PITTSFORD -- Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly said Friday what every Buffalo Bills fan is feeling: That running back Marshawn Lynch will show as much love for the city as it shows him.
Or in other words, be the anti-Willis McGahee.
McGahee made some not-so-flattering remarks about Buffalo's nightlife after being traded to Baltimore in March. Whether his words were true or not, it touched a nerve and he effectively burned most of his bridges in the area.
Kelly said Lynch can have the opposite effect as long as he understands the responsibility that goes with being a player in a football-crazed town like Buffalo.
"I think the city needs a guy to come in and be the running back we all hope for, that will embrace not only the football team, but embrace the city," Kelly said after the Bills' morning practice at St. John Fisher College. "I mean, this is your town. Be a part of the community. I just hope Lynch comes in and realizes this is his team now and this is his town. Embrace it, just love the people around you and get to know the people."
Lynch has already taken steps in that direction. The Oakland, Calif., native plans to make Buffalo his year-round home. His mother, Delisa, plans to live here, too, and was in town this week doing some house hunting.
Lynch has the golden smile and personality to win over Bills fans, but he knows that his football talent will endear him a lot more. And as the team's top draft pick, no one has to tell him that expectations are high.
"I've got a great amount of expectations on my shoulders," he said, "and I'm looking forward to carrying them. I'm up to the challenge."
Lynch made his training camp debut a day after becoming the last Bills draft pick to sign a contract. He began the day huddled with running backs coach Eric Studesville, who helped the rookie get re-acquainted with the offense.
Lynch got limited snaps in the seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 team periods, working behind veteran Anthony Thomas in the rotation. Lynch botched a handoff on his first running play, which he attributed to rustiness being away from football since the June minicamp.
That's why the Bills are going to take their time working him back into the offense.
"His retention is not going to be like the guy who has been playing a full season," offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild said. "He's just had a few days of OTAs [organized team activities]. We'll kind of gradually put him in there and see how it goes."
Though Lynch didn't get many opportunities during Friday's two practices, the 5-foot-10, 215-pounder did enough to show why he was the draft's 12th overall selection. He displayed an exceptional burst of speed on one running play when the offensive line collapsed the right side of the defense and allowed him to bounce outside and accelerate up the field.
"Sometimes in our running scheme he hits the corner when it's not really blocked perfectly and he's not supposed to do that, but he outruns everybody to a certain extent where you just have to start letting him do his thing," said quarterback J.P. Losman. "That's what he's good at. You can't over-coach a guy like that. You just have to trust him and realize that's how talented he is and just let him take over."
Kelly said Lynch conjured up some memories of Hall of Famer-to-be Thurman Thomas, but added that time will tell if Lynch can measure up.
"This training camp there are no pads on and he hasn't played a game yet," Kelly said. "But I'll be happy if he can do half the things that Thurman was able to do because I realize how important he was to our offense. When you're a young quarterback like J.P., you need that guy in the backfield to rely on."
The Bills are counting on Lynch being an all-purpose threat in the way Thomas was during his legendary career.
Lynch gained more than 3,800 yards and 35 touchdowns as a runner and receiver in just three seasons at the University of California.
Will Lynch make people forget about McGahee? To some, he already has. As for filling Thurman's shoes, well, stay tuned.
"I don't want to compare myself to greatness just yet," Lynch said. "That will take some time and I'll let you guys be the judge of that."