NAPA, Calif. — Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch spoke to reporters Thursday for the first time in training camp and avoided questions regarding his decision to sit during the national anthem before last week's preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Not long after the Raiders broke camp following their final practice, Lynch spoke briefly about his charity work in Oakland including an upcoming backpack giveaway for needy children, a business forum for youths he recently held and his thoughts on playing in the Coliseum this week.
When the topic turned to the choice he made to sit during the national anthem, something Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett also did before a preseason game in Los Angeles, Lynch responded with cryptic answers.
One reporter addressed the situation as the elephant in the room when questioning Lynch.
"I think the elephant just left the room because a little mouse ran in here," Lynch said. "Didn't they say elephants are scared of mice or something? That (expletive) left the room, cousin."
Pressed further, Lynch remained evasive.
Asked if Raiders coach Jack Del Rio gives his players space to be themselves, Lynch instead referred to a play.
"Yeah because on doctor-24, it's a designed way that you're supposed to run it but I have all freedom to go any way that I choose to run it," Lynch said. "I would say, yes."
Lynch was later asked if it mattered to him whether or not fans wearing his jersey during Saturday's preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams will sit or stand during the anthem.
"When we run 74 or something like that, where I have to scan and read on both sides, that is pretty difficult," Lynch said. "For the most part, I'm a veteran so I can make it work."
Del Rio said earlier this week that he had spoken to Lynch about the situation and that Lynch told him it was something he had been doing for 11 years.
There has been mixed reaction around the NFL regarding Lynch and Bennett's decision to sit during the anthem. Former Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley called the move "selfish" and a "marketing tool," while Commissioner Roger Goodell has asked fans to be more understanding of the players' decision.
Lynch did turn serious for a few moments while talking about his work in the local community. The 31-year-old has said repeatedly that his decision to come out of retirement after a year away was based primarily on the opportunity to play in his hometown of Oakland.
"It's truly a blessing and just to have the opportunity to go and do that is a good ... feeling," Lynch said. "I plan on continuing to do what I do in the community. It'll probably be that now that I'm here, more people that are in the community might actually come out and support what it is that we've got going on."
Notes: Del Rio said he was pleased with the work the Raiders got in during the three-week stay in Napa but noted the continued absence of holdout left tackle Donald Penn and injured first-round draft pick Gareon Conley. "They'll come back when they can," Del Rio said. "Until then, we just move on." ... Practice ended with a punt return competition between backup centre Jon Feliciano, long-snapper Andrew East and defensive tackle Justin Ellis. Feliciano and East were successful fielding punts from Marquette King. Ellis slipped and fell while trying to catch an end-over-end kick and was late getting to a second attempt.
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