Column: Seattle wears the villain's hat for Super Bowl
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Down at the end of a hotel hallway, about 50 people gathered along with a dozen television cameras to record the thoughts of a running back who doesn't much like the idea of sharing his thoughts.
Marshawn Lynch was in true Beast Mode, though he surely couldn't appreciate the irony he was actually helping fuel the insatiable beast that is the media surrounding the Super Bowl at a time the game was in need of another good story line.
"I'm here, man," Lynch said. "So, I don't have to pay the fine, boss."
Lynch likely succeeded in that mission, escaping the wrath of the NFL for not speaking with the media. But the image of him glaring out from beneath a hat and hoodie, gold headphones on top of his head, may be one that sticks this week with the Seattle Seahawks, just as sure as Richard Sherman's postgame rant did the week before.
They're the designated bad guys in this Super Bowl. And they seem to be enjoying the role.
"What is there to get?" asked receiver Doug Baldwin. "He doesn't like talking to the media."
Worse crimes have been committed, of course, and there are more than enough other players on the Seahawks to fill the void. Sherman himself has emerged as a loquacious spokesman for the team, showing a great depth of thought while answering all questions that have come his way.
But a team built behind a ferocious defense by a coach who left the college ranks under a cloud has some rough edges around it. Chief among them is the suspension of seven Seattle players for substance-abuse or performance-enhancing drugs violations by the NFL since 2011.
Matched up against Peyton Manning's great season and his quest for a second Super Bowl ring late in his career, and it's easy enough to paint the Seahawks in the role of villain.
"We don't worry about reputations and things like that," said Sherman, who himself was suspended by the league last season for PEDs before winning an appeal. "We worry about football and we have a tremendous football team that goes out there and executes week in and week out. At the end of the day this is the NFL and that's all that matters."
At the end of the day, the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl, too, which is all that matters to any NFL team. They've also got a bit of a different take on the teammates they spend most waking hours with than the media that gets a glimpse just here and there of their varied personalities.
That showed with their spirited defense of Sherman in the wake of his tirade against Michael Crabtree following the spectacular play that beat the San Francisco 49ers and put the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. And they were more than happy to line up in support of Lynch's right to do whatever he wants leading up to the big game.
"He's a misunderstood person, a great guy off the field," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "He's been through a lot in his life and sometimes the media puts words in your mouth and makes a guy mad. He's not the person you want to make mad."
Still, it was telling that the first two questions to coach Pete Carroll at his Wednesday press conference weren't about how to defend Manning or stop the touchdown scoring machine that is the Denver Broncos. Instead, they were about Lynch's refusal to talk and the perception that the vaunted Seattle defense was built on the backs of players taking banned PEDs.
Carroll's answers often meander on any topic, and this one was no different. He talked about how his team is young but is learning from its mistakes and that he doesn't mind allowing them to be individuals as long as they stay within the team concept.
He said the coaching staff has constantly preached the message of having to play clean, despite the suspension as recently as last month by cornerback Brandon Browner for substance abuse and cornerback Walter Thurmond in late November for the same thing.
"I'm not concerned about the message," Carroll said. "We would like to do right and get better, so we're trying to improve and learn from everything that comes along."
What comes along next is the biggest game any of the Seahawks have ever played. Much has been made of the fact it's the first Super Bowl any of them will play in, and they've made much of their intention to play it as physical as any game they've ever played.
Odds are they'll deliver on that promise, though that's no guarantee of success against Manning and Denver's precision offense. Seattle isn't likely to win a shootout, but most handicappers like the Seahawks to win their first Super Bowl trophy if the defense plays like it has all season and Lynch runs the ball effectively.
If that happens, all the talk about bad behavior will suddenly go away.
And chances are Lynch might even have something to say about that.