ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Shortly after attending his first voluntary practice this offseason, Bills running back Marshawn Lynch couldn't wipe away fast enough the playful "welcome back" smooch on the cheek he received from linebacker Kawika Mitchell.
What proved more difficult to erase for Lynch on Tuesday were lingering questions about whether he still wants to play for the Bills after he had skipped all 12 of the team's previous voluntary minicamp sessions this spring.
"I like to play football, whether it's here or whether it's somewhere else," Lynch said. "As long as I get to play football, I'm feeling great."
As for whether he demanded a trade, Lynch said there was never a point when he expressed that to the Bills. And yet, he noted he wasn't exactly against being dealt.
"With the way that things were looking, it looked like it was a possibility," Lynch said, without explaining what he was referring to. "If it would've happened, it would've happened. If it didn't, I'm back. I'm here to practice. Thank you."
And with that, Lynch ended his first meeting with Buffalo reporters this offseason. It was an interview that lasted a little less than four minutes, and failed to clear up much of the uncertainty surrounding the Bills 2007 first-round draft pick, who is open to seeking a fresh start elsewhere after two run-ins with police over the past two years.
The Bills have insisted they have no intention on trading Lynch, who has two years left on his contract.
Lynch's teammates were eager to welcome him back.
Mitchell planted the playful kiss on Lynch as he was being interviewed. Several other teammates also playfully made faces at Lynch or tapped him on the back as he was answering questions.
"I feel good to get love," Lynch said, after being kissed by Mitchell. To another teammate, Lynch stopped in mid-answer to yell out, "Pops is home!"
"I talked to him yesterday and he felt like he needed to play football again, be back here and be part of a team," Jackson said. "It's unfortunate that he's not happy about being around here, but I never have to worry about him being on the football field making plays."
Lynch's appearance was considered a surprise after the player spent this offseason either working out at his home in Oakland or avoiding team sessions during his visits to Buffalo.
Two weeks ago, Lynch most notably spent two days working out on his own at the Bills' facility while skipping practice and failing to meet with first-year head coach Chan Gailey -- something even Gailey referred to as "strange."
Lynch said he met with Gailey on Monday, and said he's prepared to "get this thing rolling."
Gailey was unavailable for comment and is next scheduled to meet with the media Wednesday.
Lynch said he reported for practice because he missed football.
"I felt I was away from the team for too long, and I missed it so I came back to it," Lynch said.
He has plenty of catching up to do in both learning a new offense Gailey is introducing, and finding a regular job in a running back rotation that features Jackson, who took over the starting job from Lynch last season, and rookie first-round draft pick C.J. Spiller.
Another challenge is rebuilding his reputation with Bills fans, some of whom have turned against Lynch because of his off-field troubles.
In June 2008, he pleaded guilty to a traffic violation and admitted to driving off after striking a female pedestrian with his car near Buffalo's downtown bar district.
In March 2009, Lynch pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge in Los Angeles, after police discovered a semiautomatic handgun in a backpack of the trunk of a parked car Lynch was sitting in. The gun charge led to the NFL suspending Lynch for the first three games of last season.
"As long as I get a fair shake inside these lines, that's all I'm really worried about," he said, referring to his teammates.
"We live in a world where people make up their minds and have their opinions," Lynch said, before slapping his fist into his hand for emphasis. "Take me how you want to, but I'm going to be me, whether you like it or not."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press