February 16, 2015 - Jeff Fedotin
Why does Marshawn Lynch hate speaking to the media?
I’m just here so I won’t get fined. Nothing drew more attention during the Super Bowl week media sessions than that declaration, which Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch repeated 29 times during his obligatory press conference. Why does Lynch go to such efforts to avoid answering questions from the media? “I don’t think he likes to deal with the phoniness,” Michael Robinson, Lynch’s former teammate with the Seahawks, told NFP. During their four-plus years together with Seattle, Robinson became so close to Lynch that he served as his unofficial spokesman and still refers to him as a “brother.” Robinson made the point that Lynch feels the media too often dwells on negative stories and also that he feels his play on the field should speak for itself and not require further explanation. If someone did want to glean more from Lynch about him as a person and player, Robinson said the best tactic is to go to one of Lynch’s community service events — especially those involving the Fam 1st Family Foundation — about which the running back is passionate. Show real interest in that, and he would open up. “If more media would come into his world during the offseason — and not only when they’re looking for a DUI story or something crazy like that,” Robinson said, “they’d get a lot more out of him.” Instead, Lynch’s standoffish dealings with the media stand out drastically from those of the other most recognizable Seahawks — very polished quarterback Russell Wilson and very loquacious cornerback Richard Sherman. Lynch conducts himself much differently. “He marches by the beat of his own drum,” Robinson said. Lynch’s bizarre behavior with the media reached its apex during the week of Super Bowl XLIX. His “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” comment became embedded in pop culture with everyone from Katy Perry to Tiger Woods facetiously repeating it in public. Such sideshows may have been prevented if Robinson, his backfield mate who similarly overcame a rough upbringing, was still on the team. Robinson, who last played for the Seahawks during their Super Bowl-winning 2013 season and now works for NFL Media, had his locker next to Lynch. “I was able to diffuse some situations just because I understood where he was coming from, and we were able to get some quotes out of him during the week,” Robinson said. “He knows that I understand him. There were times where they’re asking questions, and I could tell it’s a little awkward moment and I would jump in and answer it.” Some have theorized that the awkward open locker room sessions and press conferences could be a result of a social anxiety disorder, something that plagues more athletes than is commonly depicted. (Think Ricky Williams delivering interviews with his helmet on during his early days with the Saints.) But Robinson insisted that Lynch does not suffer from an anxiety disorder. “That’s not Marshawn,” he said. “If you go back to his Buffalo days before people viewed him in the light of ‘this great running back,’ he did interviews all the time.” Riding that great running back, the Seahawks returned to the Super Bowl this season but lost on an infamous goal-line play. Instead of running the ball to Lynch, who had rushed for 102 yards, Seattle attempted to throw a slant pass to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, which Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler picked off. Some called it the worst the play-call in NFL history. Other conspiracy theorists even suggested that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wanted to make the mediagenic Wilson the hero rather than the enigmatic Lynch. Is Lynch peeved that he did not receive that last carry? Does he hold a grudge? “I have not specifically asked him about the play — and if I did — I probably wouldn’t tell you anyway,” Robinson said, laughing. “But again, I know where this guy’s from. I’m from a similar area. You talk about a guy who’s dealt with best friends dying, best friends being locked up for life, fathers not being around. I mean real life stuff, heavy. Not winning football games is kind of down on the list — as opposed to being at the top.” Though Lynch keeps the significance of football in proper perspective, it’s hard to imagine the Seahawks returning to the NFL’s most important stage next year without him. But with just one year at $7 million left on his deal, rumors have swirled that he might hold out — or even retire. Lynch takes a pounding. His violent style is so aggressive that it has been dubbed “Beast Mode.” And many have suggested that, even though the 28 year old is coming off a season in which he ran for 1,306 yards and 13 touchdowns, he won’t subject himself to another year of such physical punishment. Robinson hopes and believes he will continue playing. “If I was a betting man — which I’m not,” he said, “I would bet on him playing next year for Seattle.” Follow Jeff on Twitter: @JFedotin Jeff Fedotin has written for Packers.com, Pro Football Weekly, ESPN The Magazine, the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World and Rivals.com. After graduating from Northwestern University, he interned for the Buffalo Bills. During his football playing days at Pembroke Hill (Mo.) School, Fedotin was known for his bad knees and even worse blocking.