ALAMEDA, Calif. — Marshawn Lynch spoke to Bay Area reporters Tuesday for the first time since his April signing.
He kept it authentic.
The Raiders running back spoke calmly, his voice barely audible to those nearby. He wore a black sweatshirt with a hoodie draped over his dreadlocks. He spoke openly about Oakland, his hometown city for which he now plays, as a profanity or three slipped through a press conference that was televised live nationally.
But perhaps nothing was more authentic than the cited reason he was there.
Lynch, a graduate of Oakland Technical High and college product of nearby California, Berkeley, said he decided to come out of retirement and join the Raiders “when I found out they was leaving” for Las Vegas in 2020. He elaborated in detail the depth of his connection to Oakland and its role in his decision to return to football following a one-year void.
Playing for Oakland, he said, is a “dream come true.”
“It’s always been something, being from Oakland, that you want to play at home or have the opportunity,” Lynch, 31, said. “Them staying (in Oakland) probably wouldn’t have been so big for me to want to come and play. Knowing that they was leaving, a lot of the kids here probably won’t have an opportunity to see most of their idols growing up, being they (won’t) be in the hometown anymore. With me being from here, continuing to be here, it gives them an opportunity.”
Objectively, this is an attractive time to join the Raiders.
The team is considered on the rise, led by ascending quarterback Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, the 2016 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year. It boasts one of the league’s best offensive lines. The franchise is coming off a 12-4 campaign, its highest regular-season win total since 2000.
Lynch said such details are “great, but it’s more about Oakland, though.”
“The way we feel about where we’re from and why we represent where we’re from so hard is because we know what the struggle is and how we get down,” Lynch said. “Every home game that I get to come to this (stadium), I’m probably going to be riding with the whole town. … It ain’t like, ‘I’m comin’ to ya’ll city and riding with ya’ll.’ This is actually born and raised and bred and pissing in hallways and running down them alleyways. I really did that right here, and now I get an opportunity to play here.”
And impress here.
The Raiders have eased him along this spring, as he learns offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s playbook. His number of team reps has gradually increased over the course of the three-week organized team activities. In the first week, Lynch wasn’t in helmet at practice during a session open to reporters. Last week, he mostly stood near the offensive huddle when Carr relayed a playcall to teammates. He’d then watch, absorbing mental reps as a fellow running back executed the call.
This week has been different.
The team practiced Monday. Hours later, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio posted an 8-second video clip on Twitter of Lynch weaving through the defense, albeit in a non-contact practice, for a long touchdown. That Del Rio felt compelled to share a Lynch carry may be more revealing than the impressive clip itself, speaking to the regard to which the coaching staff holds Lynch thus far.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. was in Seattle with Lynch from 2010 to 2014.
He said he sees “no question” the same Lynch today as he did then.
“Marshawn is a competitor,” Norton, Jr. said. “I think his experience and his success speaks for itself. He’s a fine addition to the Oakland Raiders.”
Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at email@example.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.