Bills RB Lynch getting heat for appealing suspension (photo source)
Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch made headlines - in the "we don't want these headlines" way - this off-season when he was arrested on a firearm charge. The negative continued when Lynch was sentenced to three years probation and 80 hours of community service. It peaked when he was suspended for the first three games of the 2009 NFL season by league commissioner Roger Goodell.
Having spent just two seasons in the league, Lynch has quickly become a poster boy for bad off-field behavior. In the off-season after his rookie year, Lynch was arrested after an alleged hit-and-run incident in downtown Buffalo. He avoided league punishment at that time, but the way in which Lynch handled the situation led to months of bad press.
In two off-seasons, Lynch has quickly devolved from a fan favorite to a fan favorite with a growing rap sheet. There's very little doubt that if Lynch were to find himself in a sticky legal situation again, his time in Buffalo would essentially be over - particularly after the Bills handed new contracts to productive rushers Fred Jackson and Dominic Rhodes this off-season.
Since the ultimate penalties for his second transgression was handed down, Lynch - who said all the right things in the immediate aftermath of the incident - has appealed his suspension in an effort to reduce the amount of games he'll miss. (From everything we're hearing, the appeal is not likely to be successful.) For some - most notably Ed Thompson of Scout.com - this appeal is viewed as the latest in a long line of bad decisions made by Lynch.
Just three months after his latest run-in with the law, Buffalo running back Marshawn Lynch has screwed up again.
Thompson sees the decision to appeal as a reneg on Lynch's part when it comes to the maturity he showed two months ago:
It was disappointing to learn that Lynch has appealed his three-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy, despite his previous public statements that indicated he was serious about taking responsibility for past misjudgments and cleaning up his act.
Pardon my feeble intellect, but when did appealing a suspension become synonymous with attempting to skirt punishment? Broncos WR Brandon Marshall had a series of issues with the law an off-season ago, including domestic violence and false imprisonment charges (he was arrested again this past March, FYI), yet his appeal - and subsequent reduction - registered nary a blip on the "this guy's a punk!" radar.
Thompson seems to be working under the assumption that Lynch's decision to appeal was his, and his alone. The odds of that idea being true are slim. The Buffalo Bills want Marshawn Lynch on the field, and there is a precedent for these types of suspensions - Lynch's first from the league - being reduced, as evidenced by Marshall. Lynch has an obligation to his team to play as many games as possible; he therefore has an obligation to appeal the suspension. Marshawn is doing what's best for his franchise - a failure to see that, with a dash of cynicism and a quick stir of the pot, seems to have formulated Thompson's opinion.
Instead, Thompson sees the appeal as a desperate attempt by Lynch to save his job:
But after the Bills added former Colts running back Dominic Rhodes to the roster in late April and the team followed that up by signing talented backup Fred Jackson to a four-year contract extension this week, Lynch's appeal begs the question of how sincere he really is about accepting responsibility for his off-the-field misjudgments.
Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention realizes that Lynch was going to appeal the suspension all along. He knew he was going to get suspended in March; he was actually suspended on April 8. The Bills signed Rhodes, a productive eight-year veteran, on April 17 - nine days after Lynch's suspension. Jackson inked his four-year extension on May 13, a day prior to official word that Lynch had appealed.
So let me get this straight - Lynch is suddenly desperate to save his job because of the timing of his appeal? I'll go ahead and disagree with that - anyone with the slightest clue knew that an appeal was coming in the early portions of March. The argument that his appeal is an attempt to save his job is completely bogus, though not completely untrue - Lynch is most certainly in a free-for-all at the running back position. Perhaps some on-field motivation will only serve to keep his mind on football when he's not in team facilities.
Lynch undoubtedly has a lot to prove, including that he is the long-term starter at running back in Buffalo. He is fighting for his job, but not because of the recent signings - those merely add to the urgency. There is no question that he has the most to prove off the field, as he's widely considered to be nothing but the best of team players on it. Can Lynch keep his word and stay out of trouble in the off-season? That is the big question - and a simple appeal of a suspension shouldn't impact one's prediction on how that question is answered. It's the nature of the business - and Thompson should have realized it before calling Lynch out.