ALAMEDA – Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch left Seattle with a tweet. A pair of neon green shoes hung over a utility wire, with a peace out emoji under the illustration.
And, just like that, BeastMode was retired. He spent the year doing Marshawn things, globetrotting and building a brand and giving back to his native Oakland.
He has said he didn’t miss football, but he returned just the same. He didn’t go back to Seattle, which technically held his rights. He orchestrated a trade to play for his hometown Raiders starting in 2017.
Lynch's first regular-season game against his old team comes Sunday in London – there have been preseason affairs where Lynch didn’t play – but odds of hearing how he feels about it are slim.
Lynch rarely speaks to the press. Waxing philosophic about the old days wouldn’t likely be a thing even if he did. Maybe it’s a huge deal. Maybe he hasn’t given it a moment’s thought. Or maybe the London-ness of this affair takes the fun out of it.
It is, however, cause to discuss Lynch’s good ol’ days and how he remains effective at age 32. He’s in a few Seattle newspapers today, and he has been brought up in most every press interaction advancing this game in the East Bay and Pacific Northwest.
There are a few common themes.
Lynch runs hard as heck, as violent as ever. He’s beloved by both sides, including the Seahawks locker room after he abruptly retired. He may not shout into microphones, but he’s fiercely loyal and leads by example.
“He is a great teammate,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I haven’t met a player, someone in Seattle, Buffalo, here, anyone that’s been with him that didn’t like him as a teammate. He’s a great, great teammate. If you ever need anything for some kids or you ever need someone to be there for something, he’s always there.”
Lynch has that reputation here in Oakland, where he’d win the mayor’s office in a landslide. Oakland loves Lynch, who represents The Town as well as anyone, and devoted time and resources to its improvement.
He meant a great deal to Seattle and his Seahawks teammates, and that started by being genuine.
“I mean, we loved it,” Baldwin told reporters, via the News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash. “He was beloved in this locker room because of that.
“He would speak how he felt. If he was wrong, he would come back and apologize to the people that he wronged. But for the most part, you respected the man because he was who he was. He didn’t try to act like something he wasn’t. He didn’t pretend with you guys in the media then come back into the locker room and act differently. He was who he was consistently, throughout and throughout.”
Lynch was a consistently powerful runner during Seattle’s glory days, when he exceeded 1,200 yards in four straight seasons. He might not hit that plateau this season, but he’s running as hard and violent now as he was then.
When given the opportunity to establish a rhythm, Lynch has been good and far better than he was a year ago. Take the Week 4 victory over Cleveland as an example. He broke 11 tackles on 20 carries earning 130 yards. He was vintage Marshawn, running through and over people for extra yards.
“I think he looks really, very much the same,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said in a conference call with Raiders reporters. “I really like the way he is playing. I mean last year and this year. He looks in the same style, in the same mode, aggressive and explosive. He’s averaging over four yards a carry. I think he’s doing pretty good.
“I think he has done a remarkable job of maintaining his fitness. I remarked to him when I saw him the first time he came back around, he was getting going in preseason or whatever, just how fit he was. I don’t know what he’s doing but I would attribute that to he’s really been diligent about maintaining his health and well-being and all.”
The Seahawks are running well recently, but that doesn’t mean they’ve found another Lynch. He didn’t seem to leave on great terms with the organization, but there’s plenty of affection for him in that franchise.
“It’s football,” Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “I mean, I’m looking at all of you, right. You all make a big deal out of football. But truth be told, at the end of the day, when we are on our deathbeds, football means nothing. Right? It really means nothing at the end of the day.
It doesn’t matter how many ... like, I was talking to K.J. (Wright) about this earlier today: I don’t care how many tackles he makes, or how many interceptions he has. I want to know, is he a good husband. Is he a good father to his children? Those are the most important things. “So, honestly, don’t really care how it ended. Because I know the man. My relationship with Marshawn, and his relationship with guys he’s spent time with in this locker room, that doesn’t change — no matter if he’s in a different uniform, if he’s in a different country, doesn’t matter.
“He’s still Marshawn. He’s still our brother.”