Khalil Mack's three-word mantra during Raiders' limbo period in Oakland

Khalil Mack's three-word mantra during Raiders' limbo period in Oakland

The Raiders press corps has expanded. Several reporters from Las Vegas and a national media member joined the typical Bay Area crew on Monday, a sign that these Raiders will receive more attention this year.

That’s customary for a good team with engaging, marketable stars, but also a proof that these Raiders are serving two markets.

It’s a tightrope players have walked since NFL owners allowed the Raiders to move from Oakland to Las Vegas by a 31-1 vote. Before Monday, it was mostly with fans met out in public. Media access began Monday to kick off the offseason program, and marked the first time players were engaged in post-relocation talk with cameras rolling.

The Raiders plan to play three seasons in the Bay Area – they have lease options at Oakland Coliseum through 2018 – before a new, state-of-the-art Las Vegas stadium is ready in 2020. That’s a long limbo period, one where the Raiders hope to receive solid fan support from a market they are leaving while catering some to a market they’ll be joining soon.

Khalil Mack morphed Al Davis’ famous mantra into a way the Raiders can navigate often-choppy waters.

“It comes up all the time but it’s always the thing like, ‘just win now,’” Mack said Monday, answering the fourth relocation-related question of his press conference. “That’s what it comes down to for us. That’s all we want to do. You don’t know what’s going to happen down the line. You don’t know. This team that we have now, we want to focus on winning now.”

Center Rodney Hudson was asked about Las Vegas or relocation five times, and deflected each inquiry. Can’t blame him for that, When handed a hot potato, it’s best to pass it on.

Quarterback Derek Carr is the Raiders’ public face, and has consequently been the most vocal on the topic. That included an impassioned message released on Twitter the day the Raiders were approved to move. He talked about uniting Raider Nation, and thanking Oakland fans and saying how much the team loves the East Bay.

He echoed similar sentiments on Monday during seven Vegas-related questions, and understands there might be awkward moments ahead.

“I’m human, man. It’s like, that’s crazy. How do you keep playing somewhere you love and then you have to go and play somewhere else that you’re going to have to love and love the people there just like we will?” Carr said. “For me, I really had to concentrate on, in all honesty, it doesn’t matter yet.

“It’s like something that’s coming, it’s big news, it’s exciting for our organization and for fans that are Raider fans in Nevada and things like that, but at the same time we have our fans here that we need to take care of. That’s really important to me, to take care of our fans here, to make sure that enjoy our last times… What is it? Two years? Three years? Who knows? But, that’s my focus is to make sure I’m giving everything to this city that I can and not trying to do a little here and a little there.

“Obviously, there are going to be times where we’re in Vegas doing things because it’s a weird situation, but my focus is here and now, making sure that our fans feel appreciated knowing that they are going to get the very best version of me and my teammates every time we step out on the field.”

Despite repeated answers promoting unity, including one where Carr described positive interactions with Raiders fans in the Oakland area, he took some flak Tuesday for using the phrase “true Raider fans,” to describe those who remain loyal. His comment, presented in its entirety below, rubbed some fans the wrong way despite Carr’s great efforts to remain inclusive and express the difficulty inherent in serving two markets. He said fans have remained positive when engaging him.

“Honestly, it was surprising to me. I don’t know if it really should have surprised me because that’s just how Raider fans are,” he said. “It’s just, ‘Hey, we’re going with you. We’re Raiders.’ Like I said in the message, through the hard times and the good times, we’re still Raiders. There’s been a lot of hard times before. Now, we’re starting to have some good times. This is just another thing that we’re just going to deal with together. We’re not going to split up like you’ve seen other cities do. We’re not going to do things like that. For the ones that do, I don’t really believe that they’re true Raider fans. I feel their hurt. I’m with you. I hurt too. But at the same time, we’re all in this together and we’re just going to do it together.”

He reiterated his point on Twitter later Monday night, saying, “Just in case I was misunderstood…I love ALL Raiders fans, wherever they are from…We are in this together, always! #RaiderNation.”

Marshawn Lynch excellent fit for Raiders scheme, ailing Oakland fan base

Marshawn Lynch excellent fit for Raiders scheme, ailing Oakland fan base

Marshawn Lynch is a Raider. He announced that fact on Twitter in his own unique way Wednesday, completing a month-long process from initial interest to final signature.

The Raiders gave him a new contract and traded Seattle for his rights, allowing the Oakland Tech High grad and Cal alum to come out of retirement and play for his hometown team.

That’s good news for Raiders fans on several fronts. He fills an immediate need at running back created when Latavius Murray left for Minnesota.

It temporarily tempers, though certainly doesn’t extinguish, rage about the Raiders relocating to Las Vegas.

[RATTO: Here's to hoping Marshawn Lynch upstages the NFL Draft]

Owner Mark Davis hopes to move his team when a new stadium is complete in 2020. 

Lynch won't be there. Lynch won’t represent Vegas. He’s an Oakland Raider, playing for the city he champions at every turn. Lynch regularly gives back to this community and might be its most popular native son right now.

Lynch missed playing football, but he wanted to represent his hometown. That was clear in his tweet. He explained it this way: “I’m really from Oakland doe like really really really from Oakland doe…town bizness breath on me.”

He’ll celebrate joining the Raiders on Thursday with a block party and autograph signing in Oakland.

Lynch will give East Bay fans something to cheer for that won’t be shipping off to Vegas in a few years.

Nothing can cure the pain of an NFL team leaving Oakland a second time. Wins are ibuprofen, giving short-term relief to an ailing fan local base. He can certainly help the Raiders provide that.

The Silver and Black needed a big, physical primary rusher to pair with elusive, yet smaller backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.

Lynch is that guy. There’s no question he’s a football fit.

Lynch is a strong interior rusher from several different formations. He could run well behind fullback Jamize Olawale, as a lone shotgun runner or in jumbo packages with quarterback Derek Carr under center and behind a hulking Raiders offensive line.

While new offensive coordinator Todd Downing will add some wrinkles to an existing scheme, the Raiders employ a versatile system that could suit Lynch’s many strengths.

Lynch ranks among the toughest, most aggressive backs of his generation and one of the best resisting tackles.

He averaged 4.3 yards per carry and 2.8 yards after contact per rushing attempt in his career, according to analytics site Pro Football Focus.

Lynch led the NFL with 245 broken tackles between 2013 and 2016 – 56 more than the next guy -- and he didn’t even play last season, per PFF.

He led the league with an unreal 3.1 yards after per contact in 2014, his last year fully healthy. He played just eight times in 2015 due to an abdominal injury that required surgery.

Lynch is completely healthy after his year travelling the world, doing charity work and expanding his clothing line, but effectiveness is always questioned of running backs over 30. Lynch turned 31 last week. He heads into his 10th season without having been hit in a while, and many believe he can produce like few others his age have in the NFL.

He’ll take the lion’s share of carries in a three-man rotation with Richard and Washington. He reportedly gets an extra $2 million if he's just the second Raider since 2010 to reach 1,000 yards. There’s motivation to push for that and other incentives in the deal. If Lynch is in vintage Beast Mode and fans are happy, the Raiders will gladly pay the extra freight.

Here's to hoping Marshawn Lynch upstages the NFL Draft

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AP

Here's to hoping Marshawn Lynch upstages the NFL Draft

Marshawn Lynch is going to upstage the NFL Draft for a few moments by announcing his signing with the Oakland Raiders Thursday.

The problem with this is obvious. He can’t upstage it all day long.

The NFL Draft is one of those events that demeans all who come in contact with it, because it basically extols the three virtues the owners find most inspiring – dishonesty, bullying and treachery. Between everyone lying about everything they do, making players submit to the most revolting reputational indignities, and just good old-fashioned broken promises like, “If you’re there at 119, we’re taking you, oh wait, we suddenly hate you and your skill set,” the draft is largely a festival of misery.

Not universally, mind you. Some players love it, especially the ones who hit the lottery, get picked higher than they thought they would and go to the perfect team for their talents and temperaments. That’s not the usual road, but there you go.

But mostly, nah. And we’re not even getting into the cavalcade of media self-anointeds who think they know what they’re talking about but only serve to remind us that not everybody is a fun companion in a bar.

Now the disclaimer: If you like the NFL Draft, fine. Wallow in every minute of it with our blessing. It'll keep you from all level of other mischief, and it is relatively harmless fun if you can deal with the aesthetic unpleasantries to which we just referred. Just understand that you are spending 356 minutes of party prep for three days of partying and six days of cleanup. It's a hamster wheel of fun, but it is a hamster wheel.

But then there's Marshawn Lynch, who overcame being one of those draft casualties (because Buffalo didn’t work for him, and he didn’t work all that well for Buffalo, either), is coming out of retirement to be traded and then rendered a Raider in the time still allotted for them to reside in Oakland. As a distraction, this will play well enough. It sure beats DeMarcus Cousins being traded by Sacramento during the NBA All-Star Game.

I suppose this is a heart-rending tale of one man’s loyalty to his city (the right place at the right price), although there is the naggingly worrisome component that going back to football won’t be good for his overall health. It is the risk he runs, to be sure, and one can only assume that he has made a clearheaded choice, but this is not a spot that treats its recidivists well.

That’s recidivists, as in “folks who walked away happily, then found out they needed it too much for their own good.”

Frankly, there is no good reason not to want this to turn out well for Lynch (the Raiders can take of themselves with or without him, and within two years will do exactly that), but it is a case of bucking some daunting odds in what is too often a zero-sum game. That’s a level of risk that should make anyone queasy.

But it is what Marshawn Lynch wants, risks and all, and as a grown adult he should get the opportunity few are afforded – to chase and catch his dream until it stops being a dream and becomes a chore.

If it works out for the Raiders as well, fine. Lynch isn’t the one who will put them over the top in a conference dominated by three teams – New England, the Patriots and Bill Belichick – but if he finds the athletic closure he seeks, it ought to be good enough for the rest of us.

Especially if it even momentarily minimizes the rest of the hot rhetorical/gasbaggy mess that is Draft Night. If nothing else, here’s hoping Marshawn Lynch is the star of the night. That’s not the way to bet, of course, but a person can hope.