Marshawn Lynch spoke to reporters as the Oakland Raiders broke training camp on Thursday, and the man who was known for being a tough interview before his one-year retirement from the NFL actually gave direct, meaningful answers to almost all of the media members’ questions.
Except the ones about him sitting during the national anthem during the Raiders’ exhibition opener against Arizona last weekend. He was a lot more evasive in responding to those, even while managing to remain charming and engaging.
The reporter who first brought up the topic called it “the elephant in the room.” Before the man could finish his question, Lynch said: “I think that elephant just left the room because a little mouse ran in here. Didn’t they say elephants are scared of mouses or something?”
After Saturday’s game against the Cardinals, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said he had already discussed the anthem issue with Lynch.
“He said, ‘This is something I’ve done for 11 years. It’s not a form of anything other than me being myself,’” said Del Rio, who added that he told Lynch, “’just so you understand how I feel, I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem but I’m going to respect you as a man. You do your thing.’ So that’s a non-issue for me.”
On Thursday, another reporter seemed to be referencing those comments when she asked Lynch if Del Rio gives players the freedom to be themselves. But the running back interpreted the question differently — or at least acted like he did — and talked about one of the team’s plays on offense.
“Yeah, because on Doctor 24, it’s a designed way that you’re supposed to run it,” Lynch said, “but I have all freedom to go any which way that I choose to run it, so I would say yeah.”
Toward the end of the session, Lynch was asked if it mattered to him whether fans wearing his jersey stand or sit for the anthem. Once again, he answered by describing one of the team’s plays, this time not even trying to relate it to the question.
“When we run 74 or something like that, where I gotta scan, read on both sides, that’ll be pretty difficult,” Lynch said. “But for the most part, I’m a veteran so I can make it work.”
Lynch’s best answer of the day might have come after he was asked if he missed football while he was retired.
“No,” he replied with a laugh.
In other training camp and NFL news:
— Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett sat during the national anthem for the second consecutive exhibition game. Bennett was alone sitting on the Seahawks bench during the “Star-Spangled Banner” before Friday night’s preseason game against Minnesota. But teammates showed support for Bennett with center Justin Britt standing alongside with his hand on Bennett’s shoulder. Defensive back Jeremy Lane also stood next to Bennett. Lane sat for the national anthem during one preseason game last year. Bennett said after last Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers that the violence in Charlottesville, Va., including the death of a woman who was struck by a car deliberately driven into a group of counter-protesters, solidified his decision.
— The Baltimore Ravens have signed center Jeremy Zuttah, who returns to the team that traded him to San Francisco in March. Zuttah started every game last year and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate. He was dealt to the 49ers so Baltimore could save salary-cap space and move up 12 spots in the sixth round of the NFL draft. Zuttah was released by San Francisco last week. The 31-year-old Zuttah started 41 games in Baltimore over the past three years.
Associated Press contributed to this article.
7:50 p.m.: This article has been updated with information about Seattle’s Michael Bennett sitting during the national anthem and the Baltimore Raven signing Jeremy Zuttah.
This article was originally published at 8:30 a.m.