Raiders

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.”

Snap count: Raiders LBs Jenkins, Morrow receive long look inside

Snap count: Raiders LBs Jenkins, Morrow receive long look inside

OAKLAND – Raiders second-year pro Cory James seems set to play most every down at weakside linebacker. He doesn’t yet have a running mate on the inside.

Tyrell Adams was his wingman during the offseason program. Marquel Lee was his primary partner during training camp and in the exhibition opener. The fifth-round middle linebacker started Saturday’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams but didn’t last long.

He was removed after opening series, which left an opening for veteran Jelani Jenkins to earn more snaps.

Jenkins played two series with the first unit – he was anchored to the second team in camp -- and played 34 defensive snaps in all. He had six tackles, including two for a loss.

“I think Jelani Jenkins went in there and played pretty well in the second or third series and played the rest of the first half,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I thought he was pretty solid.”

Del Rio has used a platoon in the middle, with Lee in the base package and other options playing in sub packages. The Raiders have used several players in a hybrid coverage linebacker role, one originally set for second-round safety Obi Melifonwu. He missed most of training camp with an undisclosed injury, and the Raiders have experimented with Sean Smith, Keith McGill before he got hurt, and now undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow in that spot.

Morrow took a turn with the first unit, and completed his 26 defensive snaps in the second half.

“Nick, those young guys we gave them an opportunity to compete. He finds the ball a little bit,” Del Rio said. “...Nick, at the end of the game, had a nice breakup. Almost got a pick. Would’ve ended it. Would’ve been nice.”

Morrow finished with two tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass defensed. He was targeted three times in coverage and allowed one catch for five yards.

Playing close to the line of scrimmage is relatively new for Morrow, who played farther back at Greenville College.

“It was an adjustment because I’m used to playing outside of the box,” Morrow said. “I started watching film with some of the vets, and I’m definitely feeling a lot more comfortable in there.”

While Lee had 40 defensive snaps in the exhibition opener, he only had 11 in the second game. He allowed one 24-yard catch on the opening series and made one tackle, but Del Rio focused on positives for the young linebacker learning on the fly.

“I think he’s actually done some pretty solid things,” Del Rio said. “He’s not the first linebacker to ever get exposed in man coverage, which happened last week. So, I think he’s actually been pretty solid. We have a pretty solid run front and he’s part of that.”

OFFENSE
Quarterback – Connor Cook 25, Derek Carr 17, EJ Manuel 17
Running back – Elijah Hood 13, George Atkinson III 12, DeAndre Washington 12, John Crockett 10, Jalen Richard 7, Marshawn Lynch 4, Jamize Olawale 1
Wide receiver – Johnny Holton 29, Isaac Whitney 24, Jaydon Mickens 22, K.J. Brent 21, Keon Hatcher 18, Amari Cooper 17, Michael Crabtree 16, Cordarrelle Patterson 13, Ishmael Zamora 6
Tight end – Clive Walford 15, Jared Cook 15, Gabe Holmes 11, Pharaoh Brown 11, Lee Smith 10, Ryan O’Malley 8
Offensive line – David Sharpe 38, Jylan Ware 35, Jordan Simmons 35, Ian Silberman 25, Oni Omoile 41, Vadal Alexander 24, Gabe Jackson 24, Kelechi Osemele 24, Rodney Hudson 24, Kareem Are 22, Marshall Newhouse 15, Oni Omoile 13, Jon Feliciano 10, Chauncey Briggs 6

DEFENSE
Defensive line –
James Cowser 33, Eddie Vanderdoes 30, Mario Edwards Jr. 30, Treyvon Hester 28, Denico Autry 27, Khalil Mack 20, Darius Latham 19, Branden Jackson 16, Paul Boyette 11, Justin Ellis 11, Jimmy Bean 4, Fadol Brown 3
Linebacker – Cory James 37, Tyrell Adams 36, Jelani Jenkins 34, Nicholas Morrow 26, Shilique Calhoun 23, Bruce Irvin 20, LaTroy Lewis 14, Marquel Lee 11, Rufus Johnson 11, IK Enemkpali 10, Brady Sheldon 6
Cornerback – TJ Carrie 37, David Amerson 37, Antonio Hamilton 26, Kenneth Durden 26, Sean Smith 26, Dexter McDonald 20, Chris Humes 16, Breon Borders 8
Safety – Karl Joseph 37, Reggie Nelson 37, Shalom Luani 20, Marcus McWilson 20, Anthony Cioffi 16, Rickey Jefferson 16

SPECIAL TEAMS
Tyrell Adams 14, Shalom Luani 13, Shilique Calhoun 11, James Cowser 12, Elijah Hood 10, Nicholas Morrow 10, Jamize Olawale 10, Dexter McDonald 9, DeAndre Washington 9, Xavier Woodson-Luster 9, Marquette King 8, K.J. Brent 8, Isaac Whitney 8, Antonio Hamilton 8, Anthony Cioffi 7, Rickey Jefferson 7, Karl Joseph 6, Jelani Jenkins 6, Clive Walford 5, John Crockett 5, Sebastian Janikowski 5, Andrew East 5, Jalen Richard 5, Breon Borders 5, Marcus McWilson 4, Jaydon Mickens 4, Chris Humes 4, Ryan O’Malley 4, TJ Carrie 4, Darius Latham 3, Gabe Holmes 3, George Atkinson III 3, Eddie Vanderdoes 3, Mario Edwards 3, Treyvon Hester 3, Justin Ellis 3 Denico Autry 3, Jon Condo 3, Jon Feliciano 3, Lee Smith 3, Marshall Newhouse 2, Khalil Mack 2, Bruce Irvin 2, Giorgio Tavecchio 2, Cordarrelle Patterson 2, Vadal Alexander 2, Gabe Jackson 2, Kelechi Osemele 2, David Sharpe 2, Jylan Ware 1, Chauncey Briggs 1, Cory James 1, Oni Omoile 1, Kareem Are 1, Jordan Simmons 1, Ian Silberman 1, Branden Jackson 1, Brady Sheldon 1, Paul Boyette 1

DID NOT PLAY
WR Seth Roberts, CB Gareon Conley, S Obi Melifonwu, DB Keith McGill, OL Denver Kirkland, DL Jihad Ward

Raiders' Carr, Mack promote unity, racial harmony during national anthem

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USATSI

Raiders' Carr, Mack promote unity, racial harmony during national anthem

OAKLAND – All eyes shifted to the Raiders sideline Saturday night when the national anthem played.

Yep, Marshawn Lynch took a seat. No shocker there. He did the same thing last week, and while he hasn’t addressed it specifically, the action is linked with other anthem protests bringing attention to mistreatment of minorities in the United States.

Bruce Irvin stood with his brethren but raised his fist, as he did several times last year.

Derek Carr stood right on the sideline, and put his arm on Khalil Mack’s left shoulder. That gesture wasn't happenstance. It carried a message. It wasn’t, Carr insists, meant to protest anything.

“We’re not doing anything like that,” Carr said after a 24-21 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Coliseum. “We wanted to show the kids that look up to me, look up to him, white kids, black kids, brown kids, blue, green, it doesn’t matter -- all be loving to each other. We’re best friends and we’re loving to one another.

“The only reason we did that was to unify the people that look up to us because obviously you see what’s going on in the world. Obviously everyone pays attention to the national anthem nowadays. We just said that obviously this was the best time to do it while still honoring this country because I love this country. We’re free to live here and play this game but we’re also free to show that we love one another.”

Mack isn’t one to rock the boat. He and Carr wanted to make a statement without ruffling feathers, something that would remain positive while addressing racial issues prevalent in the news today.

“It’s discussed a lot,” Mack said. “It’s one of the things I feel passionately about but I just don’t like the tension that comes with it. But at the same time, just using our platform for positivity is what’s important to me.”

Offensive coordinator Todd Downing put an arm on fullback Jamize Olawale and echoed the Carr-Mack message. We’ve seen similar signs of unity across the league. Philadelphia defensive end Chris Long, son of former Raiders pass rusher Howie Long, put an arm around Malcolm Jenkins while he protested. Seattle center Justin Britt put an hand on Michael Bennett’s shoulder while he sat for the national anthem.

Those actions drew attention. Carr and Mack do the same.

Their star power increases the volume of their message. Carr’s an MVP candidate and the league’s highest-paid player. Mack is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. When they do something, people pay attention. That was their hope on Saturday, when the cameras would be aimed at them.

Carr and Mack are good friends off the field, and want to be an example of unity despite different races and backgrounds.

“I think that’s the message, the only message we were trying to get out,” Carr said. “Any kid, any family, any adult that follows us and looks up to us we knew their eyes would be on us and we wanted to show them for a white kid and black kid that grew up in different neighborhoods can grow up and love one another and be best friends.”