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Giving Marshawn Lynch credit where credit is due

RB Lynch met the press Wednesday (AP photo)

That, folks, was the Marshawn Lynch that Buffalo Bills fans know, (mostly) love and are ready to root for.

Lynch met with reporters on Wednesday in his first public comments since his February firearm-related arrest. The arrest, as I'm sure you're well aware, was Lynch's second in nine months. The first, in May 2008, involved a hit-and-run reduced to a traffic violation. Though he avoided league punishment last year, the likelihood of that development repeating itself is remote. Lynch is expected to be suspended between one and four games within the next couple of weeks - and I doubt you'll hear an argument from anyone that it isn't deserved.

Nine months, two incidents. Lynch admitted he's facing suspension. He also says he's going to change his ways. Marshawn isn't getting a free pass from any of us after one little press conference, but the humility on display yesterday at the Bills' practice facility is most certainly a step in the right direction - and Lynch deserves some credit for it.

Revisiting May-June 2008
During the elongated process that surrounded Lynch's first incident last summer, Lynch lost respect points within the Bills community by refusing for weeks to speak with authorities (and with the public) about the incident. Though he only received a revoked license and a small fine for the transgression (while avoiding league punishment), Lynch acknowledged Wednesday that his "vow of silence" tactic did more harm than good:

"With the first incident, I'm going to say honestly, we didn't play that out in a smart way. And with this situation, I felt that there was going to come a point where something was going to have to change. My agent said we got proactive in knowing that this incident was serious - not saying that the last one wasn't - but it's time to make that change and step up to the plate and confess up to what I've done."

Lynch (and, probably more accurately, his agent) deserve credit for addressing his most recent issues head-on. Perhaps it's a sign that he truly is ready to change; perhaps he's just following prudent advice. Either way, his handling of the situation the second time around was far better for his image and, more importantly, far better for the organization and its fans.

Lynch knows a suspension is coming
Lynch will serve 80 hours of community service and wait out three years of probation as legal punishment for his most recent issues. The third-year running back is also aware that a suspension is coming, claiming he believes that a ruling will come down in ten days.

On Tuesday, Lynch met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss February's arrest. He had a similar meeting last summer as well. Lynch reported that the commissioner's message was stern: no more screw-ups.

"The message that he gave me came through. I can still feel some of the words running through my body right now as he said them in the meeting."

Talk is cheap, but not worthless
In all, Lynch said all of the right things - as he should have. It's a step in the right direction, to be sure, but no one is saying that Lynch has crossed the line from "misguided youth" to "model citizen". He knows it, too.

"I can only show you. It won't be anything that I can say in words that'll make you a believer. So you're just going to have to see for yourself. I feel with the incident that I had, I'm young, but I've grown through those situations. What I've learned is that what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. And I've seen what those situations put me, my family and the organization through, and that's not what I'm about."

Yep, that about hits it on the head, Marshawn. The message from Bills fans is simple: keep your nose clean and keep doing what you're doing on the field, and we'll have your back. Few will ever dispute that Lynch is a team player, a hard worker, and obviously a talented individual. He's a great guy to have on your team. But talk is cheap. Marshawn's right - he's got some proving to do.

Still, that shouldn't prevent us from giving the kid some credit. He's finally doing things by the book. His intent seems genuine - and at this point, without the benefit of additional time with which to make further judgment, that's all we can expect. As we'd say here in Internet lingo, "+1". We'll have your back as long as you keep proving you're the guy you (and your mother) say you are. And I, personally, am willing to believe you, for now, when you say the change is permanent.

"This time, I feel it really will stick. That's not why I came into the league, to jeopardize my chance of playing. To do something that I love more than anything is to strap up my pads all through the week leading up to Sunday, and that's one thing that I'm not ready to give up."