Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lynch: The Game is Different...And the Same

New Ring of Honor member John Lynch, a famously hard-hitter understands how the NFL has changed since his playing days ended but is certain he could be just as successful in today's environment.

The highlight video that preceded the introduction of John Lynch as the next inductee into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor included a series of significant late-game interceptions during his 11 seasons with the team. They were the plays that earned Lynch the nickname of "The Closer" from Monte Kiffin, his long-time defensive coordinator.

Of course, this being a John Lynch highlight reel, there were also plenty of crushing tackles, the kind that earned him a reputation as one of the hardest hitters of his generation. Later, he acknowledged that some of those hits, while acceptable and celebrated at the time, might now draw flags due to rule changes intended to make the NFL game safer.

The best photos of safety John Lynch.

"It's a different game," said Lynch. "It's changed and it's had to. There are a lot of things maybe we're discovering that we didn't know then, so the game is changing."

All of which led to the inevitable question, during Friday's press conference, one he's heard many times before: Would he be in one team's Ring of Honor and a finalist for the entire league's Hall of Fame if his career took place in today's environment? Lynch smiled as he answered but admitted that he wasn't fond of the implicit reasoning behind the question.

"I do bristle a little bit at that notion because I say, 'Look at a guy like Kam Chancellor up there in Seattle.' He's learned, and you adjust," said the nine-time Pro Bowler. "I played the way I was taught to play and I did it to the best of my ability. That's what we were taught. Some of those things we saw on that film wouldn't fly in today's football, I understand that, but I think I also would have changed and I would have adjusted to the way it's being coached now."

Chancellor, who will soon play in his fourth Pro Bowl, is similar in size to Lynch and also known as a hitter for whom opposing pass-catchers must account. He's part of a secondary that's known as the "Legion of Boom," and that nickname alone suggest that hard, aggressive tackling is still part of the game.

Lynch, had he been drafted in 2013 instead of 1993, would have learned to play the game just as Chancellor has, and he would have excelled at it. That's the opinion of Jerry Angelo, the long-time Chicago Bears' general manager who was Tampa Bay's director of player personnel in 1993.

"He could, absolutely," said Angelo, who knows Lynch stepped into a situation where some of the Bucs' staff wasn't sold on his abilities. "When he was drafted, they said the same things that they're saying now. Obviously, some of the coaches believed what was said and John had to prove himself. But as a player, John's a chameleon. He would do whatever he had to do to succeed and help his team. We thought he was a box safety, putting him down, low? No, John played well in deep half. We trusted him back there."

Even though he last played in the NFL in 2007, Lynch is fully aware of how the game has evolved in the decade since. He's had a front-row seat to the changes as a game analyst for Fox NFL broadcasts. And even if it isn't exactly the same game he played, he's absolutely fine with what it has become.

"I think the game's great," he said. "Every time I get a little concerned, people get a little concerned, you just look at the ratings, and 43 million people watched the games last weekend. I think the game's in great hands. As much as it changes, it stays the same, and the great things about this game come to the forefront."

Undoubtedly, that's exactly what would have happened to Lynch is his career had started 20 years later. We'd just have to wait a while longer for that Ring of Honor ceremony.

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