PHOENIX — Don’t feel sorry for Marshawn Lynch as he’s surrounded by a mob of reporters, many of them far more indignant about his silence than any grown man or woman ought to be.
Media obligations are part of his job, and he had a hand in creating this circus, which fittingly enough took place under a tent at the Seattle Seahawks’ team hotel Wednesday.
And don’t feel bad for those of us covering the Seahawks who can’t get meaningful quotes from the Seahawks enigmatic running back. There are plenty of other wonderful personalities on Seattle’s roster to fill our notebooks.
Instead, borrow one of quarterback Russell Wilson’s favorite cliches and just ignore the noise. Because if you can do that — and I understand some of my colleagues are professionally obligated to document every non-answer Lynch gives — what’s left is one of the most uniquely talented and just plain fun-to-watch athletes to ever wear a Seahawks uniform.
“I just think that sometimes we focus on the little details that don’t matter, they don’t make any difference,” Wilson said.
This isn’t a defense of Lynch — he signed up for media obligations when he signed an NFL contract, and if players don’t think every one of them should have to do this, that’s something they can take up the next time they collectively bargain their next labor agreement.
What this is is simply a reminder that beyond “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” and that line’s sequel, “you know why I’m here,” is the person teammates consider one of the most important, intelligent and beloved players on their roster. A player who could very well be the difference maker in Super Bowl XLIX.
“He means everything to this offense,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “I don’t know where we would be without Marshawn Lynch. He is the engine. He is the heart and soul of this offense. Everything runs through him. Despite what everyone wants to think, Marshawn Lynch is this offense. I don’t know what else to say about that.”
Baldwin says the team’s goal is to make Lynch the Super Bowl MVP, because “We know the formula that we have put in place is if Marshawn wins the MVP then we have done our job on offense.”
And it’s hardly difficult to imagine Lynch earning that award Sunday. In nine postseason games, Lynch has averaged 5.0 yards per carry, eclipsing 100 yards five times, including a postseason franchise-record 157 yards in the NFC championship game, and has eight touchdowns.
“We just know that every time he touches the ball, it’s got a chance to be an explosive play,” guard J.R. Sweezy said. “All we’ve got to do is give him an inch, and he’ll do the rest … As a team we look up to the guy a lot. Just the way he carries himself, the way he leads by his actions, leads by example. Not a big talker, obviously, but he does it day in and day out, and on Sunday he puts on a show.”
Yet as much as his teammates love what Lynch does on the field, they might appreciate him even more for who he is off of it. Lynch obviously doesn’t let a lot of people in, media especially, but if you’re in his inner circle, if you get his trust, he shows a much different side than what he shows in defiant interviews.
“He just cares about everybody,” center Max Unger said. “He could sit down with every single dude in the locker room and have a conversation with him, and it would be genuine. He has a relationship with pretty much everybody that’s close enough where he could sit down and have a 20-minute conversation with them and not bat an eye.”
Lynch’s other attribute that is too often overlooked — again, in part his own doing — is his intelligence. If Lynch would talk football with us, you’d hear about the game from the person offensive line coach Tom Cable calls one of the smartest football players he has ever coached.
The physical talents are obvious. There’s the raw power, the nimble feet — head coach Pete Carroll describes Lynch as having feet like a slalom skier — the speed, the nasty stiff-arm. But on top of all of that, Lynch also sees the game in a way few, if any, of his teammates do.
“I think if you asked every player in this room right now to talk about the other 21 positions in football,” Cable said Tuesday, when every Seahawks player was in the room. “I don’t know if you could find many that could do that. I think he’s extraordinary that way, he gets it.”
Lynch is also smart enough that he knows exactly what he is doing with these media sessions. He has become more famous, more beloved by Seahawks fans, and more marketable — pay attention to how many Beast Mode hats and clothing items you see around Seattle in the next few weeks — by repeating one-liners than he ever could by giving cliche answers.
He doesn’t deserve anyone’s pity for dealing with a sometimes comically angry media mob, but neither do those of us trying to cover him and the Seahawks.
“It comes with the territory,” Unger said of the huge crowd of reporters and TV cameras that surrounded Lynch’s podium Wednesday. “Marshawn’s extremely intelligent. A lot of people say a lot of bad stuff, but Marshawn is perfectly capable of conducting himself how he wants to. This is his show, and he understands what he’s doing. He’s aware of everybody’s perception of him, but I just don’t think he cares.”
One of the most talented and unique players in Seahawks history will be one of the most important players on the field in Super Bowl XLIX. Lynch means everything to the Seahawks offense and to his teammates, whether he wants to tell us about it or not.
“He’s not carrying the football, he’s carrying his team,” Cable said. “That’s who he is. That’s what he does.”
Herald Columnist John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org