Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch strolled into US Airways Center for Super Bowl XLIX Media Day wearing a ball cap, sunglasses and a smirk.
But with nothing to say.
“I’m here so I won’t get fined,” Lynch said repeatedly to questions for about five minutes Tuesday morning before reporters moved on to more willing subjects.
It was a takeoff on Lynch’s “Thanks for asking” response to questions following the Seahawks’ victory over Arizona on Dec. 21.
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Lynch, who was fined $100,000 in November for repeatedly failing to meet mandatory media requirements, may not have had anything to say Tuesday, but he’ll be heard from against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks build their offense around the power running of the man known as Beast Mode, who rushed for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season and leads all ball carriers with 216 yards (5.5 yards per attempt) in the postseason.
“For them to win, Marshawn Lynch needs to be the MVP,” said former New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi, now an analyst for ESPN. “Him running the ball the way he’s done … for them offensively it’s to establish him.”
Lynch not only is the centerpiece of the NFL’s top-ranked rushing team, but he’s an effective receiver, having caught 37 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns. His 26-yard reception on a wheel route in the NFC Championship Game was critical to the Seahawks’ overtime victory against Green Bay.
“The thing that he brings to our offense is his versatility,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “People underestimate his ability to catch the football, his ability to block, his ability to run after contact. Just what he does in the backfield, I don’t think there’s another football player like him in terms of the running back position.”
Lynch, who was fined $20,000 for a crotch-grabbing touchdown celebration after his 24-yard touchdown run against Green Bay, is often misunderstood, say his teammates.
“He’s very misunderstood,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “He’s a great guy off the field. He’s always talking to us. He’s always laughing. He’s helped me a lot in my game. He’s always coming back and asking me what I see on this and, ‘This is how I play it if I see a linebacker in this position.’ He’s definitely helped me grow as a player. All of the outside stuff is wrong in my opinion.
“He talks all the time, he just doesn’t like to talk to y’all. I don’t get that. It doesn’t make any sense to force somebody to talk to you. If he doesn’t want to talk, he doesn’t want to talk. His play does enough of the talking. If he goes out there and his job is to run the football … which he does every single game, runs the football very hard … if he doesn’t want to talk, he doesn’t want to talk. You can’t force a man to talk. We’ll talk for him.”
Seattle coach Pete Carroll tries to respect Lynch’s individuality.
“Let’s not miss that he is a unique individual, and he has a way that we have embraced, that we understand Marshawn and we support him every way that we can,” Carroll said. “But, he’s got his own way of looking at things, and he’s also a very private person, too. That’s why the media thing is as it is. It’s not something that he is going to express a whole lot to you.
“There’s a great deal spoken in his silence as well. I expect him to have a great Super Bowl week. He’s going to have a great time playing in this game … it’s something that he really cherishes and he cherishes playing for his teammates and we love him in the program. But, he is unique and we’ve always celebrated the uniqueness of our players in the way that allows them to play at their best. So to have the same expectations for every single person is to miss it, and so we don’t.”