For much of Tuesday’s OTA practice, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch stood off to the side of the action, talking with teammates and coaches.
Lynch wore his white No. 24 jersey over a long-sleeved black shirt and his dreadlocks spilled over his shoulders as he did not even carry a helmet.
The veteran running back, who came out of retirement to join the Raiders in April, did not take part in position group drills or line up in formation. But his presence at what is technically a voluntary workout for players carried its own significance.
“He’s been here like he said he’d be here,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He said, ‘Coach, this is home for me, so it’s not like I’m going home and won’t be here.’ He’s committed to being here. He’s excited to be a Raider. We’re excited to have him.”
Lynch, who was formerly with the Seattle Seahawks, sat out last season before opting to return to play for his hometown team. He’s 31, with more than 2,300 NFL carries in his past, so the Raiders see no reason to rush him into football activities with the season still months away. They are content having Lynch observe this week while familiarizing himself with their offense.
“He’s doing great,” Del Rio said. “He’ll continue to do the things that we’re asking him to do. He’s really soaking up the system. He’s doing a great job fitting in.”
Lynch’s new teammates agree with the latter claim. Receiver Amari Cooper described Lynch as “a good spirit” and “cool to have around.” Offensive tackle Donald Penn said Lynch’s presence is “bringing a lot of energy here and a lot of momentum.”
“Me and Marshawn, we used to always talk about playing with each other all the time, hanging out and stuff,” Penn said. “Now it’s finally happening. We’re just having fun out there, joking around. When Marshawn does talk, he’s a pretty funny guy. He’s a fool.”
Lynch was known for avoiding the media while playing in Seattle and has yet to address reporters about coming out of retirement. He is not, however, reclusive. Last weekend, for example, Lynch organized a community bike ride via social media that drew hundreds of people to the route between Oakland and Berkeley.
“Beast Mode’s a good guy,” said defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. “On camera, he may not talk as much. But you know, when you get to know him, he opens up to you.”
As the Raiders held an 11-on-11 session late in Tuesday’s practice, Lynch watched from a squatting position a few yards behind the offense. With Lynch as an observer, DeAndre Washington took most of the first-team reps at running back. He and Jalen Richard, both smaller backs, are expected to help Lynch replace Latavius Murray, the team’s leading rusher last season who left in free agency.
Marshall Newhouse, who signed with Oakland this offseason, worked at right tackle with the first-team offense. Also getting their first work in the Raiders’ offense this week are free-agent signings tight end Jared Cook and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, whom Del Rio described as “an explosive young man.”
Penn said he believes the acquisitions are “just going to open up more weapons for our great quarterback that we have. It looks good. We got some great additions.”
Lynch averaged 1,339 rushing yards in his first four full seasons in Seattle before being hampered by injuries in 2015. While it remains to be seen how he will respond after a year off, Cooper said Lynch adds an element to the Raiders’ offense just by being there.
“Physicality,” Cooper said. “He’s a physical back. It’s nice to have his presence there, just the energy he’ll bring to the team, the attitude he’ll bring on Sundays.”
Cooper was asked if he senses that already, before Lynch has even taken a snap.
“Yeah,” he said, “I do.”