Away from media, no Seahawk speaks louder than Lynch
There is a convenient picture of Marshawn Lynch to paint with one brush stroke, and that is of a young man with far less intelligence than he truly has.
Admittedly, Lynch makes it easy to do that, with his one-sentence answers to questions from the media — from "I’m thankful" earlier this season to "I’m just here so I don’t get fined" during Super Bowl XLIX Media Day on Tuesday. Dig no deeper and one can easily come away from the scrum thinking the Seattle Seahawks running back isn’t smart enough to realize he’s only making this worse on himself by refusing to entertain basic questions.
But putting aside the argument about whether Lynch’s tactic is a wise one, know his coaches and teammates believe he’s a much brighter guy than his interviews would have one believe.
As Pete Carroll told me when we went 1-on-1, despite perceptions, "there’s a lot of thought" that goes into Lynch’s actions. And Lynch’s intelligence goes beyond his own actions, and is an asset in the locker room.
"Everybody is always so intimidated by Marshawn, and he looks like an intimidating guy, I agree with you, but Marshawn is a real cool dude," wide receiver and NFC Championship Game hero Jermaine Kearse said. "Just being able to talk to him, he gives good life lessons."
Kearse paused, sighed and sort of grimaced before continuing.
"I wish he would express that," he said, "but I think if he doesn’t want to talk he doesn’t have to."
The sentiment is similar with many of Lynch’s teammates. They wish he would talk. Not because his media boycott has a negative impact on the team. Not because they’re worried he’s always toeing the line of getting fined by the NFL. And not because they feel they have to defend him from the public backlash. It’s because they know the guy who went to college at Cal has so much to offer.
They know because they’ve experienced it themselves.
Ask enough of Lynch’s teammates about him — and since he wasn’t talking, we did — and an image of a sage giver of advice begins to emerge. He’s not a silent, disgruntled member of the team. He’s not even merely one of those guys who’s funny if you get to know him. Lynch is more than that; he’s apparently a pillar inside a locker room of strong personalities.
"He’s a very wise man, and I do go to Marshawn for advice," cornerback Richard Sherman said. "I think people are very quick to criticize and judge people that they’ve never met, that they’ve never had a conversation with, and it’s disheartening the way they judge him and ridicule him at times, because the people who know him and know his heart and have spoken to him understand who he is as a person and a player, know how contrary the reports are to who he really is.
"He’s a great mentor, he’s a great person, he’s a great friend, he’s a great brother, he’s a great father figure to a lot of people in his community."
Sherman noted Lynch, who drew headlines in November when he returned a lost wallet to the owner after he found it at a gas station, works closely with children through his Fam 1st Family Foundation and his annual football camp. But the more intriguing story was one that was rather fitting, given Lynch’s propensity to not follow the rules or fear retribution when breaking them. Sherman said Lynch brings kids to practice "with or without the Seahawks’ permission — kids that would have never otherwise been at a Seahawks practice, or meet these players and have their lives’ dreams realized, and he does that out of the kindness of his heart."
Sherman is a smart guy. He’s another one whose intelligence has been underrated at times, mostly because he’s been caught ranting toward other players (Tom Brady) or during a postgame interview (with FOX’s Erin Andrews). Sherman’s Stanford degree should be enough proof he knows exactly what he’s saying most of the time, and that’s exactly what New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft cited when he said Sherman’s shot at him and commissioner Roger Goodell regarding their relationship was calculated.
Sherman also took an arguably better approach to criticize the NFL’s rule regarding mandatory interviews when he said "every one of the NFL’s personnel should be obligated to speak weekly" and mentioned Goodell by name. That’s the less-spiteful and more-thoughtful tact than Lynch’s strategy.
So here is a sharp, sly guy in Sherman going to Lynch for life lessons. What does that say about the power of Lynch’s words when he decides to share them?
Sherman declined to divulge any stories about Lynch providing him advice, but safety Kam Chancellor shared one.
At the start of this regular season, Chancellor was voted one of the team captains and was admittedly struggling with the role. The Seahawks as a team were going through some turmoil on account of the Percy Harvin situation, some players looking for contract extensions and the general pressure of defending a Super Bowl title. Chancellor was trying hard — too hard — to be a voice that would bring the locker room together.
"Bruh, this is stressing me out man,” Chancellor recalled saying to Lynch.
“Man, bruh, you control what you want to control," Lynch replied, per Chancellor. "You don’t have to do or meet everybody’s needs because everybody’s not going to follow what you say, or do this and that cause we’re all human."
Said Chancellor, "He definitely took a lot of stress off my back and showed me that you can’t fix everything and you can’t be the answer to everything. You gotta leave it to the Man upstairs."
Unfortunately for reporters on hand Tuesday and probably for the rest of the week, Lynch wasn’t willing to share any other pearls of wisdom. There’s no word yet on whether the NFL will fine him. Last year, he got away with participating for only a few minutes. Last week after the NFC Championship Game, he didn’t talk to the media but temporarily dodged a fine. (Keep an eye on that one and on a potential fine for Lynch wearing a non-NFL-sanctioned "Beast Mode" hat to Media Day.)
The NFL’s stance on the issue is understandable. If the league made media access optional, Lynch would have a lot of company on his way out the door. And Lynch’s approach could also be justified. It’s a standoff that will probably continue for as long as Lynch is in the league.
Just don’t use it as evidence Lynch doesn’t have much to offer.
"He’s actually a really great guy," Kearse said. "You could talk to him about anything, whether its finances, social life, anything. He’s a good person to talk to."