He was sitting on the team bus outside of Arrowhead Stadium, preparing to head to the airport after a long, draining and disappointing day. A few minutes into a telephone conversation following the Seattle Seahawks' 24-20 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs, Marshawn Lynch was asked a question about his future with the defending Super Bowl champions -- and he metaphorically pumped the brakes.
"Do I think I'll be gone after this season?" Lynch repeated, pausing to consider the question. "I don't know, man. The Seahawks, their front office gets in the media; they talk a lot. I don't talk too much. I just play the game.
"If they have something going on, I don't know about it."
Sometimes, however, actions speak louder than words, and Lynch, one of the sports world's most eccentric stars, seemed to make a statement about the disconnect between him and his bosses midway through Sunday's game. While the rest of the Seahawks filed through the tunnel and into the visitors' locker room at the conclusion of the second quarter, Lynch remained on the field for the entirety of the 12-minute halftime.
The real question: Was Lynch expressing his displeasure in the wake of recent reports, citing anonymous sources, that that the Seahawks plan to give him his walking papers after this season?
According to a source close to the 28-year-old running back, such reports have contributed to his deteriorating relationship with Seattle coach Pete Carroll, as Lynch partially blames him for the existence of such stories and for the possibility that his Seahawks tenure might end after the 2014 season.
Last month, I reported on NFL Network that Lynch harbors bitterness toward Carroll, the residual effects of a training-camp holdout and organizational proclamations over the offseason that his workload would be reduced. My NFL Media colleague Ian Rapoport said on NFL Network's "NFL GameDay Morning" that Lynch "does not communicate" with Carroll.
When I asked Lynch on Sunday if he and Carroll speak, he replied, "Pete's my head coach. Well, I mean, you know, he's really not in my position meetings. ... It ain't like we get to chop it up like that."
Due to make $5 million in 2015 -- and potentially as much as $2.5 million in roster bonuses -- Lynch could be released if the Seahawks decide to go with younger, cheaper options Christine Michael and Robert Turbin, and/or to draft another back. Asked if he'd be surprised by such a scenario, Lynch said, "I understand the business. At the end of the day, it's just a business."
That point was driven home in October when the Seahawkssent receiverPercy Harvin to the New York Jets. Lynch's agent, Doug Hendrickson, has denied a report that Lynch was so upset by the trade that the running back openly vented, temporarily refusing to board the team bus before it headed to the airport for a road game against the St. Louis Rams.
Asked Sunday if the Harvin trade upset him, Lynch responded, "I'm upset when I don't get a first down on fourth-and-inches. ... You know, it is what it is. I was surprised, I guess you could say."
Lynch had ample reason to be upset on Sunday, as the Seahawks were stopped on fourth down three times in the fourth quarter. Midway through the period, on third-and-goal from the Kansas City 4-yard line, Lynch bulled forward for two yards before being gang-tackled. Trailing 24-20, Carroll elected to go for it, but Russell Wilson's pass to Doug Baldwin fell incomplete.
"To be honest, this was a hard-fought game today," Lynch said. "The Chiefs played some real good ball, on offense and defense. Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way."
"I don't think there's any problem with what we've got going on," he said. "We've just gotta let it fall and keep fighting. We've got a lot of ball to go. These are challenges for us. That's one thing we have been good at, facing the challenges. I think it can be accomplished."
"Is this a championship team? Yeah, yeah, we've got the heart of a champion," he said. "When you've got players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor -- you're about to make me name the whole damn roster -- and there's some young guys whose names a lot of people don't know who bring a lot of fight. I always look at the best of our team. So ... hell yeah. I would have to be a fool to say no."
As the Seahawks' bus headed toward the Kansas City airport, Lynch gave a final thought: "The main thing I just want to be communicated is that we played a hard-fought game, and it didn't go our way. Everything else, you just let it fall into place."