The Oakland Raiders made one of the splashiest moves of the offseason when they made a trade with the Seattle Seahawks to gain the rights to running back Marshawn Lynch. The 31-year-old running back sat out the entirety of last season after retiring, but the pull of the opportunity to play for his hometown team was enough to lure him back out of retirement.
Lynch signed a two-year, $9 million deal upon reaching the Bay Area and he sits atop the team’s running back depth chart after Latavius Murray signed with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency. In addition to joining his hometown team, Lynch is joining up with one of his long-time friends, Raiders tackle Donald Penn, in hopes of making the team’s rushing attack a feared one. Penn is happy to get the opportunity to play with his friend and thinks Lynch will fit in well with the silver and black.
“That’s my boy, man, I’ve known Marshawn the whole time that I’ve been in the league, we’re good friends,” said Penn in a wide-ranging phone interview Thursday. Penn was made available on behalf of his free football camp that he’ll be hosting on Saturday June 3. “We’d always clown around and talk about how we should play with each other one day and now we get that opportunity. He’s going to be a great addition, I think he fits our mold very well and I’m excited, he’s excited.”
The biggest thing that Penn has seen out of Lynch since joining the team? Energy.
“You should see him every day bouncing around, having so much fun, a big smile on his face like a kid.” said Penn. Like it’s a dream come true playing for his hometown team. I really can’t wait to get started to be honest with you.”
The addition of Lynch to the roster was actually overshadowed slightly by the biggest news of the offseason, as team owner Mark Davis got approval from the league for a plan to relocate the Raiders to Las Vegas for the 2019-2020 season. The move is far from the franchise’s first as it moved back and forth between Los Angeles and Oakland under Mark’s late father Al Davis. For Penn, a Los Angeles Raiders fan growing up, the move is a little bittersweet.
“I’m sad that we have to leave Oakland because I grew up a Raider fan, way back to when they were the Los Angeles Raiders,” said Penn. “I went through that move, and now I’m about to go through another move so it’s kind of sad to see it, but I believe in our owner and know Mr. Davis made the right decision for us and the organization.”
That’s a sentiment that his wife, Dominique, who will be hosting a cheer camp to compliment Donald’s football camp, echoes.
“It’s a bittersweet process. I know that the city of Oakland needs the Raiders, they’ve been part of the city of Oakland for so long that I feel like they give the community something to live for,” said Dominique by phone. “I feel like if you take that away, it becomes a dead town. However, it (the NFL) is a business at the end of the day. My husband doesn’t have any say in whether they stay or go, so he’s going to go and play because that’s who he signed up to play for.”
Finally, Penn, a veteran of 10 NFL seasons, weighed in on the topic that dominates much of the conversation surrounding the sport: concussions.
“I’ve been playing for a long time, so for me, I feel like it’s a part of the game,” said Penn. “There’s certain ways that you can protect yourself when you’re out there playing, but there’s ways where you can’t no matter what you’re doing, it’s going to happen at some point. You’re going to bang heads. It’s just about the severity. You have to just watch it and monitor it. The league is doing a great job of monitoring that, having guys upstairs and on the sidelines monitoring that.”
However, Penn would like to see more done for the players that have retired from the game and are currently suffering the aftereffects of the head trauma that they encountered while playing in the NFL.
“Now, one of the things I wish they would do more of, is helping the guys that are retired and are suffering from it now,” Penn said. “They took some small steps, but I feel like they could take bigger steps than that. I know that the PA (player’s association) and the NFL are still looking into it and doing research. But, I truly hope that they help the retired guys, the guys that are done playing because that’s when you really start getting these lingering head injuries. That’s when guys need the most help and I hope the league steps up with some more programs for that.”
The Raiders open the 2017 season on Sunday, Sept. 10, with a road test against Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans.