Each day in Raiders camp, the crowd of fans takes the stands to watch practice. And from the moment the players take the field you begin to hear a fairly constant smattering of fans yelling “Marshawn!” or “Beast Mode”. Many times those fans proudly show off that they were among those fans who made Lynch’s jersey among the top offseason sellers.
With the amount of attention Marshawn Lynch sees in Napa, you’d think this team was pinning their season on him. It can feel that way at times simply because around these parts, he is a larger than life figure. A celebrity among celebrities.
He doesn’t do his stretches with the other running backs. He prefers to plant himself between the lines of players on the end right next to Khalil Mack. Perhaps the only player on this team other than Derek Carr who holds the same super star status as Lynch does.
About halfway through Tuesday’s practice, Lynch was again working on his own, running with an elastic rope the stretched some 50 yards from the clubhouse to the back of the east end zone.
A short time later, while in drills with the other backs, on that same area adjacent the practice fields and away from the view of the fans, he went down hurt and stayed crouched for a few moments recovering. He then got up and began trying to walk off whatever had happened.
Even with the fact that we know the only player this team can’t afford to lose is Derek Carr, the moments Lynch was wincing and hobbling were tense ones. Fan reactions to my tweet about it had an expected dread to them. It’s a unique situation in which it’s hard to measure just how much it means to some fans to get to see Lynch play in a Raiders uniform this season.
At the age of 31 and after a year and a half away from football, no one would expect him to bounce up and get right back into things. Ant yet within a couple minutes, the horn blew to get back into team sessions, and there was Lynch in the first team huddle.
Almost as if to prove a point for any of us who saw him shaking off his little moment, the first two plays were him carrying the ball up the gut and then out left. Later in the day, he burst up the middle, made a couple moves to elude linebackers and raced into the secondary.
He was fine. All was right with the world.
“He’s a very passionate player,” Jack Del Rio said to start training camp. “I think of toughness and physicality. . . He’s healthy and in good shape and ready to have a good year for us.”
Throughout Beast Mode’s career, he was a fairly durable player. Those who would suggest he won’t come back strong or won’t stay healthy like to point to his final season in which he fought through an injury before eventually ending his season after 7 games averaging 3.8 yards per carry.
He retired after that season which took its toll on him behind a poor offensive line that had him averaging more of his yards after contact (2.0).
A season away from football and he had the itch again. He stayed in shape, but being in shape and being in football shape are two different things. The Raiders want him healthy as much as the fans do. That meant easing him into things, which they did throughout the offseason, increasing his workload only incrementally. But since camp has started, the team doesn’t appear to be limiting him.
“He looks like a guy who’s been out a year,” Jack Del Rio said Tuesday with a wry smile. “No, he’s doing a great job working wisely. We’re bringing him along. We’ve been smart about it the whole offseason. He’s doing the things we’re asking him to do. He’s fully committed. I like the way he’s progressing.”
No one questions Beast Mode’s commitment. They know his personality, what he’s all about, and that when it’s time to go, he’s ready to leave it all on the field. Whether it be a practice rep or in a game.
That first game rep could happen this Saturday when the Raiders head to Arizona to open the preseason. Or a week later in Oakland. And when it does happen, hold onto your butts.
Also see: Raiders training camp day 9 wrap