SARASOTA, Fla. – Marshawn Lynch arrived at the Ritz Carlton hotel here around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night, right on schedule.
His entrance was unceremonious, escorted by Raiders security through the lobby, right into a elevator. Just like that, Marshawn was back.
He spent last week suspended, forced away from the team by NFL as punishment for unsportsmanlike conduct in a Week 7 victory over Kansas City. We all know the story by now, that Lynch left the sideline to join an on-field skirmish, made contact with an official trying to get great friend, fellow Oakland native and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters out of harm’s way.
He lost a week’s wages and an opportunity to help the Raiders stay on track after the Chiefs win. The Raiders fell off in a 34-14 loss to Buffalo, where every running back fumbled. Lynch has fumbled once since the 2014 season’s start.
The Raiders needed efficient runs. He wasn’t there to provide them.
Head coach Jack Del Rio wasn’t thrilled with Lynch’s suspension or the punishment-worthy actions, though he has strayed from publicly criticizing him much when given the chance.
The Raiders need all hands on deck trying to make a second-half run.
“He’s a physical guy. He brings passion for the game,” Del Rio said. “Those are things that we welcome back.”
Lynch is a popular locker-room presence. His return the team was welcomed.
"He’s a great guy. He’s a funny guy, keeps everybody up,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “We know what he brings to the game of football. We look forward to having him back this week.”
His role hasn’t been clearly defined. He was averaging 10 carries and 3.7 yards per game, a relatively disappointing sum for someone expected to lift the Raiders run game. The ground attack has looked lost at times, and seemed to be featuring Jalen Richard/DeAndre Washington against the Chiefs.
Those two didn’t preform well in Buffalo, however, meaning Lynch could return to a steadier carry volume often required for him to wear down a defense.
The Raiders rank a dismal 26th in rushing, with just 88 yards per game. They’d like to be steadier Sunday against a Miami defense that’s the NFL’s 8th best. The goal this week is to dictate tempo with physicality.
“He’s a physical player, we all know that,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “…When you get a guy like Marshawn who does that really well, I think we’re more apt to let him do those kinds of things. Whatever it is, whatever we have to do as a team, I think we’re all in. I think our guys are understanding that there’s no room for mistakes now. We have to go out and we have to perform. We to go and do it in a physical manner.”
He can be a tone setter when going strong, and must do that more often in the second half.
“Marshawn is a great player, a great running back, a really tough runner,” receiver Amari Cooper said. “He adds value to our offense.”