Meet Raiders rookie Jack Crawford

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Meet Raiders rookie Jack Crawford

Programming note: Tune in to SportsNet Central tonight at 6, 10:30 p.m. and midnight for our latest Meet the Rookies segment with Raiders LB Miles Burris, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

Ryan Buckley
CSNCalifornia.com

Raiders rookie defensive end Jack Crawford took one of the more unconventional routes to the NFL.

Living in London until the age of 16, Crawford was introduced to American football much later than most of the players selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. But that didnt stop him from impressing the Raiders enough for the silver and black to select him in the 5th round.At 6-foot-5, 274 pounds, Crawford is a physical specimen. But as much promise as Crawford displays physically, the Penn State alum still has a lot to learn.I really didnt start to learn the game and follow the game until I came to America. I came when I was 16 years old, originally a basketball player, I came over to New Jersey. I started to go to the high school games, and I used to be a rugby player too, back in London I always liked the physical part of the game, its interesting, and once you learn the rules to the game, its more exciting to watch than any other game. It was really just going to those high school games and thinking to myself, I could play this game.Crawford has since proven that he was made for the game of football, displaying skills at Penn State that caught the eye of Raiders management.Speaking to Reggie McKenzie, the general manager, he said the thing that stood out to him was my effort. Always running to the ball, chasing the ball carrier down, playing four quarters. He said Thats what we need on the Raiders, and he said that if I could bring that to the team that there would be a spot for me on the team.Physical abilities aside, Crawford is relying on the teams veterans to show him the way in other aspects of the game.Its a whole different level from college, and Im just really trying to step up to the plate and learn as much as I can from these vets, people like Richard Seymour and Matt Shaughnessy in front of me. Really trying to learn as much as I can when they come back so that I can elevate my game to that point and learn from the best.

Raiders' first-round pick Conley opens up on emotions after off-field issues

Raiders' first-round pick Conley opens up on emotions after off-field issues

ALAMEDA – Gareon Conley’s name has been sullied, at least temporarily. He feared it would be long enough to send him free falling down the NFL Draft.

The Ohio State cornerback and top-15 prospect was accused of rape stemming from an April 9 incident in Cleveland, an allegation he called “completely false.”

The Raiders clearly believe him. That’s why they drafted him No. 24 overall on Thursday evening, and expect him to be a long-term solution in their secondary.

Conley wasn’t sure how far he’d fall after being beaten down by one rough week. Reggie McKenzie’s first-round selection and subsequent call was more emotion than expected.

“It made it 10 times more special,” Conley said Thursday night in a conference call. “Just having that doubt in my mind, just not knowing. Just having faith and having doubt, I didn’t know what was going to happen. When it came, it shocked me. It felt unreal, honestly. It still feels unreal.”

Being a top pick was expected after an excellent career at Ohio State. The rape accusation threatened to destroy his draft-day dreams despite the fact he has not been arrested or charged in relation to the incident.

Conley said he volunteered to take a polygraph test for NFL teams, and reportedly passed the one he took. He said in a statement there are witnesses and video evidence proving he didn’t do anything illegal.

Conley spent the last few days trying to proclaim his innocence.

He is scheduled to meet with Cleveland police on Monday to discuss the April 9 incident, where group sex was involved and a woman claimed she was sexually assaulted.

Conley believes his name will be cleared.

“I’m scheduled to meet with (police) on Monday,” Conley said. “I’m very confident it will be resolved. I took a (polygraph) test today that helps. Then when I made my statement and all the evidence that I have, I feel confident it’ll be resolved.”

Conley admits he shouldn’t have put himself in a compromising position, which occurred at a Cleveland hotel.

“I could’ve made way better judgment,” Conley said. “I mean, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I definitely could’ve made a better decision.”

Conley hopes to move beyond it quickly and start focusing on football. He is scheduled to fly west for a press conference on Friday.

Conley is thankful to the Raiders for believing in him despite his recent troubles.

“It’s off the charts, honestly,” Conley said. “Just to know that they have faith in me, not even just as a football player but as a person like that, it speaks highly of them, and I really appreciate it. It’s an honor to be a part of the Raider organization.”

McKenzie: Raiders did their 'due diligence' before drafting Gareon Conley

McKenzie: Raiders did their 'due diligence' before drafting Gareon Conley

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders used the No. 24 overall pick on Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley. This wasn’t a second-round flier or a late-round gamble.

That’s a first-round pick. Rolling the dice this early is ill advised. That selection comes with a $5.78 million signing bonus, $10.5 million in total money and a valuable fifth-year option to keep him in town.

They wouldn’t risk such an asset on someone in serious legal trouble. The Raiders did significant research on Conley, who was accused of rape earlier this week.

Conley has not been arrested or charged over an allegation that stems from an April 9 interaction in a Cleveland hotel.

Conley said the accusations are “completely false,” in a statement released by his agent. He claims to have witnesses and video evidence that he didn’t do anything illegal during an exchange where group sex was involved. He is scheduled to meet with Cleveland police about the allegation on Monday.

Conley said he took and passed polygraph test prior to the draft, hoping to avoid a free fall into the draft’s later rounds.

The Raiders clearly believe him. They wouldn’t have used such a high pick on the Ohio State cornerback otherwise. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said the team thoroughly investigated the matter, and felt comfortable using a high pick on someone who sat alone atop their draft board at No. 24 overall.

“We did our due diligence throughout this whole process,” McKenzie said Thursday night, after making the Conley pick. “We trust our research, reports, everything that we have on Mr. Conley. We feel really good about picking Gareon Conley and having him join the Raiders team and having him be a great teammate for our players.”

McKenzie didn’t detail the Raiders research efforts, but didn’t seem concerned about this off-field issue.

“I don’t want to get into all the details,” McKenzie said, “but the bottom line is that we’ve done miles and miles of research to make sure we were totally comfortable with our decision, which we were.”

McKenzie said he spoke with owner Mark Davis about Conley, as he does most first-round options.

The Raiders were impressed by Conley’s workouts and his game tape. The rape accusation obviously gave the NFL pause regarding his draft status, and he slipped somewhat in the first round.

The Raiders are confident following an internal investigation that his legal troubles will pass without incident.

“The research was done,” McKenzie said. "It wasn’t just a gut (feeling). It was based on research, and we’re very confident in all the information that we got.”