NEW YORK — Marshawn Lynch answered the questions this time, providing the conclusion to a manufactured Super Bowl week sideshow.
If last week was about Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, this week has kept Lynch in the spotlight. He doesn’t like speaking with reporters. The NFL threatened to fine him if he didn’t do it anyway. A journalism organization wrote that it was “appalled” by Lynch’s behavior.
And so Lynch submitted, sitting there for more than seven minutes Thursday, and this is how the spectacle ended.
“It’s what the NFL wanted. They wanted to make a story. Any publicity for the NFL is good publicity,” Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “. . . Forcing him to speak is absurd. It’s ridiculous.”
As the empty outrage intensified and finally deflated, the brief and forgettable life cycle of a hollow story, the Denver Broncos weren’t concerned with Lynch’s words but rather with the fact that, in his seventh season, he has become known as one of the NFL’s most dangerous runners. He is strong and quick, and although second-year quarterback Russell Wilson is his team’s biggest offensive star, Lynch is the main reason the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl.
“I really don’t have too much to say, boss. I really don’t,” he said Thursday. “I appreciate it, but I don’t get it. I’m just here so I won’t get fined, boss. That’s the only reason I’m here.”
He rushed for 1,257 yards during the regular season, his third consecutive season with at least 1,200 yards. And the most interesting thing about Lynch isn’t that he’s private, complicated and maybe a little weird. It’s that, in 2010, the Buffalo Bills gave up on him and traded him for a pair of middle-round draft picks.
Back then, he was seen as a disappointment and somewhat of a liability. Lynch had been a bruising rusher at California, and Buffalo took him with the No. 12 overall pick in 2007. He was an immediate starter, rushing for at least 1,000 yards in his first two seasons, but then Fred Jackson was the more effective back. To make matters worse, Lynch was the driver in a hit-and-run in 2008, and a year later he was arrested for carrying a concealed gun, for which the NFL suspended Lynch three games.
The Bills selected C.J. Spiller in the first round of the 2010 draft, and in October of that year, Buffalo was finished with Lynch. The team sent him to Seattle for a fourth-rounder, which the Bills spent on offensive tackle Chris Hairston (a backup who didn’t play in 2013 because of an illness) and a fifth-rounder, used on linebacker Tank Carder (who didn’t make the team as a rookie).
And so Lynch headed west, looking for a career reboot. He was mediocre in 2010, rushing for 573 yards and six touchdowns, but the next season, something changed. He became the centerpiece of Seattle’s offense, finishing with a career-high 285 carries; Lynch had 315 carries in 2012 and 301 in 2013.
“He turns a no-gain into a plus-10 and sometimes a plus-50,” Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. “. . . He finds a lot of holes that a lot of backs in this league don’t find. He makes cuts that you see Adrian Peterson make and LeSean McCoy make. Yesterday we were watching tape, and there were some cuts I saw for the first time and was just like: ‘Wow.’ ”
Lynch quieted critics with his game, but his off-field behavior and attitude have kept the sharks from drifting away. He was charged with drunken driving in 2012, a case that’s still pending, and he refused to speak to reporters this season — amplifying questions about his attitude and maturity.
Which is what this week has mostly been about, when Lynch spent six and a half minutes answering questions during Seattle’s media-day session and most of the next 531 / 2 minutes standing against a wall, his eyes covered in dark glasses and his head wrapped in a tight hoodie. On Wednesday, he had teammate Michael Robinson answer questions on his behalf and then climbed over chairs to abruptly end the session.
Still, teammates supported Lynch and several said it was unfair that the NFL requires players to answer questions — or give them a hefty fine. They said Lynch is a fun, outgoing man who eats Skittles on the sideline, and on Thursday they said he likes offensive line coach Tom Cable because he punches people.
“He’s a great person. He talks a lot more to us than media,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “I think it’s just a thing where he’s not that type of person to open up to people. When you force somebody like that to talk to you, he’s just going to shut down even more.”
So there have been few stories this week of Lynch’s rebound, almost no sound bites about the things he has learned and the growth he has made as a player and person. He said he prefers to let his play speak for him, and for the past three seasons, that has said plenty.
After he was finished Thursday, another short question-and-answer session, Lynch was off the hook. There are no more news conferences, and he said he had no problem with that.
“It’s going to be good to get back to football,” Lynch said. “Very good.”