Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Marshawn Lynch, Knowshon Moreno different men united by Super Bowl

JERSEY CITY, N.J.

There are bodies in front of Marshawn Lynch. He lowers his head and moves through them.

There are blockers in front of Lynch. He follows closely, his eyes staring ahead of him, oblivious to the obstacles in his path. He steps quickly, in full Beast Mode now. He is determined. No one is going to stop him. No one is going to slow him down.

For Lynch, it is time for him to leave the news conference.

It has been the strangest sight of Super Bowl week. Minutes after he arrived, Lynch is moving with breakneck speed to get out of the joint. Six minutes here, four minutes there. A few mumbled answers, and he's off.

This is Lynch, beastly silent.

Make no mistake. Lynch will have one of the biggest impacts on this Super Bowl. He is a fierce running back, one who attacks his attackers, a relentless player who has helped lead his Seahawks here. If he does not run, then the Seahawks do not win.

And yet he doesn't want to talk about it.

During news conferences, he leans backward against the wall as if to get as far from his questioners as possible. He answers in short sentences. He does not speak loudly. He does not seem to trust anyone around him.

This is not to judge Lynch. The Super Bowl has seen silent running backs before (hello, Duane Thomas). Playing the game is one thing. Talking about it is another. Some players love the cameras. Some don't.

Still, there is something fascinating about watching Lynch in front of the microphones.

All at once, you feel like a safety in his path: This is going to get uncomfortable.

"I think you're taking it wrong," Lynch said quietly. "It doesn't make me uncomfortable. I'm just about action. You say 'hut,' and there's action. All the unnecessary talk, it doesn't do anything for me. I appreciate that people want to hear from me, but I just go to work and do my thing."

Contrast Lynch with his Denver counterpart, Knowshon Moreno. Moreno loves to talk. About coming home to New Jersey. About working his way back up Denver's depth chart. About everything.

They are different men, in other words, united by a championship game and by second chances.

Once, Lynch was a failure in Buffalo. The Bills all but gave him away, getting a couple of pedestrian draft picks in return so they could combine C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson for their running attack. Turns out, there is life after a bad football team.

Once, Moreno was a bust in Denver. The Broncos had taken him 12th overall out of Georgia in the 2009 draft, but he had fumbled his way to the third team. No-Show Moreno, the fans called him. Still, he hung around, and when quarterback Peyton Manning let it be known that he wanted Moreno on the field, Moreno found a second life.

Now, Lynch and Moreno meet in the Super Bowl, each of them trying to take a little bit of the heat off their quarterback.

They're capable. This season, Lynch rushed for 1,257 yards. Moreno rushed for 1,038, but he had 60 fewer carries. Both exceeded 1,500 yards of offense.

Still, Lynch appears to be the bigger load. Some of his highlight runs will amaze you. It's as if he is still running away from Buffalo.

"It was an opportunity for me to go and see if there was something else out there," Lynch said. "I'm glad I got a chance to do that. Crazy stuff right here, though, but I'm pleased with the opportunity I have to be a part of this. I just rolled with my gut, straight up."

In some ways, the cloaked persona that Lynch has created this week might play in his favor. Let the other running backs talk. Lynch is an international man of mystery. All we really know is he likes Skittles and hates questions.

Oh, and this: "He's an animal," says Seahawks center Max Unger. "He's a very violent runner."

Moreno? He'll tell you about growing up in Jersey. About the beaches where he played football. About his high school days, when his team was 36-0 and won three state titles. About the day he tried to quit football. About wearing his grandmother's gold slippers when he was in high school. About his childhood, when his family was in and out of homeless shelters.

It is that background that some­times wells up in Moreno. Before a recent game against Kansas City, the cameras caught tears flowing from his eyes.

"That's just one moment that the media caught," Moreno said. "I don't know how many games I've played in, but I've been emotional a lot. I play with my emotions on my sleeve."

And maybe that's the difference. Moreno is glib, friendly. Lynch is subdued, distant.

But both of them are headed toward the end zone.

   
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