Running back Marshawn Lynch has gotten to see a lot of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in his brief two-year career, but it's not a good thing.
For the second time in under a year this week, Lynch stood before Goodell after violating the league's personal conduct code. But unlike last spring when he was not suspended for his involvement in a hit-and-run incident in Buffalo in which he struck a female pedestrian and pled to a reduced traffic violation, Lynch does expect to be suspended for his guilty plea in California on March 5 to misdemeanor weapons charges.
"I'll find out in about 10 days, but just from the situation that happened with me before, and people kind of felt that I skated off with not being suspended, I do, for me, I honestly see a suspension coming," Lynch said. "But that comes with the consequences."
Lynch vowed to clean up his act and get his career back on track in the public eye, and there are signs he means it this time.
A year ago, he practically went underground, letting his agents and attorneys deal with the media and the league after the hit-and-run. He refused to speak with Bills beat writers until the season was nearly finished.
This time around, Lynch initiated a hearing with Goodell in New York City, then called a news conference back in Buffalo to speak with reporters.
"With the first incident, I'm going to say honestly, we didn't play that out in a smart way," Lynch said. "With this situation, I felt that there was going to come a point where something was going to have to change. My agent said we got proactive in knowing that this incident was serious, not saying that the last one wasn't, but it's time to make that change and step up to the plate and confess up to what I've done."
Lynch is facing a four-game suspension, but it could be as few as one now that he's stepped forward to accept responsibility for his actions.
Lynch was arrested on Feb. 11 in Culver City, Calif., when police went to investigate a parked car without license plates. That's when Lynch and two other men were discovered with marijuana and a loaded, unregistered 9mm handgun belonging to Lynch.
No drug charges were filed. Lynch faced up to a year in jail on the gun charges but instead pled to a misdemeanor of having a concealed weapon in a vehicle. He will do 80 hours of community service in his native Oakland.
There is speculation that Goodell will place Lynch in the NFL's substance abuse program and render him open to more frequent drug testing due to the marijuana in the car.
Goodell has meted out plenty of harsh penalties to players involved in off-field incidents that involve the law. Lynch said the tone in their meeting was very serious and Goodell's stern words were "running through my body."
"It was, for me, a productive meeting," Lynch said. "I got a lot of insight out of it from commissioner Goodell, and something that he stressed throughout that meeting was that he will not tolerate any more screw-ups by me, so I think that's sinking in to me."
Why should anyone believe Lynch when he says he's out to change?
"Well, I can only show you," he said. "It won't be anything that I can say in words that'll make you a believer, so you're just going to have to see for yourself.
"I've seen what those situations put me, my family, and the organization through, and that's not what I'm about. When I got drafted to Buffalo, I wanted to come here to play ball. I never had the intentions of getting into trouble or anything like that, but along the way, my road got rocky, and now it's time to get the pavement straight."
The Bills are happy a resolution is nearing on their star running back. If Lynch is slapped with a four-game suspension, they would be forced to sign a veteran backup for Fred Jackson. If it's one or two games, they could roll the dice until Lynch's return.
Notes and Quotes
--WR James Hardy knows how to respect his elders. The second-year receiver willingly gave up his No. 81 jersey to veteran Terrell Owens, whom the Bills signed as a free agent after Dallas cut him. Owens, who has worn 81 his entire 13-year career with the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys, has 139 career touchdown catches. Hardy has two. "The organization, really, they can just take the number from you and give it to him if they wanted to," Hardy said on SIRIUS NFL Radio. "But with the respect the general manager (Russ Brandon) has for me, he came to me and (asked) and I was willing to give him the number. He's a Hall of Fame receiver and it is really an honor for me to give him the jersey."
Hardy, who had a rough rookie season and went on IR with a knee injury, said having Owens around is going to be a rare education. "I'm going to be like a college student in college again," he said. "I want to know everything that he did to be successful on the field because I feel in the long run it is going to help me." Hardy was re-assigned No. 84.
--Nobody can argue the marketing value Owens' signing brings to Buffalo, a team that needs to fight constantly for season-ticket and luxury box renewals. Sales of Owens' jerseys have been brisk, and many fans turned off by last season's 7-9 finish and the decision to bring back Dick Jauron as head coach have renewed their tickets, reports show. "It's been a lot of fun," said Bills Chief Operating Officer Russ Brandon in a radio interview on 1280-AM in Rochester. "People are so fired up. That's who you work for; your fans. The greatest thing about working in Buffalo and this region is the passion people have for the team. You want to win so badly for your fans and we are certainly doing everything we can to play in January. We're tired of sitting home in January."
--The NFL is expected to announce that the Bills will host the Indianapolis Colts in Toronto this season. A game featuring Peyton Manning and Owens should help spark interest in a market the Bills claim they need to be financially viable into the future. Toronto fans were lukewarm to two Bills games played at the Rogers Centre last year, a preseason game against Pittsburgh and a regular-season game against Miami. After the Bills went 0-6 against the AFC East, the team isn't keen on moving another division game out of Orchard Park. Of the team's non-division opponents in 2009, the Colts are clearly the most attractive. The game is expected to be played in December, after the Canadian Football League season is over. With the Rogers' center roof closed at that time of year, it's a definite loss of home-field advantage for the Bills.
--Unrestricted free agent linebacker Angelo Crowell has signed with Tampa Bay. A three-year starter for the Bills until a serious knee injury cost him all last season, Crowell wanted to re-sign with Buffalo and even made a last-minute visit with team officials. But with no offer to his liking - if there was one at all - he signed with Tampa Bay where he will compete with Geno Hayes, Adam Hayward, and Quincy Black for a starting job. Cato June, released by the Bucs, is still on Buffalo's radar.
--The signing of Cincinnati's Ryan Fitzpatrick to back up Trent Edwards at quarterback (Fitzpatrick has less starting experience than Edwards) is peculiar. Coach Dick Jauron, however, said experience wasn't the sole criteria in his search. "The older backup, as you're talking about, coaching may be a little less important for us because (QB coach) Alex Van Pelt played a lot of football at the position and (coordinator) Turk (Schonert) played a lot of football at the position," he said. "We just thought we could kind of take what we thought was the best guy for the spot and not so much need that guy that you were talking about."
--DE Chris Kelsay, the Bills Ed Block Courage Award winner, was recognized during ceremonies recently in Baltimore. The prestigious honor recognizes players that exemplify a commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. The recipient "symbolizes professionalism, great strength, dedication and serves as a community role model for others." Kelsay's community involvement included weekly visits to Kids Escaping Drugs, a long-term residential treatment facility for teens with substance addictions in the Buffalo area. Kelsay and his wife, Natalie, support the Circle of Friends program for kids with cancer and his Chris Kelsay TACKLE Foundation serves pediatric cancer patients.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm a target and I need to know pretty much that there will be some people looking forward to me messing up again. I'm going to just let them know they shouldn't hold their breath." -- RB Marshawn Lynch, vowing to keep out of trouble after two run-ins with the law in less than a year.