Marshawn Unchained

Marshawn Lynch knows what’s best for him, even if it keeps him on the low and in the shadows. He’s cool with that. He’s had enough negative publicity in his career – the most “hood” being a felony toast toting charge just one week after playing his first Pro Bowl in ’08. The cops also found blunts up in his Mercedes, outing Lynch as a member of the “mind-elevation” movement. This turn of events landed Lynch a three-game suspension, cost him $112,000 racks and eventually his starting job to Fred Jackson.

Prior to that, Lynch was the subject of a hit-and-run investigation and the target of a drive-by shooting outside his prep alma mater. Fast forward to July ‘12, and Lynch adds a DUI to the mix.

Momentary clouds often cover the dopeness and ferociousness of Lynch’s all-around game. He’s called “Beast Mode” because, as he’s shown time and again…and one mo gain’ in Sunday’s Wild Card win over the Redskins, human hits on football fields are an afterthought. When locked and loaded, Lynch sheds defenders like melted skin on a burn victim. He’s the post-millennium John Riggins when he gets to rumbling.

Throughout Lynch’s pro career, injuries and immaturity have hindered his rise to big boy status and stopped him from playing full seasons. In a stellar rookie season that saw him become the first Bills new jack since Greg Bell to rush for over a 1,000 yards, Lynch missed three games with a bum ankle. In ‘08, a shoulder injury knocked him out of the season finale. In ‘09, his suspension set his Buffalo exit in motion, and in ‘10, after suffering a preseason ankle sprain, he was traded to the Seattle Seahawks on October 5.

In the NFL, being injury prone and a trouble magnet is like flying planes coked up; nobody has any faith in you. Word on the street was that Lynch was hanging with the wrong crowd. The money went to his head, and his mama even publicly threatened to “pull the reigns in” on him for being a first-rate athlete exhibiting second–rate behavior.

On the field, Lynch has been a second-fiddle footballer to Adrian Peterson’s rise to immortality. Lynch ended his high school career in 2004, with positioning him as the second-ranked running back in the nation behind Peterson.

Both players had stellar college careers and left after their junior seasons. Lynch broke records for an unheralded Cal team and got some shine. Peterson’s work at powerhouse Oklahoma earned him a seat at the Heisman ceremony. Peterson was even five picks better than Lynch in the ’07 NFL Draft.

Add a pro career which, despite some success, has been a 10-yard gain compared to Peterson’s break-away billing, and maybe that’s why Lynch did everything he could to draw attention to himself, from rocking assorted grills to ghost riding injury carts during college games.

Lynch is generally known as a great teammate and cordial guy. He’s active in community affairs. He is often stoic and doesn’t speak much, but the self-proclaimed Beast Mode title seems to fit him perfectly. He has a switch that he flips which takes him from 0 to 100 in no time flat.

Luckily for Lynch, 'Hawks coach Pete Carroll has spent a career dealing with eccentric personalities. It was always a good bet Carroll would provide Lynch with the supportive boost he needed to put it all together. That’s why Seattle gave Lynch a $31 million deal, with $18 million guaranteed in March. Even after his DUI snafu, Carroll stood by his running back and set the course towards the Seahawks first winning season since 2007.

“We talked our way through it, understand it and I was pleased the way we were able to interact so we could be on top of it,” Carroll told the AP shortly after the incident. “We’ll make it through."

They’ve accomplished that and then some. Lynch has remained focused, rushing for 1,590 yards, third all-time in franchise history. He played all 16 games and was selected to his first Pro Bowl since 2008.

Lynch hasn’t received over-the-top props for his breakout campaign. Cats like Alfred Morris and – yeah, him again – Peterson had historic seasons, but keeping his nose clean and his ground game gangsta’ makes Lynch the offensive chainsaw to the Seahawks’ gritty gang.

In the larger scheme of things, he’s the shadow to Wilson’s side show, doing whatever it takes to keep pace with the stage of brilliance Wilson sets. It’s not that Lynch is dope because of Wilson. If anything, Lynch’s ability to make Jim Brown-like runs at any moment, has aided Wilson’s development.

These days, the attention is on Lynch’s running, not the complexities of his personality. It was Lynch who rebounded from a costly fumble to rush for 132 yards, including the game-winning score helping the Seahawks erase a 14-0 deficit to the streaking Skins.

In this pass happy NFL, playoff-game plans tend to shift to an emphasis on short yardage, defense and the occasional big play. Lynch’s peak performance comes at the most opportune time for the Seahawks, a hot choice to rep the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Next stop is Atlanta in the Divisional game. Lynch will be on full display, setting it on defenders, eating clock, grabbing passes off the read option -– doing all of the things that make him the most dangerous back left in the postseason. A.D’s Vikings got kicked to the curb by Green Bay. For the first time, Lynch has an opportunity to truly steal the spotlight, but he doesn’t need it. He’s part of something special, and that’s good enough for him.

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