NASHVILLE — Jack Del Rio was at the podium after the Oakland Raiders’ season-opening 26-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans when Marshawn Lynch made his presence known.
In a manner much different than he had in four quarters of football before.
Lynch, cracking open a side door deep in the bowels of Nissan Stadium, flashed his notoriously orchestrated hijinks as he stuck his face in the room and interrupted Del Rio’s presser.
“I was available for three minutes,” Lynch said to the gathering, “and (reporters) didn’t holler at me. I’m good, right?”
Good? Lynch was even better as his old hard-charging, violent-running self in his first NFL action in nearly two years. Beast Mode showed he was more rested than rusty.
Sure, his game-high 76 rushing yards on 18 carries were impressive in a macro sense. But looking at it in a micro world?
On the Raiders’ game-sealing drive, the 215-pound Lynch absolutely trucked 305-pound Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. And yes, the Raiders tweeted out the video, with the descriptor: Can’t. Stop. Watching. #BeastMode
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) September 10, 2017
“We got to see that Marshawn is Marshawn,” said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. “He’s running through people, and he’s going to make it a pain on them to tackle him. You’ve got to earn it if you’re going to tackle him.”
Lynch also had a 16-yard reception on the right side and nearly had what could have been a 34-yard TD catch one play later when he drifted out and down the left sideline with no one in front of him.
But Carr overthrew the ball, and Lynch did a front-flip somersault.
“I was expecting him to bob and I weaved,” Carr said with a laugh. “I messed it up. He did right, so that was my fault.”
Echoes of Lynch’s Seahawks past rang loud, too, in the first quarter. That’s when the Raiders had first-and-goal at the Titans’ 2-yard line and Carr attempted three straight passes to Amari Cooper.
All three balls fell to the ground, incomplete.
Super Bowl XLIX, anyone?
Up next for Lynch and the Raiders: the home opener against the New York Jets. Lynch has faced them eight times in his career, although mostly early in his career when he was with the Buffalo Bills. The last time he saw them, in 2012, he rushed for 124 yards and a TD, and had a 27-yard catch.
The Jets lost to the Bills Sunday, with LeSean McCoy rushing for 110 yards on 22 carries. As a team, Buffalo ran for 190 yards against the Jets.
Perhaps, then, Lynch’s first TD since Nov. 15, 2015 is in the offing, and no, he was not outwardly upset he did not reach the end zone in Tennessee.
He was too busy enjoying his new surroundings after sitting out last year in retirement.
Because after he burst into Del Rio’s conference — “Marshawn ran real well today,” Del Rio laughed after Lynch closed the door. “How many carries is he going to get? Well, maybe about 18. He had a good performance. I am happy about that as well.” — Lynch clowned with Carr in the locker room.
— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) September 10, 2017
“I’m doing good, having fun,” Lynch said on that tele-interview, before realizing he was actually participating in a give-and-take with Deion Sanders.
That’s part of Lynch’s ethos, his face to the outside world.
In the Raiders locker room, in the huddle and on the field, it’s a different world. He is the closer the Raiders have longed for, and, sure, it was just one game, but he looks refreshed.
“We have always been physical with our offensive line, our defensive line,” Del Rio said, “and adding a back like Marshawn… you better be sure you want to tackle him before you go in there.”
Just ask Casey.