The Marshawn Lynch the Seahawks know is not the one the rest of America sees and hears. It's not the Lynch that's likely to have another standoff of some kind with establishment tomorrow here at the annual circus called the Super Bowl's media day.
"Yeah, I think a lot of people misunderstand Marshawn," teammate and safety Kam Chancellor said today at the Arizona Grand Resort, following the Seahawks' first practice of Super Bowl week at Arizona State University in neighboring Tempe. "Just because he doesn't want to talk to the media doesn't make him a bad guy.
"He's not a bad person because he doesn't want to talk to the media. You can't punish a guy for not wanting to talk to the media.
"I don't understand it," Chancellor concluded, with a shrug.
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Chancellor left out the part about Lynch's crotch grabbing. Maybe because it's too difficult to defend that.
The nation knows Lynch as the running back the league has fined a total of $131,000 this season: $100,000 for not talking to the media in the locker room immediately following the Nov. 16 loss at Kansas City, $11,000 for grabbing his crotch as he dived back-first into the end zone to end his memorable, long touchdown run last month at Arizona and $20,000 for
doing the same grab as he jogged into the end zone for the score that put Seattle up late in regulation of the NFC title game this month.
The NFL has its sanctioning eyes all over Lynch down here in Phoenix during Super Bowl week. There have been talks between the league, Seahawks staffers and Lynch over how he is going to conduct himself Tuesday at media day then Wednesday and Thursday when Lynch and every other player has media requirements at the team hotel.
ESPN has reported the NFL also will assess a 15-yard unsportsmanlike foul on the Seahawks -- in addition to an inevitable third fine on Lynch -- if he grabs himself again in Sunday's game against New England.
So that's what America sees, a malcontent rules-breaker.
What I see: It's an act.
It's Lynch's way of essentially mocking the NFL and its policies, its conformity and decorum. It's him deciding at some point last season to shut himself off from public speaking, for whatever reason.
Maybe it was the aftermath of his arrest in July 2012 in his hometown of Oakland, California, for suspicion of DUI. He eventually settled that case in February 2014 by pleading guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.
Who knows? Not like he will answer if I asked.
As general manager John Schneider said Friday: "I kind of love his act."
No, Lynch doesn't have a social-anxiety disorder. He isn't too nervous to talk to the press.
He's just on an anti-establishment bent.
Turns out, Lynch is one of the most popular teammates on the Seahawks. And not just for his 1,300 yards rushing with his NFL-leading 17 total touchdowns this season, or the charity work his does for underprivileged kids back in his hometown of Oakland through his Fam 1st Family Foundation.
Lynch is a joking, shoulder-poking buddy to most in the locker room. Even ... the kickers?
Steven Hauschka missed three field goals for the first time in his life the last time the Seahawks were here, in the 19-3 win at Arizona on Dec. 21. After the third miss, Lynch came up to Hauschka, took his blue-and-green team beanie off his head and playfully shoved it on his kicker's head, messing with Hauschka's hair.
Then the running back patted his kicker on the back for encouragement. Both Seahawks smiled.
"He was just trying to cheer me up. It means a lot to have my teammates on my side like that," Hauschka said.
"Oh, man, he's a great teammate. And everyone in this locker room would tell you that. He likes to joke around. Yeah, he's different than most guys. But he's just a great teammate. Obviously, he's a heck of a player. But you couldn't ask for a better teammate and guy to have in the locker room."
What are we in the media missing by Lynch not talking?
"You are missing out on a great guy," Chancellor said. "A great personality. A great football player.
"That's a guy you can go to and ask for any type of advice, and he knows what to say. He definitely is a very caring guy. ... He's definitely a great teammate and a great man."
And the thing is, he hasn't always been this way. Not in Seattle, at least.
People forget, but when Lynch first became a Seahawk in the trade from Buffalo during the 2010 season, he talked regularly and often amicably -- just like any other player.
I mean, check this out below, courtesy of a files my esteem predecessor at the News Tribune, Mike Sando now of ESPN, dug out. It blows the mind now -- and especially of those who only know Lynch by his actions, silence and fines -- but here is a real, live press conference Lynch had as his introduction in Seattle.
The Seahawks PR staff even transcribed it -- yes, actual paragraphs to type, even a description of his long flight from New York. He talks about the origins of "Beast Mode," how "I couldn't stand" Pete Carroll when he was the coach at Cal's conference rival USC, actual insight:
RB Marshawn Lynch
(On what his last 24 hours have been like) “A long flight from New York to Seattle – a good flight though. So that’s pretty good.”
(On if he’s going to fly back during the bye or if he’ll stay here) “The plan for me right now is I’m back on the West Coast in a new system, trying to get acclimated, so I’ll probably hang around the facilities, meet a few guys, the ones that stick around because it is a bye week. So (I’ll) just see how that goes but I really haven’t thought about it too much; it really hasn’t set in on me yet.”
(On if he was surprised the trade actually happened) “Yeah, and then just listening and talking to Buddy (Nix – Bills GM) about how I wasn’t going to be going anywhere so when it finally did happen, it was a big surprise, but at the same time, a little excitement as well.”
(On being back on the West Coast with former college teammate, Justin Forsett) “Justin Forsett is great, man. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. But being back out here, adjusting back to the time (difference) is doing it all over again for me. That was something I had to do when I went back to Buffalo so just working with that time thing will take some time.”
(On his comfort level today working into the practice rotation) “I felt pretty good because I’m out on the football field and that’s one of the most comfortable places I’ll be. I feel like I left my legs on the plane so it won’t be bad to maybe (during) these couple days off, I might be able to catch up with my legs.”
(On how he views this change) “I feel that this change is a great opportunity for me, in football and just in life, as well. Everything that happened with me, I feel is an opportunity – the things that come out of it, just the way I handle it. This is another one and I plan to handle this situation just as good as I handled the rest. I say that because I’m still here standing.”
(On if he’s gotten used to his new number, 24) “Aw, man. This isn’t a new number, man. I just got reunited with it. I was 24 in college so I just got reunited with it, that’s all.”
(On the several legal and off-field issues he had during his time in Buffalo) “Well, that was a thing of the past and I feel that if you often revisit your past, you get stuck there. That’s not what I’m about. I’m about moving forward so what happened in the past has happened. Like I said, I grew from it. That was an opportunity for me to grow and become a better person, which I did, so now I’m here in Seattle to show y’all that good person.”
(On what he considers his strengths) “The strength of my game? Football. Period. Line me up anywhere on the field, I’m gonna get it done. And if I don’t, I’m gonna try.”
(On other players talking up his abilities) “Aw, man, that’s them just being good guys. Probably the guys you talked to were some of the guys I played with in college, as far as Brandon Mebane, Cameron Morrah, (Mike) Gibson, Justin (Forsett), you know and a couple guys that are still here (with the Seahawks) that played against me when they came up to Buffalo a few years ago, they got a taste of it already. They know what I’m working with. They might be able to tell you a little bit but for the most part, I’m just here to come in here and help the team accomplish some of the goals that they have, which I know are some of mine, and that’s winning. I haven’t been fortunate in the past to do that so here’s another opportunity for me to go out and accomplish something I haven’t accomplished on this level yet.”
(On how he found out about the trade yesterday and his first reaction) “Well, when I first heard about it, I thought it was kind of a joke because I walked in the training room because I had just gone to an eye doctor and was getting some things cleared up and I was turning in my paper work to the trainers and the quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) over there said as I was walking out, ‘Hey Marshawn! You’ve been traded!’ (I said,) ‘What?!’ He said, ‘Man, I just looked on my phone.’ I said, ‘Oh, is that right?’ Then it kind of just spread through. Because in the facility over there, I didn’t get good service on my phone so I called my agent and he let me know and we just took it from there.”
(On hearing about it first from a teammate) “One of the quarterbacks – I thought it was a joke because he’s a joker over there, Fitz.”
(On not knowing with all the technology there is today) “Well, I don’t do Twitter, I don’t do Facebook. I’m an old-school, prehistoric guy. If they still made those, I’d probably get one of those instead of my cell phone.”
(On his self-given nickname, ‘Beast Mode’) “What can I tell you? I’m pretty sure you follow Seattle and when we played you all I gave y’all a little taste of it already. But it’s just a state of mind that I follow, that basically I won’t be denied and I’m just relentless at what I do and that’s running that ball.”
(On if he feels ready to play right away) “I’m just practicing in a new facility and everything so I’m pretty good to go.”
(On when the ‘Beast Mode’ idea came about) “It came about back in Pop Warner but it was called, ‘Man-Child.’ It was a little something different. As I got to college, it kind of transformed as I kind of took it to another level.”
(On how different the scheme is here) “Well, with the zone scheme, it’s pretty much what I ran in Buffalo. With football, there’s not too much difference as far as running the ball. Just the different terminology that they use is something that I’m going to have to adjust to. But with those guys, Leon (Washington) and Justin (Forsett), they’ll be able to catch me up to that real quick.”
(On what he thought of opposing coach Pete Carroll while in college) “I couldn’t stand him, straight up, I couldn’t stand him. He was one of the only coaches you would see running up and down the field like he was playing in the game. Running up, jumping and having fun with his players. They were over there dogging us and you just sit there watching them have all this fun (thinking), ‘Man, what is he doing? Run me to that sideline so I can hit him one time.’ But I always just thought he was a fun guy, somebody that liked to have fun and liked to win, which he’s had a career of doing, winning.”
(On if he likes it that he’s on the same sideline as Carroll now) “Yeah, I could probably get used to it now that I’m on the same side.”
(On what Carroll said to him when they first saw each other this morning) “When I came in, he just told me he was glad to have me here and he is ready to get this thing on the road. But I’ll make sure to tell you, he didn’t pull no punches. He got me in front of the group, first thing he did, (he said), ‘We want to hear something from someone, their story, something that’s near and dear to them,’ and he asked the group, ‘Who do we want to hear from?’ They said, ‘I want to hear from Marshawn.’ So I get up there and first thing I’m like, ‘Well, first of all-’ ‘Ah we don’t want to hear that, sit down!’ So he broke the ice for me right off the bat. It was just a welcoming feeling that I had. So right of the bat, I felt like, ‘I’m here, let’s get it going.’”
Need more proof the current Lynch is laughing at the league and everybody else?
I listened today to Lynch's interview that month on Seattle's KJR radio, after his first game with the Seahawks, the Oct. 17 win 23-20 at Chicago following a bye.
Levy even called Lynch "The Pied Piper."
"I've seen you talking to the press ... it seems like you are having fun again," Levy said to Lynch of his first couple weeks in Seattle.
"You always have more fun when you are winning, and that's something I haven't had a good feel for (in Buffalo)," Lynch said of that first win over the Bears. "And yessir, I had a lot of fun doing it."
Listen to the entire interview here.
Those who recently became fans of the Seahawks -- and Lynch's current, relatively new persona -- won't believe your ears.