Fa­mil­iar vi­sion for Raiders’ Lynch

Run­ning back to face for­mer team in Lon­don

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - SPORTING GREEN - By Matt Kawa­hara

LON­DON — Asked what it’s like watch­ing Mar­shawn Lynch run with a foot­ball, Raiders team­mate Jordy Nel­son suc­cinctly de­scribed the view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“You feel bad for his body,” Nel­son said, “and any­one in his way.”

Lynch, the Oak­land run­ning back, is known for de­liv­er­ing as much pun­ish­ment as he has taken from de­fend­ers over 10-plus NFL sea­sons — in­clud­ing six with the Seat­tle Sea­hawks, whom he’ll op­pose Sun­day at Lon­don’s Wem­b­ley Sta­dium for the first time since his abrupt de­par­ture in early 2016.

Yet de­spite his phys­i­cal

play­ing style, at a po­si­tion known for cre­at­ing short NFL ca­reers, Lynch, at age 32, is still run­ning with trade­mark fe­roc­ity in his sec­ond sea­son with the Raiders.

In Week 1 against the Rams, he took a hand­off at the 10-yard line, met sev­eral de­fend­ers near the 4 and kept his feet churn­ing as his line pushed him into the end zone for a touch­down. In Week 4 against the Browns, Lynch forced 11 missed tack­les, ac­cord­ing to Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus, while car­ry­ing 20 times for 130 yards, his big­gest rush­ing out­put since 2014.

Af­ter the Cleve­land game, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Ol­son said coaches made a point of show­ing a play on which Lynch had the ball and was met by a de­fender near the side­line.

“Could’ve eas­ily stepped out of bounds,” Ol­son said, “but con­tin­ued to drive for­ward and get us an­other two, three yards with de­fend­ers in front of him. That’s the player he has al­ways been.”

It’s cer­tainly fa­mil­iar to Sea­hawks head coach Pete Car­roll, who had Lynch in Seat­tle and said on a con­fer­ence call this week Lynch “looks in the same mode, ag­gres­sive and ex­plo­sive.”

Lynch’s best years came af­ter Buf­falo traded him to Seat­tle early in the 2010 sea­son. He made the Pro Bowl with 1,200-plus rush­ing yards ev­ery sea­son from 2011-14, record­ing a ca­reer-high 1,590 yards in 2012 and lead­ing the league in rush­ing touch­downs in 2013 and 2014.

He was a tone-set­ter for Sea­hawks teams that made con­sec­u­tive Su­per Bowls in the 2013 and 2014 sea­sons, beat­ing Den­ver in the first for Seat­tle’s only NFL cham­pi­onship. He is per­haps as well-re­mem­bered there for his two “Beast Quake” post­sea­son runs as for his Su­per Bowl news con­fer­ence in 2014 at which he re­peat­edly an­swered: “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”

No­to­ri­ously me­dia-averse, Lynch this week did not ad­dress fac­ing his for­mer team for the first time since his re­tire­ment in 2016, which he an­nounced by post­ing a photo on Twit­ter of cleats hang­ing from a street wire. Some of his for­mer team­mates, though, spoke glow­ingly to Seat­tle me­dia mem­bers about Lynch’s im­pact while with the team.

“He was amaz­ing,” re­ceiver Doug Bald­win said, ac­cord­ing to the Ta­coma News Tri­bune. “He brought a unique­ness. He was old-school, you know?

“He was gen­uinely who he was, whether it was in the me­dia, at my house for my birth­day, in the locker room, out on the street with his

fam­ily. It didn’t mat­ter. He was who he was. And I think that speaks more vol­umes about the fun or the type of per­son that he was, that he brought to this locker room more so than any­thing.”

Lynch sat out one sea­son be­fore re­turn­ing to play for his home­town Raiders, who faced the Sea­hawks in the pre­sea­son each of the past two years. Lynch did not play in ei­ther of those games but at one point caught up with Car­roll, who made a note of Lynch’s physique.

“I re­marked to him when I saw him the first time he came back around … just how fit he was,” Car­roll said.

“I don’t know what he’s do­ing, but I would at­tribute that (longevity) to he’s re­ally been dili­gent about main­tain­ing his health and well-be­ing and all.”

Ol­son said one of Lynch’s train­ing tech­niques is to wear re­sis­tance bands around his legs dur­ing prac­tice to in­crease his lat­eral strength. Run­ning backs coach Je­mal Sin­gle­ton said Lynch is able to of­ten ab­sorb ini­tial con­tact and gain ex­tra yardage be­cause of his “im­pec­ca­ble feet.”

“He’ll bump and his feet will still be un­der­neath him as op­posed to get­ting knocked over,” said Sin­gle­ton. “He’s got size, strength, speed, feet. And he uses all those tools.”

Lynch gained 300 rush­ing yards in the Raiders’ first four games this sea­son, fourth most in the NFL through Week 4, be­fore be­ing held to 31 yards last Sun­day against the Charg­ers. He has been on the field for 50.3 per­cent of their of­fen­sive snaps — up from 45.7 per­cent last sea­son — split­ting back­field reps with Jalen Richard (35.4 per­cent) and Doug Martin (14 per­cent).

Head coach Jon Gru­den said he re­lies on Sin­gle­ton to mon­i­tor the run­ning backs’ en­ergy in games. Sin­gle­ton said he’ll no­tice when Lynch needs a breather.

“I think when you play with the amount of pas­sion and en­ergy he plays with, you’re go­ing to get tired,” Sin­gle­ton said. “So he does, he gets gassed. But he’s a guy, he knows his body re­ally well. He’s go­ing to push him­self to the limit.

“If he’s com­ing out, he needs to come out. And it doesn’t hap­pen that of­ten. He wants to be out there. He’s go­ing to get tired now and then. But you’d be hard­pressed to find a de­fender on the other side that sees when that hap­pens. When he’s go­ing, he’s go­ing full speed.”

Sin­gle­ton, who coached an­other po­ten­tial Hall of Famer — Frank Gore — the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons with the Colts and in col­lege be­fore that, said Lynch is “just dif­fer­ent.” That could be a tagline for the run­ning back. Lynch has sat dur­ing the pregame na­tional an­them since the start of last sea­son with­out say­ing why. His lone me­dia ses­sion this sea­son came af­ter a Week 3 loss at Mi­ami, when he stood be­hind a garbage can and warned re­porters not to cross his “bar­rier.”

When the Raiders form lines to stretch at prac­tice, Lynch moves away to stretch on his own.

“I think it’s not detri­men­tal to the team,” Sin­gle­ton said of Lynch’s quirks. “And that’s the thing with Mar­shawn — he’s a great player, he’s a great team­mate. You ask any­body. I think some­times the im­age that may get picked up from a cam­era shot or watch­ing prac­tice isn’t the im­age we all see in­side the build­ing. For us, he goes out on Sun­day, he plays his butt off un­like any other.”

Ask oth­ers how Lynch has rec­on­ciled his run­ning style with his longevity and there will be dif­fer­ent an­swers with a com­mon theme. Quar­ter­back Derek Carr said he thinks it “comes down to (Lynch) just want­ing to im­pose his will.” Charg­ers head coach An­thony Lynn de­scribed Lynch as a “very un­sat­is­fied” run­ner who “wants ev­ery inch and ev­ery yard he can get.”

“I think it’s his at­ti­tude,” Nel­son said. “You have to want to do it. Not every­one’s built, not only phys­i­cally, but men­tally, to take that pound­ing or de­liver that pound­ing. I don’t know if he en­joys it or not. But he does a heck of a job do­ing it.”

Scott Straz­zante / The Chron­i­cle

Raiders run­ning Mar­shawn Lynch to­taled 300 rush­ing yards in the Raiders’ first four games this sea­son.

Elaine Thomp­son / As­so­ci­ated Press

Lynch (24) breaks away from a tackle by Saints de­fend­ers to score in an NFC wild-card play­off game in 2011. He won his only Su­per Bowl ti­tle with Seat­tle af­ter the 2013 sea­son.

* Through five games

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