Sio Moore is a prankster to the core, at times an eight-year old trapped in a freakishly athletic body. The Raiders outside linebacker wears cartoon pajamas after every practice. He has a new pal named Chip, a Raiders sock monkey that accompanies him during training camp.
Sio’s a fun-loving guy, typically loose with his teammates, the press and on social media. He makes for a great sound byte, but sometimes Moore can be a big talker you don’t always take to heart.
Not so on Tuesday. Moore was focused and direct, without a punch line to hammer home. You never know how athletes act outside the media’s prying eye -- in meeting rooms, for example -- but he certainly seemed sincere about embracing the structure required to elevate his game. He spoke in measured tones, talking as much about life as he did about the game.
Football is serious business these days, not just because he’s battling Miles Burris for the right to start at weakside linebacker. He seems more committed to his craft after discovering that, at this level, talent will only take you so far.
[RELATED: Depth chart: Moore over Burris]
In short, no more getting by with a wink and a smile. He understands it’s time to work.
“Everybody sees that I like to have fun and mess around, but there is a serious side to me that’s passionate about what I do,” Moore said. “I love football to death, and I believe that I have the skill to play at an extremely high level.
“…I don’t want to be known as a great talent. I want to be known as a great person who gave it everything he had playing the game he loved. That’s what I’m working toward now.”
That’s what the Raiders require. Head coach Dennis Allen prefers players in love with football, who are serious and dedicated to their craft. He and general manager Reggie McKenzie have imported those traits across the depth chart, especially those plugged in to pivotal roles.
They’d love to see Moore take firm hold off a starting spot. Burris hasn’t made that easy. He’s taken most first-team reps this camp, a reward for a tireless work ethic and an unwavering commitment to playing the game right.
“I think both of those guys are good football players,” Allen said. “Miles is a tough, physical, hard-nosed player. Sio has probably got a little more athleticism, but I think both of those guys are very capable starting linebackers in the National Football League.”
With heralded rookie Khalil Mack on the strongside, Moore moved across the formation. That left one spot for two capable players. Allen has declared an open competition to get the best from each player. While position battles often pit one against another, Moore doesn’t look at it that way.
“I can stand in my own way,” Moore said. “I know that, at times, I’m in a competition with myself. It’s made to be between Miles and me. He and I are teammates, not adversaries, and that’s how it will stay. I look at this as a challenge. I earned something last year, and I have no problem earning it again.”
Moore feels comfortable on the weakside, a difficult position that demands versatile talent. It also requires football smarts to play right. That’s a point of emphasis in Moore’s development, one he’s focused and ready to take.
“I’d like to continue to progress as a student of the game,” he said. “Playing with athleticism has never been hard. Learning what do how and how to interpret what you see can make you play better and faster than you could on physical ability alone. That’s a goal of mine. There’s no joking around in that. It’s a lot of hard work.”