ALAMEDA – Marshawn Lynch didn’t miss playing football last year. Not one bit. He made that point clear during his last meeting with the media.
The veteran running back said several times he returned to represent Oakland, the hometown he champions at every turn. When the Raiders were approved to relocate, Lynch wanted to give the East Bay something to cheer for and admire.
Lynch’s return from retirement wasn’t a half measure. He returned after a year away in great shape, worked well and smart during the preseason and is prepped for games that actually count. He’s excited to represent the Oakland Raiders, formally starting Sunday at Tennessee.
He’s motivated and looks like his old self, in practice anyway. There’s another observation Derek Carr recently made, one vital to a 31-year old playing a young man’s game.
“I see someone who is fresh,” the Raiders quarterback said. “I think anybody with a year off from football would bode well. It’s hard on your body, especially the way that he plays, and he plays running back. We talk about it all the time – I think running back, physically, is one of the most demanding positions in all of sports; the pounding it takes, the speed you have to run with, the knowledge you have to have, your job and assignments.
“I think a year off did him well, to be honest. He seems fresh, energized. He’s really excited, I can tell you. We’ve had a couple of walk-throughs now, and he’s already almost going full speed, so it’ll be fun to see him turn it on.”
Lynch’s talent is clear, and it’s more than just raw power. He has excellent balance and burst, with aggressiveness in his decision-making. The remaining question: how will Lynch hold up over a full season? An abdominal injury ravaged his final year with the Seahawks, but he’s healthy and ready to start the year. The opposition, the first one anyway, expects vintage Marshawn this fall.
“I’m not going to be caught off guard with him,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “He’s a very big, physical back. Obviously, he’s rested. (laughter) So, we’re well aware of what he can do. I don’t think there will be any slow-down in his game. He’s got that mentality that he can’t be stopped and that’s the biggest part of playing at this level. If you don’t think they can stop you, it’s hard to. So, we’ll be prepared for him."