Lynch’s decision catches Broncos by surprise |

Lynch’s decision catches Broncos by surprise

Pat Graham
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

ENGLEWOOD, Colorado ” Hamza Abdullah glanced to his left before a passing drill Thursday, failing to spy fellow Broncos safety John Lynch.

Abdullah was taken aback before reality suddenly hit him ” Lynch was no longer around.

“It was a weird feeling,” Abdullah said.

Lynch, who’s entering his 16th NFL season, received permission from coach Mike Shanahan to explore other opportunities.

Lynch’s decision caught his teammates by surprise. Champ Bailey knew the nine-time Pro Bowler was discontent with his playing time, but not to this degree.

“I didn’t see that coming,” Bailey said. “But I understand how competitive he is and how much pride he has about what he does on the field. It sucks that he can’t play every down, but that’s what he wants to do. He wasn’t happy with his role. I’m behind his decision all the way. I would love him to stay, but every guy has to look out for himself.”

Lynch was told he’d get an opportunity compete for a starting safety job when he took a pay cut this offseason.

But with the emergence of Marlon McCree, Lynch didn’t see much time in the nickel or dime packages during the first week of training camp.

McCree understood Lynch’s reasoning.

“It’s how life is in the NFL,” said McCree, who started all 16 games with San Diego last season. “John will go on and continue to have much success. I’m sure if he wants to play, he can still play at a high level. If not, he will be successful at other levels.”

Lynch’s decline in playing time began last season as he started to come off the field on passing downs.

Still, he played every snap over the last three games and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen eventually talked him into signing a cut-rate deal in the offseason. Lynch was even allowed to train on his own back in San Diego, instead of with the Broncos.

He came into camp knowing there were no guarantees and even said he preferred it that way.

“I made the decision because I still love the game,” he said of his return.

Because of that burning desire to play again, Broncos cornerback Domonique Foxworth could see Lynch hooking up with another team.

“He didn’t go to all those Pro Bowls just because they liked him,” Foxworth said. “He’s a player and I’m sure he can fit in somewhere.”

Abdullah said the reason he’s nabbed the starting strong safety spot for the Broncos is because of Lynch’s influence. He was always asking the veteran for advice, something Lynch was happy to dispense.

“If you poll all the starting safeties in the NFL, I guarantee they’re going to mention John Lynch as one of the top-five safeties of all time,” Abdullah said. “I guarantee you. He set the standard.”

He was not only a leader on the field, but in the Broncos locker room as well, where the team came to rely on his confident demeanor.

“Guys look up to him and respect him for what he’s done and what he can do,” Bailey said. “I have to step up a little bit without John …. He’s a proven winner.”

McCree felt the same way.

“I have nothing but respect and admiration for John Lynch,” he said. “I was sorry to see him leave. I was learning a lot from him. He was a great veteran leader and we’re going to miss him around here.”

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