Off-field issues again steal Oakland Raiders' headlines following Marshawn Lynch protest

By The Sports Xchange  |  Aug. 16, 2017 at 1:26 AM
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NAPA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders were back at practice Tuesday, hoping to hold off a wave of non-football related publicity as running back Marshawn Lynch did not stand for the national anthem in the preseason opener.

Lynch, as is his custom, said nothing. Other than a few minutes with the NFL Network during which Lynch mostly joked with the hosts, he hasn't given an interview since training camp began.

So, Lynch's motives aren't clear. It is the latest story in a training camp that has to do with things that aren't taking place on the field, including a continuing holdout by left tackle Donald Penn and a mysterious "shin splints" injury to first-round draft pick Gareon Conley that has kept the cornerback off the field.

Del Rio met the Lynch story head-on in his postgame press conference.

"He said, 'This is something I've been doing for 11 years. It's not a form of me being anything but myself,'" Del Rio said. "I said, 'Just so you understand how I feel, I very strongly believe in standing for the national anthem, but I'm going to respect you as a man. You do your thing, OK?' So that's a non-issue for me."

Del Rio would not elaborate Tuesday, saying he would rely on a "leadership council" of veteran players and wouldn't feel the need to address the team as a whole.

Del Rio did, however, go a little further with USA Today moments after staying buttoned up on the podium.

"We want to have a collection of individuals that come together as a team to play football," Del Rio said. "We don't need anybody in the organization to think the same way I think or have the same feelings I have on different topics.

"I mean, we're in America. That's one of the things we have. We have the freedom to be ourselves."

While the Raiders didn't make team leaders such as quarterback Derek Carr or defensive end Khalil Mack available, tight end Jared Cook lent his support.

"I'm proud of him. I think it's awesome that he did it," Cook told a group of reporters. "Everybody has a voice, especially with what happened in Charlottesville the night before. I think it's important in our profession to step up and speak on unnecessary situations we find ourselves in as young minorities a lot of times."

In 2014 as a member of the St. Louis Rams, Cook took part in a "hands up, don't shoot" protest as part of the aftermath of a Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of an unarmed black man by a white officer. Cook wasn't sure if he would join in the protest based on what happened in Charlottesville.

He said, "I have in the past. As far as the future I don't know. I feel uneasy about the situation that's going on in this country and have been for a while, so as far as it determines my future moves, I'm not sure."

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