He sat uncomfortably in front of a room full of reporters. Microphones were jabbed in his face. Invasive questions were rolled out with reckless abandon. He shifted nervously in his seat. His Pro Bowl fullback stood to his left, offering a friendly smile with a tape recorder.
It's a known fact by now that Marshawn Lynch doesn't like to talk to reporters. But the members of the sports media in the room Wednesday weren't deterred by his shy disposition. The microphones and questions came just like they would if they were directed at anyone else. It was the answers that were drastically different.
"What do you think of all this media attention?" one reporter asked.
Marshawn shifted again uncomfortably before answering:
"I'm just here so I won't get fined, boss."
Nothing like brutal honesty. Lynch prefers to let his attitude on the field do the talking for him, and he has said several times that he doesn't like to talk much about it.
"It's the way I was raised, man," he told Deion Sanders in a surprisingly insightful Tuesday interview. "Ain't never seen talkin' win nothin'."
Wednesday's media session made Lynch look visibly uncomfortable. It was sometimes hard to watch, especially from a fan's standpoint with prior knowledge about Lynch's social anxiety.
On the field, Lynch is the most punishing, relentless runner in the NFL not named Adrian Peterson. In 2013, he amassed over 1,200 yards rushing in his third consecutive season, adding 12 touchdowns on the ground in that time. In his postseason career, he has four rush TDs of 25 yards or more, which is a current NFL record. The Seahawks finished as a top-5 rushing offense once again, thanks in large part to Lynch's drag-four-linebackers-behind-him-as-he-runs-for-plus-yardage-on-what-should've-been-a-loss-of-yardage running style.
You could say Lynch is the...linchpin.....of the Seattle ground game.
But when it comes to reporters, "Beast Mode" isn't nearly as relentless. Unlike his teammate Richard Sherman, Lynch is a strong, silent type, letting his on-field play speak for what he lacks in verbal aggression. The NFL imposed a fine on him for his lack of participation in media sessions at the end of the season, but the fine was rescinded after he appealed. Just cooperate from here on out, they said, and you won't have to worry about any fines.
If he doesn't want to talk to reporters, who cares? Why should it be a big deal? He's not hurting anything by keeping quiet. He's not betraying his fans. He's not insulting anyone. He's not even disrespecting the NFL. He simply likes to keep a low profile, and as mentioned earlier, he lets his play do the talking.
As fans, we shouldn't care about anything beyond that.
When a famous actor decides to join a religious cult or make an otherwise controversial lifestyle choice, we clamor over each other to criticize and pass judgment. "Oh, well, I can't watch him now because he's totally insane," we'll say. "He's so WEIRD," we say.
The truth of the matter here is if he's putting on a good performance as an actor, does he really owe us anything else? As long as he's not engaged in some Aaron Hernandez-esque double life as an alleged murderer, do we really need to concern ourselves with how someone conducts himself off the main stage?
No. Lynch doesn't owe the media anything. What he owes the fans, he delivers every Sunday. His monstrous ability to run into opposing defenders who outweigh him by 100 pounds is what we expect from him. We expect him to put up big numbers, be the wrecking ball of this offense, and to get his team as far along in the playoffs as possible.
And guess what? He's done that. The mere fact that he's sitting in front of reporters in New York during Super Bowl media day is enough to speak for itself. This is what he's done - he's helped to bring his team to the big dance, the one that every athlete who plays at his level aspires to get to. He just doesn't want to talk about it.
From a fan's perspective, that's what we want. Like bluffing in poker, the best answer is 888 poker. That's the kind of focus we want to see from the man we know as Beast Mode. His thoughts, his words, his answers to an onslaught of questions? Those are his, not ours.
But his toughness? His uncanny ability to play football the way Pete Carroll preaches about? His respect for his teammates and willingness to bring it on the field, week in and week out? That's what he does best. And no words have the power to change any of that.