A Buffalo Bills offense that needs all the help it can get got some Monday with the return of running back Marshawn Lynch.
A day after the Bills went without an offensive touchdown in a 27-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Lynch returned to practice after serving his three-week suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
"It was hard, but that was part of the deal. I had to sit out. I'm just glad to be back," he said. "I'm always hungry and it's time to eat."
Lynch usually addresses the media with the enthusiasm one would a trip to the dentist for a root canal, but insisted his "Beast Mode" demeanor had not changed.
"Still me. Still the same ol' G. Ain't going to change," he said.
Lynch did not have an idea of how much playing time or how many carries he would receive Sunday against the Dolphins, but insisted he did not care who was deemed the starter.
Backup running back Fred Jackson was fourth in the NFL with 291 yards rushing entering Monday's game and has added 15 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown in three starts. His 425 yards from scrimmage in the first three games is the fourth-best start to a season over that stretch in team history. Last season, Lynch averaged 20 touches per game to Jackson's 10.5. It's clear those numbers could get closer after Jackson's strong start.
"Going into the season, even in the offseason when we knew about Marshawn's suspension, I said, 'We've got to be careful with Fred because he's a really good player and we don't want to overload him.' He had a lot of touches and did a great job," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "Now Marshawn's back and we'll take some of that load off [Fred] and evenly distribute it because both those guys are good. It'll make us a better team."
The offense could certainly use a boost.
"He's a big part of our offense," quarterback Trent Edwards said of Lynch. "I thought Fred's done a great job filling in for him, but now that he's back we've got kind of a one-two punch there."
Jackson sounded fine with that idea Monday.
"I'm probably more excited than anybody that [Lynch] is back," Jackson said. "He's a playmaker on this offense. . . . He brings back a different energy and we're excited about that."
On the field, Lynch has produced for the Bills. He's rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, and last year caught 47 passes for 300 yards. His troubles have come off the field.
He was convicted in March of a misdemeanor gun charge after being arrested in February in his native California. Police found a handgun in a backpack in the trunk of Lynch's parked car. He was sentenced to 80 hours of community service and three years of probation. Lynch also paid a fine for a hit-and-run accident he was involved in on Chippewa Street last year.
Lynch, who was barred from team facilities while he was suspended, stayed in Buffalo during his time away.
"I tried to stay away from as many fans as possible, but I was here," he said. "It's weird. I've been hearing a lot of mixed things, like some saying I can stay where I'm at, Fred's doing a wonderful job, which I don't mind. Some were telling me they can't way until I get back. You hear mixed emotions from fans. I'm just glad I've got these dudes [his teammates] on my side, to let me know I was missed."
The Bills were granted a three-day roster exemption for Lynch by the NFL. The team will have until Thursday to make a roster move and add Lynch to the active 53-man roster.
It's been a frustrating season for return man Roscoe Parrish, one that was compounded Sunday by a costly fumble on a punt return. The turnover led to a field goal that gave New Orleans a 10-7 lead.
"Just got to protect the ball better next time," he said.
Parrish has made it known he wants a bigger role on offense, but that hasn't happened this season -- he has just one catch.
Asked if he was still seeking a trade, Parrish was noncommittal.
"I'd like to be used more on offense, but it is what it is right now. I'm under contract," he said.
His performance in his primary role as a punt returner also hasn't been up to par. He's averaging just 2.7 yards per return on seven attempts.
"All it takes is one return," he said. "I've just got to keep pushing."
Punter Brian Moorman played the role of quarterback quite well on his 25-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Denney in the second quarter, the second straight year those two have hooked up for a score on a fake field goal.
It's a role Moorman played while in high school, albeit on a small scale. Much smaller, in fact. Sedgwick (Kansas) High School, Moorman's alma mater, fielded an eight-man team during his time there.
"It's a little bit different competition level [in the NFL]," he said.
Moorman was an accomplished athlete in high school, receiving all-state honors in track, basketball and football.