Lynch glad he could pay respect to Walsh, his former mentor

DENVER (AP) - If not for Bill Walsh, 15th-year safety John Lynch might have been a pitcher instead of a perennial Pro Bowler.

Lynch and tight end Nate Jackson attended Walsh's funeral in California on Thursday when the 49ers great was remembered as both an innovative leader and a loyal friend. More than 1,000 mourners honored Walsh, who died July 30 at 75 after a lengthy battle with leukemia.

"It was wonderful and it was wonderful to be a part of it," Lynch said Friday. "I'm thankful to Mike for letting me and Nate go out there and represent the organization but in a way also get to pay our respects to him."

Walsh had a major impact on Lynch's life.

He was Lynch's coach his senior season at Stanford in 1992 and he played a major role in steering the eight-time Pro Bowler into the NFL over a career in Major League Baseball.

The expansion Florida Marlins had selected Lynch in the second round of the June draft following his junior season. They though the outfielder who had played three seasons for the Cardinal could be a solid relief pitcher in the big leagues.

"Football was my first love, but at the same time, I felt like I had to do the smart thing," said Lynch, who had been converted that season from quarterback to a seldom-used defensive back.

"And he came in my senior year, watched all the tape, called me in his office and said, 'You can play in the NFL. Not only that, but you can be special in this league,"' Lynch recounted.

Lynch had been offered a choice of two bonuses by the Marlins: $400,000 to concentrate solely on baseball and one-fourth that if he wanted to continue playing football on the side.

He decided to return for his senior season of football "because Bill believed in me," Lynch said.

Others had told Lynch in college that he had a future in the NFL, but his spirit was broken his junior season when he was moved from quarterback to safety and started just a handful of games.

"He watched the tape and said, 'No disrespect to last year's coaching staff, but I don't know what they were thinking. You're our best defensive player,"' Lynch recalled. "He said, 'I want you back. You've got to do what's right for you, but you can play in the NFL.' It spoke volumes to me."

Lynch was selected in the third round of the 1983 draft by Tampa Bay but didn't excel until his third season with the Buccaneers. He leaned on Walsh often during that transition time.

"Those first two years I relied on him a lot. He kept saying, 'You can be a Pro Bowl player in this league,"' Lynch said. "And he was prophetic."

ONE MORE DAY: The Broncos finished their last of their two-a-day practices Friday. They'll have a morning workout Saturday, their last in front of their fans.

They travel to San Francisco for their exhibition opener Monday night, then they'll work out in Dallas next week before playing the Cowboys on Aug. 18.

"We have gotten a lot done in this camp," coach Mike Shanahan said. "We have a lot left, even through our camp ends officially on Saturday, we still have two practices against Dallas on Wednesday and Thursday that will obviously be a big part of our evaluation process. We still have four games to see what these guys can do, not only on offense and defense, but special teams as well. We have a long way to go."

The Broncos wrap up their exhibition slate with home games against Cleveland on Aug. 25 and Arizona on Aug. 30.

EXTRA POINTS: WR Javon Walker came up limping after a nice catch in the morning. "I'm not sure what it was, but he looked fine at the end," Shanahan said. ... Two hawks that have controlled the rabbit population at camp perched atop an Austrian pine in the south end zone for the best view of practice. ... RB Andre Hall hurt his right hamstring in the morning practice. ... WR Brandon Marshall, who practiced Friday for the first time all training camp, said he had his last MRI on his injured thigh two days ago. It showed no more muscle damage. "I thought I had a minor setback last week, but it was just scar tissue in there and it was just me not being mentally tough," Marshall said. ... S John Lynch was held out of the morning pads workout because his bruised sternum is still sore. He was injured when RB Travis Henry's helmet hit him in the chest Wednesday. "I'm learning firsthand it's a very painful spot to get hit," said Lynch, who returned to practice in the afternoon.


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