with new GM Bob Quinn. Caldwell is 18-15, including a wild-card playoff loss last year, in two seasons with the Lions. Detroit dropped six of its first seven games in 2015 before finishing 7-9. It was Quinn’s call, during his first week on the job, whether to keep or fire Caldwell.
Whisenhunt returns to Chargers
Ken Whisenhunt is returning to the San Diego Chargers as offensive coordinator.
His hiring was announced Friday. Whisenhunt held the position with the Chargers in 2013 before being hired as head coach of the Tennessee Titans. He was fired by the Titans in early November after a 1-6 start. He was 3-20 overall with the Titans.
Whisenhunt replaces Frank Reich, who was fired Jan. 4 along with most of the rest of the offensive staff.
Also Friday, the Chargers hired four other assistants: Giff Smith (defensive line), Craig Aukerman (special teams coordinator), Nick Sirianni (wide receivers) and Shane Steichen (quarterbacks).
The Chargers finished 4-12 and out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. Coach Mike McCoy was given a one-year contract extension through 2017.
Tennessee, the only franchise still with an opening for a head coach, confirmed that it interviewed Titans interim Coach Mike Mularkey and Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. The interviews occurred a day after the Titans hired Jon Robinson as general manager and made former Buffalo coach Doug Marrone the first candidate to interview with them for the coaching position. . . . Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe, who sat out the first four games this season because of a drug suspension, agreed to a four-year, $36.7-million contract extension with the Broncos. . . . Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari, who has missed the last three games because of an ankle injury, was listed as probable for Saturday’s NFC playoff game at Arizona. The Packers listed cornerbacks Sam Shields (concussion) and Quinten Rollins (quadriceps) as questionable.