It was reported Thursday that the Oakland Raiders are expected to acquire Marshawn Lynch from the Seattle Seahawks via trade, contingent upon the running back’s agreement to a restructured contract.
If the Bay Area legend does come out of retirement after one year away from football, that’s a massive victory for the NFL, which gets to bring back arguably its most charismatic star.
Lynch announced his retirement with incomparable style during Super Bowl 50, posting a photo of his green cleats dangling from a telephone cable on Twitter, captioned only with a peace sign emoji. The decision caught fans and league personnel by surprise: Lynch was one year removed from a campaign where he led the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns. Upon reflection, it seemed fitting that the famously reticent player would attempt to go out without much fanfare.
In the immediate aftermath of his announcement, numerous fans and journalists tried to persuade Lynch to change his decision. The five-time Pro Bowler, whose aversion to interviews rendered him a polarizing figure, grimaced at the notion of coming out of retirement, instead traveling the world and focusing on initiatives to strengthen his hometown of Oakland.
No one but Lynch knows the impetus for his return, but it makes sense that the Bay Area’s beloved native son would suit up for the Raiders before the franchise moves to Las Vegas.
The NFL must be at least as thrilled as his hometown. The 30-year-old’s inspired a legion of fans with his candor and his proclivity for extracting the maximum enjoyment out of his life. Though the league’s teeming with players full of swagger, Lynch’s trademark cool can’t be replicated, and despite his lack of interest in traditional self-promotion, he’s adored by a large faction of nonconformists. That Lynch’s every move seems to irk the conservative wing of sports journalism only adds to the conversation surrounding the NFL.
From a strict football perspective, Lynch’s comeback marks the return of a truly unique power running game. Including playoffs, Lynch still leads the league in broken tackles from the 2013 season on despite his retirement, according to data compiled by Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus. Skeptics will (rightfully) note that Lynch’s last season was marred by injury, and he only rushed for 417 yards and three touchdowns in four games. He turns 31 next week. The history of aging running backs would suggest “Beast Mode” is likely over.
The obvious counterpoint: Count Lynch out at your own peril.
Returning to the field allows Lynch to fortify his case for induction into the Hall of Fame until he decides he’s definitely no longer interested in playing pro football. In the meantime, the NFL will be happy to regain an inimitable figure who keeps people talking – even when he isn’t.
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