Marshawn Lynch is impossible to understand but beloved by Seahawks teammates
As out-there as some of Lynch’s behavior can seem, as defiant and individualistic as he can sometimes appear, teammates say Lynch is nothing if not real. “I think his rough edges are what makes him a good player,” says defensive lineman Michael Bennett.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Arizona @ Seahawks, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13
RENTON – Here’s a Marshawn Lynch story: He’s playing the Giants earlier this month, and he’s having the best game of his season.
After he scores his third touchdown, he jogs off the field and hands the ball to Robert Turbin, his backup.
“I don’t know why,” Turbin said. “But he told me, ‘I want you to have this ball. It’s for us. It’s for the running backs, the group, a representation of how we go about our business on a daily basis.’ For whatever reason, that one particular touchdown meant a lot to him, and he wanted me to have it.”
It is a candid Lynch snapshot: genuine, under the radar and a bit strange. Doug Baldwin heard the story, too. He talked to Lynch about it, and he has a different take.
“That moment epitomizes who Marshawn Lynch is,” Baldwin said. “In the grand scheme of things, you guys might not understand it. I had a conversation with him, so I know exactly why he did that. Turbin and Christine Michael will understand it when Marshawn is gone, but he does things for a reason. Yes, it is truly heartfelt. But that situation right there epitomizes Marshawn Lynch.”
TO UNDERSTAND Marshawn Lynch is to first understand that you probably won’t understand Marshawn Lynch.
“I don’t understand him, either,” Turbin said. “He’s not supposed to be understood. That’s what people have to understand about him and a lot of guys in this locker room. The reason why we’re here is because we’re different, and the reason that makes him so good is because he’s so different, with his own way of thinking and his own mindset. He’s not about how it’s supposed to be, quote-unquote.”
Lynch has become a media caricature the last couple of years, partly of his own doing. His reluctance to talk at the Super Bowl turned into a circus and became a dominant story that week. His standoff with the NFL over his unwillingness to speak after games resulted in him getting fined $100,000 this past week.
His refusal to cooperate with the media has had the effect of painting Lynch in a light almost entirely unfamiliar to his teammates.
“I like to say he’s out of the ‘Matrix’ because everybody is in (there) with Twitter and Instagram and all that stuff,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “He’s just so out of it, on his own wing, and it seems like he’s just different. Or maybe everybody else is just wrong. You know what I mean? If more people cared less what other people thought of them, how much better would the world be?”
In the locker room, Lynch is one of the Seahawks’ most respected players. He is a rare offensive player who is just as comfortable with the defensive line as he is with the receivers. He is held in such high esteem in large part because of his play on Sundays. But he is also valued as a mentor, a loyal teammate and a confidant more than willing to dispense no-BS feedback.
“From Little League to high school to college to the pros, he’s the best teammate I’ve ever been around,” Baldwin said.
“Shawn is one of the coolest teammates I’ve ever had,” defensive end Cliff Avril said.
“I think if a lot more people were like him, the NFL would be a better place,” Bennett said.
THERE ARE two words that come back when teammates talk about Lynch. The first is loyalty, and it goes a ways in understanding why he doesn’t talk to the media and why he harbors some animosity toward the Seahawks organization.
“He’s loyal to a fault,” Baldwin said. “But it does come with a price. If you do double-cross him, or if you disrespect his space in any way, it’s going to be really hard to regain his trust and loyalty back — if you even can.”
The other word is genuine. As out-there as some of Lynch’s behavior can seem, as defiant and individualistic as he can sometimes appear, teammates say Lynch is nothing if not real.
It would be easy for Lynch to repair his image with the media, to throw a bone after games and talk for a few minutes. Lynch isn’t averse to attention — just recently he appeared in an episode of the TV show, “The League” — but he doesn’t care much about his image, other than the obvious incentive of avoiding hefty fines from the league.
“That’s the cool thing about him, too,” Avril said. “He knows who he is. A lot of us, a lot of football players and athletes, don’t know who they are so they play the fence. But he knows who he is. He believes in certain things, and nothing can budge that.”
It is easy to find players willing to say nice things about teammates in an NFL locker room — it is the nature of team sports. But the level to which teammates endorse Lynch rings different.
Said Baldwin: “Every year he takes care of the offensive line. And you hear about running backs taking care of the offensive line, but he goes well above and beyond. He does ridiculous things for the offensive line. I won’t get too much into it because it’s his business. But if a guy needed anything on the team and approached him about it, he would have no hesitation to help them out.”
Said Avril: “This a true and real good story about Marshawn. Shawn is the type of person who if the game is out of hand in the third quarter, he doesn’t care if he has 35 yards or 150 yards and is about to break a record, he’ll pull himself out of the game to let some of the younger guys get reps. Most guys go after their stats, but he doesn’t care about stats. And that’s unique for an offensive player.”
Said Bennett: “Just last home game, he brought two kids in here, a sick kid from his charity. He walked him through the locker room and showed him around and introduced him to us and just changed the kid’s life. He didn’t call the media and say, ‘Look at me, I’m doing this every week.’ He does a lot of charity work that nobody sees.”
Avril said Lynch would give the keys to his Lamborghini to a teammate for a couple of days if he needed to borrow a car. Baldwin laughed and agreed.
“And I would say to him, ‘Dog, your Lamborghini?!’ ” Baldwin said. “And he would be like, ‘Bro, it’s just a car.’ You know? His mentality about things, he’s such a down-to-earth person. He knows the true value of things.”
LYNCH’S SEASON has largely been defined, from the beginning, by off-field issues.
He held out for more money during training camp. A report surfaced after the midseason trade of Percy Harvin that Lynch was so upset he almost didn’t get on the team bus. Shortly before the Carolina game, another round of reports flared up: One said that Lynch would likely not return to the Seahawks next season, and another said Lynch’s relationship with coach Pete Carroll had deteriorated to the point that they were no longer talking.
“I think that is being a little bit overblown,” Baldwin said. “That’s from the knowledge that I have.”
More recently, Lynch stayed out on the field in freezing temperatures at halftime in Kansas City. Mike Silver of the NFL Network talked with Lynch on the phone after the game and raised the idea that Lynch’s decision to stay on the field might have been his way of showing displeasure with the organization.
“I’m going to tell you exactly why he stayed out there in the cold,” Baldwin said. “His body is so beat up that he wanted to save his energy so he could go for the rest of the game. He was hurting. He didn’t want to get up and walk into the locker room because it would take him more energy than he wanted to expend. He wanted to save that for the field.
“That’s legitimately what that was. That stupidity that’s out there about him staying out there because he’s mad at somebody? He don’t care about that (stuff).”
Said offensive-line coach Tom Cable: “There wasn’t a response needed because I knew he was treating (injuries). To say or think otherwise is ridiculous.”
THE IRONY is that Lynch is under the most scrutiny of his career in what is one of his best seasons, if not the best.
Lynch is so in-tune with the Seahawks’ offense that he knows exactly where to go and how to get there. Where other running backs gamble looking for the home run, Lynch is patient enough to cruise behind the line of scrimmage until the hole opens.
Those sound like simple gifts, especially when compared to the determination with which Lynch runs, but they are just as vital to his success.
Yet Lynch is still defined by his power. He’s had his helmet ripped off this year and kept running. He’s had a braid ripped from his head and kept running. He’s had four or five defenders draped on him and kept running.
“A lot of people talk about how the receivers block in the run game, but in all honesty that starts with Marshawn and the way he runs the ball,” Baldwin said. “With the passion he runs with and giving his all out there, you can’t help but want to go out there and block as hard as you can for him because of the way he runs.”
The question hanging over this season is whether Lynch will be back with the Seahawks next year, an almost unavoidable cloud. Lynch will be 29 next season, and he will have more than 2,000 career carries. As well as he has played, it is entirely possible that the Seahawks will cut ties with him. For what it’s worth, Carroll addressed the topic this week, saying, “We want him around here for as long as he can play.”
On the field, Lynch has been at or near his best — a fringe MVP candidate to some around the league. Perhaps the best way to understand him is by not trying to understand him at all and instead embracing all the quirks, all the crushing runs, all the good times and rough edges that come with one of the Seahawks’ most unique players.
“I think his rough edges are what makes him a good player,” Bennett said. “That tenacity, that I-don’t-care attitude, it makes him run the way he runs. You can’t question his effort. He’s giving the most you can give as a player.”
|Lynch of late|
|He has been the offense’s best weapon in Seattle’s past three games:|
|Game||Rush yds||Rec yds||TD|
|vs. N.Y. Giants||140||23||4|
|at Kansas City||124||1||0|
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org