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Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch silences critics with big night

SEATTLE -- Marshawn Lynch strutted over with his pads unfastened, a black skull cap covering his prodigious dreads, his feet covered only by blue-and-neon-green Nike socks. A few seconds later, the world's most enigmatic running back fielded a reporter's question -- and no, Lynch wasn't breaking custom by doing so in the Seattle Seahawks' locker room.

Money Lynch was conducting this impromptu interview on the field, with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the defending champion Seahawks' 36-16 beatdown of the Green Bay Packers in Thursday night's season opener. To be fair, his play had already spoken volumes.

The question I asked was this: After all the talk coming out of Seattle over the offseason -- and particularly during his short-lived training camp holdout -- that the Seahawks were preparing for life without the eighth-year runner, that he'd be splitting carries with young understudies Christine Michael and Robert Turbin, that he plays a position that simply isn't that valuable, was Thursday night's performance a de facto rebuttal?

"Well, you know ... people say stuff," Lynch said, shaking his head before offering up an abiding smile. "(Screw) 'em."

Translation: He's just 'bout that action, boss -- and reports of his demise are greatly exaggerated.

On Thursday, Lynch reaffirmed his value in a most emphatic way, blasting his way through the Packers' defense like Soundgarden's blistering pregame set outside CenturyLink Field and causing further frustration for his old Cal teammate, Aaron Rodgers, on a maddening night for the Packers quarterback. With all due respect to the Green Bay superstar, the best and most important offensive player on the field in this game was the powerful, deceptively nimble and relentless runner who suddenly seemed a lot more indispensible than fans and journalists were led to believe a little more than a month ago.

Twenty carries. A hundred ten yards. Two touchdowns. Countless broken tackles.

And one massive point proven.

"Yeah, all that talk (about Lynch not being valuable) ended tonight," Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said afterward. "On maybe the second or third time he touched the ball. Bye-bye."

Added another of the Seahawks' defensive stars, versatile lineman Michael Bennett: "He's the man. There's no comparison -- great backs are great backs. He sets a tone, especially when guys don't want to tackle him ... some of the guys who are supposed to be among the best players in the league."

That description certainly applies to Lynch, whose arrival in Seattle in an October 2010 trade with the Buffalo Bills (who laughably received fourth- and fifth-round draft picks in return) transformed the Seahawks' offense. For all we've been hearing about third-year quarterback Russell Wilson's anticipated growth and the dynamic impact that ultra-quick wideout Percy Harvin might have on Seattle's attack now that he's healthy, Lynch remains the team's offensive identity.

"He's our offense," backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said of Lynch. "Plain and simple."

In the eyes of All-Pro safety Earl Thomas, Lynch's influence goes even deeper: "I think he's just like what we bring on defense. We feed off it. And his attitude in life is just like the way he plays football. The guy just doesn't stop."

Well, that's true most of the time. Lynch did take a pause for the cause at the start of training camp, holding out for a week in an effort to upgrade his contract. The Seahawks' brass pushed back, telling Lynch's agent, Doug Hendrickson, that because the back had two years left on the four-year, $30 million contract he signed in March of 2012, they had no intention of establishing a "bad precedent" by renegotiating.

It was then that the full-fledged propaganda campaign kicked in: Lynch, we were told, was likely on the downside of his career. Further, he'd be sharing the workload with his second-year backup, Christine Michael -- a subject offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had addressed in June, when he told reporters, "We are going to be running back by committee. We really like what Christine Michael is doing right now." And besides, the voices said, running backs simply aren't that valuable in the 21st-century NFL.

"Uh ... no," middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said after Thursday night's game. "Not this Marshawn. When he comes out like he did tonight, we know it's gonna be a looooonnngggg day for that defense. Nobody can stop that man. He's the best running back in the league."

That sound you just heard is the collective groaning of all the fantasy owners who bought into the hype about Lynch sharing carries and passed over him in their drafts.

Even though Lynch caved a week into training camp, reporting after extracting some mild financial concessions from the team, the notion that he'll soon be phased out seems especially dubious after Thursday night's reminder of his excellence. A high-placed Seahawks source said Lynch's 2015 base salary, a relatively cap-friendly $5 million, makes it likely that he'll remain with the team at least another two seasons.

Whatever happens down the road, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Bevell seem hell-bent on milking every possible drop out of "Beast Mode." To those who've been observing him in up-close-and-personal fashion, Thursday's performance was no surprise. "We were watching in practice the other day, and he was just flying, I mean flying off the ball," Seattle center Max Unger said. "He looks better than he ever has. He means a lot to us."

This is not to say that Lynch means everything. The Hawks' attack, as promised, featured a bit of diversification, with Harvin lining up in the backfield at times (and gaining 41 yards on four carries) and Turbin churning out 27 yards on six rushes. Michael, sidelined by a hamstring injury, was relegated to watching from the sidelines, as the master showed the student -- along with 68,424 fans, a national-television audience and the Packers' defenders -- how it's done.

"It's tough playing against him," Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams said as he walked off the field. "He's out there moving the pile -- and he's a tough guy to hang on to."

For that reason, the Seahawks will likely hang onto Lynch for a bit longer than many speculated earlier this summer. And for any remaining doubters after Thursday night? Well, we know what Lynch's two-word rejoinder would be.

Follow Michael Silver on Twitter @mikesilver.

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