NEWARK, N.J. -- On the NFL’s annual Celebrate Stupid Questions Day, the Super Bowl participant who fielded the fewest queries still became the biggest story.
That would be Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, whose media relations tend to sway between dormancy and contempt. Forcing Lynch to participate in the league’s media day circus is like requiring Rush Limbaugh to produce a campaign ad for Hillary Clinton.
But force him they did.
We might have something called freedom of speech in America, but there is no freedom of unspeech, particularly not in the NFL, where even a mere hesitancy to promote the Super Bowl with every last vocal cord is set down right there in the Bill of Wrongs.
Already fined $50,000 for non-cooperation once this season, the league indicated any further non-compliance could result in $100,000 penalty for Lynch, who happens to be the only player in the league to have rushed for at least 1,000 yards and at least 10 touchdowns each of the past three seasons.
That Lynch sidestepped a further invasion of his finances with six low-energy minutes of media shadowboxing Tuesday at the Prudential Center while his teammates did a full hour actually was unexpected, as most veteran Lynch watchers predicted this circus would unveil Marshawn as its jerk du soleil.
“My fans love me regardless,” Lynch said when asked about his media posture. “They love the Seahawks. They aren’t worried about what I’ve got to say. They just want to make sure I show up to perform.”
Funny Marshawn would mention that because evidence that he might be exactly right had just been collected. In the minutes before the Seahawks were fed to a media swarm swollen at its extremities by “journalists” who would present Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor with a pair of lucky underwear and ask who he favored Sunday (he likes the Seahawks), the only chance of getting something out of Lynch seemed to be to talk to the only guy in the building who was wearing his jersey.
That’s how I wound up interviewing Jordan Slack, a young man from Seattle wearing a backpack over his No. 24 Lynch jersey while recording what he called “low key footage” for a Seattle media company.
He viewed Lynch’s non-compliance thusly:
“In the past, he may have been misunderstood when things were said, so his mentality is just, ‘It’s not worth it; I should probably just go on the field and do my thing as opposed to saying stuff in the media and maybe get misconstrued,’” Slack explained. “You saw what happened to [Richard] Sherman. They’re all good guys. They all handle it different. I respect it. Respect his decision.
“I almost respect him more for [not talking]. If he’s willing to take that hit [a fine], especially if it means winning the Super Bowl. Why talk to the media now if you haven’t all year? Now you’re at the Super Bowl. Don’t change it up now if it’s been winning for you.”
Slack is a Seahawks fan, maybe you sensed, but I’m not sure he hasn’t overthought Lynch’s position, which appears closer to, as the man himself put it, “ain’t my thing.” But it likely goes beyond that.
“I heard he did a great six minutes,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll quipped about the only running back in this postseason to put 100-yard performances back-to-back. “He doesn’t feel comfortable in settings like this. And he doesn’t like to do things he’s told to do. Fortunately, that hasn’t been a factor for our football team.”
Lynch has demonstrated through much of his career that he doesn’t feel certain protocols should apply to him as well as some laws such as when he hit a Buffalo pedestrian with his Porsche and left the scene, or when he was arrested on a felony gun charge he got bargained down to a misdemeanor, or even as his California DUI case works its way toward a February court date.
None of those things came up during Lynch’s brief and all-but-pointless NFL Network interview with Deion Sanders, whom Lynch told he likes to “mind my own business, stay in my own lane.” But, in those few minutes, you at least had a slice of Media Day spectacle, a guy who never wanted to talk getting interviewed by a guy who never wanted to stop.
“I’m just about action,” Lynch said. “You say, ‘hut,’ and there’s action. All the unnecessary talk, it don’t do nothing for me. I appreciate that people want to hear me, but I just go to work and do my thing. You feel me?”
The Denver Broncos will feel him Sunday, most certainly, and he does pack a wallop. If Lynch’s on-field excellence winds up separating Peyton Manning and his teammates from what many feel is their destiny, I wonder if Marshawn might become suddenly loquacious.
Sometimes football is funny that way.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org.