ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -Thurman Thomas knows a thing or two about what it takes to build a successful career as running back in Buffalo.
So when the topic turns to Bills rookie first-round pick Marshawn Lynch, Thomas happily agrees with the initial comparisons that have been drawn between them.
``Yeah, there are some similarities,'' the Hall of Famer said this week. ``But I think he might be a little faster than I was. And I think he's a lot tougher than I am, especially from what I've seen it takes to get him down on the ground.''
That's high praise coming from the franchise's leading rusher and key member of the Bills teams that won four consecutive AFC titles in the early 1990s.
Thomas, of course, notes that Lynch is only getting started and has much to prove.
And yet, he added: ``With the way he's playing now, he could be a running back that could be here for nine or 10 years if he keeps his head on straight.''
Lynch's initial reaction is silence when informed of Thomas' comments.
``It's an honor for him to even speak my name,'' Lynch said, finally. ``I take it as a compliment for him to say something like that about me. But it's all talk until I make something here.''
Lynch is off to a good start, having established himself already as the Bills' most consistent offensive threat this season.
Eight games in, Lynch ranks fourth in the NFL with 690 yards rushing, 191 short of what Thomas had as a rookie in 1988. Lynch is coming off his most complete game, registering a season-best 153 yards rushing and a touchdown that capped a 33-21 win over Cincinnati.
He's scored five touchdowns rushing, one short of his predecessor, Willis McGahee, last season. And that doesn't include the 8-yard touchdown pass Lynch made to Robert Royal that put the Bills ahead for good against the Bengals.
And the only NFL offensive rookie Lynch is playing second fiddle to is Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, who leads the league with 1,036 yards rushing and had the most productive rushing day in league history last weekend.
Not that it matters to Lynch, who was drafted 12th overall out of California, five spots behind Peterson.
``That's all right. It's cool,'' Lynch said. ``It doesn't matter if you all talk about me. I'm a Bill. You talk about the Bills and now we're talking.''
Lynch's selfless nature is genuine and marks a departure from McGahee, who was traded to Baltimore last March, and known for referring to himself as the NFL's top running back.
Lynch has also won over Bills fans by embracing the city and making it his year-round home. McGahee, by comparison, spent his offseasons in his native Miami and, following his trade, knocked Buffalo for its lack of nightlife.
More important, Lynch's reserved demeanor belies an aggressive running style that has impressed his teammates.
There was the time in the Bills' season opener against Denver when Lynch had his helmet knocked off at the line of scrimmage, but still plowed through the line for a 2-yard gain to convert a fourth-and-1. Or how about last weekend, when Lynch bounced off one tackle, shed another defender and scampered 56 yards to seal Buffalo's third straight victory.
Right tackle Langston Walker is still getting accustomed to Lynch's ability to keep a play alive.
``Sometimes, you go out there and block and think the guy's down and you're thinking about the next play,'' And then you look over, and he has about five defensive guys on his back trying to get him down.''
Walker added: ``You watch it on tape afterward and it's like 'Damn, how'd he do that? How's he staying up after a hit that might knock any other runner down?'''
``Beast mode,'' is how Lynch likes to describe his style.
``Beast mode is Marshawn when I'm on the field,'' Lynch said. ``That's the mood I'm in. I just feel a will to never quit, never lay down or give up.''
It's a stubborn mentality - ``I was kind of a hardheaded child,'' Lynch said - that's been with him all along.
Lynch has approached Thomas, seeking advice on what it takes to be a better player.
Thomas is eager to help out.
``I see a guy who's having fun,'' Thomas said. ``If I can lend my hand and lend my experience to Marshawn, hopefully, he can just take it from there.''

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