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Marshawn Lynch, Alex Smith and Reuben Foster. Besides having played football in the Bay Area, there is little to connect them. Their personalities are arranged across a vast spectrum. They come from different backgrounds and have claimed different levels of accomplishment. But they do have something in common right now: We don’t know if any of the three will play in the NFL again.

I hope they do. All of them. Really.

I want Marshawn Lynch to play again, because the league is less fun without him. He doesn’t speak to reporters much. Everybody knows that. It’s unfortunate, but it only feeds the Beast Mode mystique. Anyway, Lynch finds other ways to entertain. He shoots videos in which he pranks fast-food customers. He makes Skittles ads that, in the hands of anyone else, would be boring Skittles ads; with Lynch on screen, they’re comedic gold.

Even in his media silence, Lynch is a buoyant presence. He circulates in the Raiders locker room, advising teammates on how to fill out their 401(k) forms. He instructs and amuses the team’s younger running backs. And he’s been really good on the field. Before he injured his groin against the Seahawks in London on Oct. 14, he had been one of Oakland’s three best players in 2017-18, along with center Rodney Hudson and tight end Jared Cook.

Lynch’s un-retirement had been a ray of sunshine for the tumbling Raiders. The native son came home, basked in the love of the Black Hole, danced on the sideline and led the team in touchdowns. And no athlete does more for Oakland. Lynch, largely through his Fam1st Family Foundation, has done things like provide kids with backpacks, school supplies and haircuts as a back-to-school present, and host 25 children for a trip to London to watch the Raiders in action — to watch Lynch get hurt, as it happened.

Lynch will not play again this season. That was resolved when the Raiders designated tackle Donald Penn to return from the injured reserve, their second (and last) such transaction.

Will Beast Mode come back next year? He will be 33 years old, returning from a major injury. The main reason he came out of retirement in 2017 was for a chance to wear silver and black. Now it’s not even clear the Raiders will play in Oakland in 2019. Lynch doesn’t particularly need the money; he’s a successful entrepreneur. And who knows if mercurial coach Jon Gruden even wants him back?

I’d love to see Marshawn barreling into defenders next fall, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

I want Alex Smith to play again, because I’m a little sentimental.

I mentioned Smith in a recent column and referred to him as one of the Bay Area’s most popular athletes of recent years. A professional acquaintance took me to task, arguing that Smith drove 49ers fans crazy. He may have, but I think even those jaded Niners fans can admire Smith in retrospect. He remains one of the humblest, smartest and most approachable football players I have encountered. He was a normal guy in a highly abnormal profession.

Smith’s career has, in many ways, been defined by bad luck. He was drafted by a 49ers organization that was destined to be crummy for years. He rode a carousel of different offensive coordinators. And when he finally got into a groove in 2012, playing the best football of his life, he suffered a concussion. His replacement was Colin Kaepernick, and the NFL wasn’t ready for Kaepernick’s athletic ability. Smith never got the job back.

He played well in Kansas City for five years, but was 1-4 in playoff games. Certainly, some of that is on Smith. He is no Patrick Mahomes. But Smith proved his value again this season, leading the Washington team to a 6-3 record before the game in which he shattered his right leg against the Houston Texans.

The news has gotten worse. Reports from DC say that Smith developed a serious infection in the leg after multiple surgeries. As of Thursday, he was still in the hospital. Doctors and team officials worry that the quarterback won’t play again. He’ll be 35 in May.

This isn’t the way Alex Smith should go out. He deserves another crack at the Super Bowl.

I want Reuben Foster to play again, because I believe in human potential.

Let’s be clear, though. Foster shouldn’t play this season, though he is on the Washington payroll. He shouldn’t play next year, either. I don’t know exactly how much time the young linebacker should miss. I just know this version of Reuben Foster has no place in the NFL.

Foster’s legal issues remain frustratingly opaque. At the very least, he is a young man who makes terrible decisions, including an ongoing toxic relationship. But it sure feels like Foster’s guilt runs deeper than that, doesn’t it? Anyone who would put his hands on a woman at the team hotel, when he’s already on the thinnest ice imaginable, is likely to do much worse inside the home.

So why would I want a man like that to get another crack at his chosen profession? Because everyone has the ability to mature, to gain perspective and wisdom as they age. I mean, I sure hope we all can. I spent some time inside San Quentin prison in October, and I heard a lot of testimonials from inmates there.

These men committed crimes far worse than anything Foster is accused of, and I left convinced that many of them now understand their culpability and yearn to prove they can be good citizens and good family members. I don’t know, maybe I’m a dupe.

I think of Michael Vick, though. What he did to dogs was a well-planned and long-lasting atrocity. You don’t know what exists in a man’s heart, but Vick did enough over time to convince me that he felt remorse and was unlikely to be a repeat offender. He missed three seasons in the prime of his NFL career, then returned and became a valued teammate, if mostly a backup. That’s how it should work.

Perhaps it will work like that for Reuben Foster. The Washington team was irresponsible in signing him so quickly, and I hope they get burned for it. Foster needs to stay away from football for a long while, until he develops a sense of accountability and learns to manage his rage.

Maybe Foster will be back in a couple years. Maybe he’ll be trying to tackle Lynch or slapping hands with Smith as the Washington defense comes off the field. It’s also possible that none of the three will wear a uniform again. That makes me sad, for three different reasons.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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