By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 17, 2000
Safety John Lynch, 28, has carved a reputation for being a fierce hitter and a superb run-stopper. One of four Bucs to be named All-Pro, an honor reserved for the best player in the league at each position, Lynch recently shared a few thoughts with Times staff writer Roger Mills.
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A: I keep on thinking that usually a team that's 12-5 and won nine of their last 10 games, somewhere along the way they have blown people out and had a chance to let their minds rest in certain games. We've been in every game, and that's taxing on you. Mentally, that's hard. The other thing is we fight for everything we get, even in games where we're blowing New Orleans out, we're thinking: "One touchdown and an onside kick and they tie this ballgame." So I think now (being in those close games) serves as a strength because we're battle-tested. But I have been concerned that sooner or later (the close games) have got to wear you down.
Q: You dish out a ton of punishment every game. Have you ever hit someone and felt like you came out on the wrong end of the collision?
A: I'm a little reluctant to tell you this because my dad and my mom always kind of told me to never let them see you sweat. Even when I was a pitcher in baseball and a guy hit a home run off of me, my dad always said, "Put a smile back on your face and say: "I'm coming right back at you.' " But there have been times when they have hurt, hurt a lot. But you never let them know it.
Q: So much has been made about the Rams' record, including two wins each over New Orleans, Atlanta, San Francisco and Carolina, as well as victories over Philadelphia and Cleveland. How much credence should be given to a regular-season schedule?
A: I still believe, and I know a lot of people in the AFC will laugh at me, but our division is the strongest in football. You look at teams like Jacksonville, and part of you is envious that you don't have the so-called gimmie games that they and the Rams have, since they play in a weaker conference. When you get to the playoffs, I think that will serve us well. The fact that every week in our conference there's a battle.
Q: You started your pro sports career in baseball, having been drafted by the Marlins in the second round in 1992 out of Stanford. Do you miss that sport?
A: I do in certain situations. I tell people all the time that there was nothing like baseball when it's late in the year, a championship is on the line, it's a 3-and-2 count with the score tied and it's either you're up to bat or you're pitching. There's nothing like that. That's a feeling that's second to none. But in my mind, it's the 161 other games (that were tough). It was not like it was monotonous and boring, there was a lot more to it, but it is not as action-packed as football where every play counts.
Q: Could you play pro baseball today?
A: Today? No. My arm is not in shape to do it.
Q: What if you had time to get in shape, do you think you could make it?
A: Yeah, I think I could. There's no doubt that I could.
Q: So what if the Devil Rays called and invited you for a tryout?
A: The funny thing about it is the Rays pitching coach, Rick Williams, was my pitching coach back with the Marlins. I don't want to start any speculation but ... it's not totally out of the realm of possibility. It's something I often think about. It's something my wife says all the time.
Q: Have the Rays approached you?
A: No. Until a couple years ago the Marlins held my rights since they put me on a suspended list because they did not cut me when I left. But now, I'm a free agent. My brother (Ryan) plays in the Padres organization. He's a left-handed pitcher, and in the off-season I go back and I catch him. There's a part of me that still loves baseball.
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