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Bills RB Lynch's actions cause for excitement

During a lull in practice, Marshawn Lynch found himself alone a few yards behind his teammates when, without warning, the Buffalo running back did a standing back-flip that would have made Paul Hamm proud.  

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- During a lull in practice, Marshawn Lynch found himself alone a few yards behind his teammates when, without warning, the Buffalo running back did a standing back-flip that would have made Paul Hamm proud.

With his equipment on, Lynch went cleats over helmet before sticking a perfect landing. Whatever it was that prompted the highly difficult gymnastic move isn't known, because Lynch has declined interview requests since arriving at training camp in suburban Rochester two weeks ago.

Evidently, the former first-round draft pick is still unhappy over the negative attention he received in June during a prolonged police investigation into a hit-and-run accident involving Lynch, who sped off after striking and injuring a female pedestrian. After nearly a month of silence, Lynch eventually pleaded guilty to a minor traffic violation and apologized to his fans and teammates.

But if the back-flip is a reflection of his mood in preparing for his second NFL season, there's no cause for concern that Lynch is burdened by what happened.

"He's still himself," receiver Lee Evans said. "It doesn't look like it's lingering in the back of his mind. I think he's put it behind him like the rest of us."

He's still the same carefree guy, added offensive tackle Langston Walker.

"It could be 40 feet of snow on the ground and he's out there with a huge smile," Walker said. "I don't think it's bothered us and I think he's handled it. When was it, June? It's August now, and it'll be September before you know it."

Come September, the Bills are counting on Lynch to build off of a year in which he had 1,115 yards rushing -- second most by a Buffalo rookie -- scored a team-leading seven touchdowns and finished fifth in the AFC in averaging 85.8 yards rushing per game.

That's not bad considering Lynch missed three games because of a sprained left ankle and was part of an anemic offense that produced only 20 touchdowns -- the fewest by the team in a 16-game season.

Lynch has been solid in training camp so far, powering through holes with leg-pumping force, and lowering his shoulder to crack defensive teammates while drawing cheers from the stands.

Lynch's ability has never been in question after enjoying a solid three-year career at California before being drafted 12th overall. What was a concern is how the accident -- and how it played in the media -- would affect his popularity.

Under his attorney's advice, Lynch declined to speak to investigators, who became increasingly frustrated by his lack of cooperation. It wasn't until Erie County district attorney Frank Clark issued subpoenas to several Bills players and officials to testify before a grand jury when Lynch finally agreed to a deal.

A judge fined Lynch $150 and ordered his driver's license to be revoked. Lynch, though, maintains his license as his attorney appeals that part of the ruling.

Bills fans appear to be behind Lynch, based on the cheers he's receiving and the many No. 23 jerseys spotted among the crowds along the sidelines and in the stands.

"I didn't lose any respect for him for making a mistake," said Alex Rosario, 27, of Fredonia. "I've made mistakes before so I'd be hypocritical if I said they should punish him more than what they did."

Megan Scott had mixed emotions as she stood watching practice, wearing a No. 23 jersey and holding her newborn son, Nicholas.

"It was very souring what he did," Scott said. "If my little guy was a little bit older, what am I supposed to tell him when one of his heroes is caught in a mess like that?"

And yet, Scott was willing to forgive.

"I do give him the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully he can stay out of trouble and be a big play-maker for the Bills," she said.

Lynch is paying attention to Bills fans by spending time to sign autographs after most practices. Last month, he also held a football camp for about 500 children in his hometown of Oakland.

Rookie receiver Steve Johnson took part in the camp and said it was important for Lynch to give back to his community.

"Growing up in Oakland, it's tough," Johnson said. "Marshawn is one of those guys who's on top of his game right now. And coming back to his community shows the kids that you can make it. Having a guy like that, it's like a blessing."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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