Raiders' Gruden: Door is open for Lynch return

ByPaul Gutierrez ESPN logo
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

PHOENIX -- Jon Gruden has maintained communication with Marshawn Lynch this offseason, but no decision has been made on whether the hard-charging running back will return to the Oakland Raiders in 2019.

And there is no timetable for such a decision yet, Gruden said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings during the coaches breakfast.

"I'm not going to get into the conversations that we've had," the Raiders coach said. "I've talked to Doug Hendrickson, his agent, as well, and obviously we have a need at halfback, feature back. So we're going to keep the door open, certainly, keep researching his situation and we'll see what happens. We'll let you know when we know something."

Asked how long said door would remain open, Gruden smiled.

"The door is always open for Lynch," Gruden said. "The door is always going to be open for Marshawn. Trust me. All the doors are always going to be open for Marshawn Lynch."

A day earlier, Raiders first-year general manager Mike Mayock said he had not spoken with Lynch, but did give a sense on when a decision might have to be made.

"Jon has a relationship with him; I don't," Mayock said of Lynch. "Ultimately, there's obviously kind of a big question mark at running back with us right now. I think both parties just have to kind of wait until the draft and see what happens there."

The Raiders have eight draft picks, with four in the first 35 selections.

Lynch, who turns 33 on April 22, was lost for the season with a groin injury suffered in London on an awkward tackle against the Seattle Seahawks, his former team, on Oct. 14. He was at the Raiders' home finale on Christmas Eve, lighting the Al Davis Torch in a pregame ceremony in what was then thought to be the final Raiders game in Oakland.

But with the Raiders returning to the East Bay for the 2019 season, Oakland's favorite son might want to play one last year for his hometown team.

Coming out of a one-year retirement to play for the Raiders in 2017, Lynch's two-year stint had highs and lows, but "Beast Mode" continued to be entertaining and productive. Last season, he was tied for fifth in the AFC with 331 rushing yards through Week 5, before his injury against the Seahawks

He finished the 2018 season with an average of 4.2 yards per carry, scoring three touchdowns in six games.

In 21 games for Oakland, Lynch rushed for 1,267 yards on 297 carries. The highs in Oakland also featured a dance party on the sideline in the 2017 home opener against the New York Jets, as well as being the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year candidate in 2018.

The lows included a one-game suspension for making contact with a referee after he ran on the field to protect Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters, who is Lynch's cousin, during a skirmish in 2017.

Lynch continued his reputation as a physical runner before getting hurt last season, forcing 23 missed tackles and gaining 311 of his 376 rushing yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus. He surpassed the 100-yard mark for the 34th time in his career with a 130-yard effort against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4.

Lynch, who was the 12th overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Buffalo Bills, is a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a 2012 first-team All-Pro, when he rushed for 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Seahawks. With Seattle, Lynch led the NFL in rushing touchdowns in both 2013 and '14, and he ran for at least 1,200 yards in four straight seasons from 2011 through 2014.

Lynch ranks fourth among active players with 10,379 rushing yards, and his 93 total touchdowns and 12,593 total yards rank fifth.

The Raiders currently have four running backs on their roster: Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Chris Warren III and James Butler.