SARASOTA, Fla. -- Marshawn Lynch rejoined his Oakland Raiders teammates at their posh resort here Tuesday night and was on the field for practice at the IMG Academy in nearby Bradenton on Wednesday.
And while it may be silly to ask if Lynch can provide a spark to a 3-5 team hoping to save its season -- after all, when we last saw Lynch he was running on the field to protect an opponent who had just been flagged for a late hit on his quarterback -- these are urgent times in the streets of Silver and Blackdom.
So what might Lynch, who was retired from the NFL in 2016, bring to the Raiders, after sitting out a week of NFL action?
"Not the same as being a year away," Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said with a laugh after the team's walk-through practice on the resort's, ahem, tennis courts. "He's a physical guy. He brings passion for the game. Those are things that we welcome back."
Of course, Lynch practicing last week with his old high school squad at Oakland Tech and then posting video of it raised eyebrows not just inside the walls of the Raiders facility but also reportedly at CIF headquarters.
NaVorro Bowman has been teammates with Lynch for only a few weeks, and was a fierce rival when Bowman was with the San Francisco 49ers and Lynch played for the Seattle Seahawks. So is there anything new, then?
"I've known him for a while," Bowman said. "He's a great guy. What you guys probably get from him, you might not think that. But he's a great teammate. Funny guy, keeps everybody up. We know what he brings to the game of football.
"We look forward to having him back this week."
Said receiver Amari Cooper: "Marshawn is a great player, a great running back, a really tough runner. He adds value to our offense."
It's true that Lynch is averaging a career-low 3.7 yards per carry in rushing for 266 yards, with two touchdowns in seven games. But there is a camp that believes Lynch is not being utilized properly. That is, running some power plays early and often could set up play-action passes from Derek Carr to get a lead, and then the punishing Lynch can close out the game. Kinda like the Raiders did in starting 2-0.
But to suggest that would be delving into strategy, and Del Rio, Carr and Co. abhor such talk. Instead, everyone involved believes Lynch will only help in the season's second half, beginning Sunday night on national television at the Miami Dolphins.
"I think that having him back again -- I said it last week, having a teammate come back, whether they were injured or suspended, whatever it was, whenever they're away, you miss them because they're brothers," Carr said. "You spend so much time together and all of those things, so getting him back, obviously, everyone was excited to see him.
"Running up, seeing him, how's he doing, all those kinds of things. I would say yes [we're glad he's back], to answer that absolutely."
Carr was also speaking to the leadership on the team, referencing himself and defensive end Khalil Mack. But with Lynch being such a dominant personality, where does he fit on that Oakland totem pole, so to speak?
"One thing about our team is there's no dictatorship, there's no anything like that except if Coach Del Rio wants it to be," Carr said with a laugh. "We all just kind of do our part. None of the players try to step on each other's toes or go overboard or anything like that. I don't think we have a bunch of sensitive guys; that wouldn't be a problem anyways.
"His role is in that running back room. The way he can talk to me, he can motivate me. He's seen a lot of football. He's experienced a lot of ups and downs and the way he talks to me and tells me things that he's been through. I'm always looking for anything, especially from a veteran player who's played in the playoffs and won a Super Bowl and has been to as many Pro Bowls and things like that. You always want to pick their brain and learn from them."