PHOENIX – At first, Seattle guard James Carpenter took it as an insult.
Why, he thought, would teammate Marshawn Lynch rather shake his hand after a touchdown instead of celebrating the way they always have? Why was he rebuffing the hugs and helmet slaps and head butts?
After thinking about it for, oh, maybe a split second, it was obvious to Seattle’s offensive line. Lynch explained to his teammates, guard J.R. Sweezy remembered, that he simply didn’t want to get “beat up.” Head butts and head slaps were outlawed. They were replaced by handshakes.
But Carpenter said he wasn’t told by Lynch about the new celebration plan, leaving him in the dark about why the one of the league’s best running backs wouldn’t let Carpenter shower him with congratulatory hugs and head slaps.
“When I didn’t know that’s what he was doing, I went up to him and I was like, ‘Dang, you don’t want to celebrate with me?’” Carpenter said. “But then I find out why and it’s understandable because he does a lot of hitting out there.”
Lynch’s first recorded handshake celebration was during the NFC Championship Game in 2014, according to the Associated Press. It came after a 40-yard run that Lynch finished with a somersault.
Instead of the typical, somewhat violent celebration, Lynch simply, professionally extended his hand.
“It just happened,” Seahawks center Max Unger said. “It was, ‘Just stop. Just shake my hand.’
“It was cool, man. Whatever he wants to do. I’m not trying to hurt him.”
When Lynch first told some of his teammates the plan, Sweezy said everyone thought he was kidding.
“We just laughed it off but when he was serious, so we were like, ‘OK,’” Sweezy said. “And we just wanted to celebrate because it’s all so exciting, but that’s this thing, and we shake hands.
“That’s what we do.”
Rookie tackle Justin Britt hadn’t heard about Lynch’s penchant for handshakes before he was drafted in May. But he was the lone offensive player who had heard of a similar touchdown celebration.
When Chase Daniel was quarterback at Missouri, the Tigers celebrated touchdowns just like Lynch – with a handshake.
“It’s proper,” said Britt, who also played at Missouri. “It shows that you’ve been there before.”
But he wasn’t given a primer on how to celebrate with Lynch.
“No one really said that,” Britt said. “Just ran down there and he reached his arm out and I shook it and people stated talking about it.
“I’m fine with doing it. Sometimes he runs straight to the sidelines and so we’ll go do our [point-after touchdown] and then l get to the sideline and go over there and shake his hand. I don’t think there’s too much about it. It’s just he doesn’t want to get a bunch of head slaps and stuff like that.”
A handshake has always said a lot about a man. It can show his strength and his intensity. In the case of Lynch, that subtle, small moment after a touchdown is pulling back the curtain on his personality.
Tackle Russell Okung called Lynch “peculiar in his own way” and said “he’s special.” But, Okung added, the Seahawks have accepted Lynch for who he is and embraced his businesslike approach to touchdowns.
“He’s different in a lot of ways,” Carpenter said. “He doesn’t want to be in the media. He’s not a flamboyant guy, if you will. Not a showboat kind of guy. He does his job. He does it well and then he goes shakes our hand and sits down and he’s ready to do it again.
“It’s almost like he goes to work every time. It’s not … I don’t know exactly how to put it. It’s just what he does and we respect him because of that.”
After each time Lynch scored in 2014 – a career-high 13 times – that’s exactly how he celebrated: Like he was going to work.
“That’s pretty clean-cut,” Unger said.