After signing his big contract extension with the Seahawks in March, Marshawn Lynch certainly has the money to hire a tough lawyer who might beat back the DUI charge he was stuck with over the weekend in Oakland.
What I don’t get was why Lynch didn’t spend the tiniest fraction of that sum on a cab, a limo, or a sober member of his entourage who could drive him, especially at 3:30 in the morning, a time when good things are disinclined to happen.
Of all the misdeeds common to athletes off the field, this one has the easiest prevention. Lynch’s apparent failure to prevent — the police report said Lynch, alone in a Ford van, was weaving across lanes on I-880 and nearly collided with two other vehicles — is pure numbskull, leavened only by the fact that no one was hurt or killed.
And it makes his employers look foolish, insofar as they knew they were taking a risk in March by signing ANY running back to a four-year, $31 million extension ($18 million guaranteed), let alone one with Lynch’s history.
In Buffalo, where he was a first-round draft pick by the Bills in the 2007 draft, he was busted in 2008 for striking a woman pedestrian with his car. He said he didn’t notice, but a judge revoked his driver’s license. In 2009, he had a weapons charge reduced to a misdemeanor, but was suspended for three games by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Now that history gets revisited with a fresh episode, which does not require conviction for Goodell, aka The Hangman, to act. The collective bargaining agreement with the players union holds players to a higher standard. The personal conduct policy says, “It is not enough to be found not guilty,” and requires players act in a lawful manner.
As was seen in “Bountygate” involving the New Orleans Saints’ pay-per-hurt program, Goodell believes he has wide latitude to act as judge and jury for the league’s best interests, independent of the court system findings. Goodell alone can determine “conduct deterimental” in the absence of any crime.
It’s not clear how Goodell will rule, since Lynch does get some credit for time between episodes. But if a misdemeanor charge was worth three games to Goodell in 2009, which was before he went Yosemite Sam on player misbehavior, then logic dictates a greater punishment now for Lynch, because Goodell is all about sending messages, typically with blunt force.
From a football-results standpoint, a four- to six-game suspension of their star running back hits the Seahawks right where they want to live — the running game. Most of the 2011 season and the off-season were directed toward making the Seahawks a premier power-rushing team. The investments made in the offensive line and at tight end, and the relatively light commitment at quarterback, meant this team was going to deploy its most ferocious weapon, Lynch, and reward him for it.
Now he could miss a big chunk of the season, for no good reason. Injuries are inevitable, stupidity is not.
In re-upping Lynch with large coin, the biggest worry was how he would respond. During off-season workouts, it appeared that Lynch had already gained weight, and not from power-lifting. Nor was it a secret that reserve running back Justin Forsett, also from Cal, had value to the Seahawks as Lynch’s pal, confidant and righteous valet. A devout Christian and one of the game’s straight arrows, Forsett seemed to be the conscience of which Lynch occasionally lost track.
But Forsett was allowed to leave in free agency and signed with Houston. There’s no way to link what happened Saturday in Oakland to Forsett’s absence, but any insurance he helped provide the Seahawks on the $18 million guaranteed to Lynch is gone.
At the time of the 2010 midseason trade to Seattle from Buffalo for the relatively modest return of fourth- and fifth-round picks, the deal seemed a steal, particularly when Lynch became a bit of a folk hero for his magnificent 67-yard touchdown run in the playoff game against the Saints.
But the Bills execs, perhaps for reasons beyond what has been disclosed, felt the deal was worth it just to avoid the potential for the dreaded 4 a.m. call from the team attorney.
The Seahawks did create a little insurance in the draft when they took Robert Turbin in the fourth round. The running back with the giant biceps from Utah State, where he was the Western Athletic Conference player of the year, is a bruiser who has to be considered the favorite to start, given what is known at the moment about the running back spot.
The Seahawks could pursue, less than two weeks before the start of training camp July 28, a more veteran running back, or pick one up on cut-down day before the regular season begins.
But they already have enough mysteries on the offensive side of the ball. Now one of the surest things becomes a mystery. For no reason at all.