Raiders key matchup No. 1: Marcel Reece vs. Vontaze Burfict

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Raiders key matchup No. 1: Marcel Reece vs. Vontaze Burfict

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the final part in a series that spotlighted three Raiders-Bengals matchups to watch Sunday, 10 a.m. (CBS), at Paul Brown StadiumRaiders RB Marcel Reece vs. Bengals LB Vontaze BurfictTale of the tape
Reece (45): 6-foot-1, 255 pounds, fourth season, Washington
Burfict (55): 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, rookie season, Arizona StateCINCINNATI -- Surely there are no more questions about whether Marcel Reece, the street free agent who was a wide receiver in college, before being converted into a fullback and then showing he can play a mean tailback, can be an impact player in the NFL.Not after rushing for 103 yards, on 19 carries, and catching four passes for 93 yards, last week against New Orleans, right?"I knew he was a weapon and I didn't know exactly how he was going to fit, or how he was going to run, but he's done an outstanding job," admitted Raiders rookie coach Dennis Allen. "As long as he continues to do the things he's doing, we're going to continue to give him opportunities."As the Raiders should. And with Reece a matchup nightmare, it only makes sense for the Bengals to put the ultra-athletic Vontaze Burfict on him. Burfict, like Reece, an undrafted college free agent, has stepped into the weakside linebacker role admirably for Thomas Howard, the former Raider who was lost for the season after Week 1 with a knee injury.RELATED: McFadden, Goodson, Seymour ruled out ... again
Burfict, whom teams stayed away from mostly because of image problems, has kept his nose relatively clean in Cincinnati. His 67 tackles rank fourth among NFL rookies and he also has a sack and two fumble recoveries. He had a monster game against Pittsburgh with 16 tackles. In fact, Burfict has registered double-digit tackles in five of his eight starts."Theyre a fast defense," said Reece, who was a mere seven receiving yards away from joining Marcus Allen as the only other Raiders player with triple digits in both rushing and receiving in the same game against the Saints."They have a lot of talent over there. Im not worried about what people say. I dont read too much what people say anyway. From what Ive seen on film, its going to be a challenge for us. Just get started early, and often."Which should mean feeding Reece just as earlyand often."You know what? Its not necessarily (about) being that guy," Reece said. We have so many playmakers on this team that no one's that guy. Darren McFaddens the bellcow for this team and will be the bellcow for this team. Right now were kind of playing running back by committee. When it really comes down to it, youre just trying to make plays the way youre supposed to make plays, whether its with the ball in your hands, whether its blocking or whether its helping someone else out. You just have to contribute."McFadden, though, is not able to contribute. His ankle injury is keeping him out of his third straight game, ensuring he will not play more than 13 gamesagain.Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, meanwhile, compared Reece to Jerome Bettis, with more speed."He's a unique type of player," Lewis told Cincinnati media this week."I remember seeing him on tape last year and calling up Hue and asking who that guy was and where he came from. But he does, he has some special ability."Reece, to his credit, brushes it all off."You just go out there, do your job to the best of your abilities, you fight for the guy thats to the left and to the right of you and behind you," Reece said. "No one man, no one group, is bigger than this team or the game of football. I just feel like as far as the numbers, none of that matters unless you get a 'W.'"I dont care if its number of touches, I dont care if its number of yards or lack thereof. If youre not winning, it doesnt matter. You have to win."

Raiders sign rookie OT Sharpe, LB Lee, all four seventh-round draft picks

Raiders sign rookie OT Sharpe, LB Lee, all four seventh-round draft picks

The Raiders signed several members of their 2017 draft class, the team announced on Friday. Later round picks put pen to paper following the first week of OTAs, which began on Monday.

Fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and fifth-round linebacker Marquel Lee highlight this group of signings, as both players inked four-year rookie contracts.

All four seventh-round picks also signed their first professional contract. That group includes running back Elijah Hood, safety Shalom Luani, offensive lineman Jylan Ware and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester.

These deals aren’t hard to work out. The NFL and the league’s players union agreed on a rookie wage scale in the last collective bargaining agreement that slots salaries by draft order, which leaves little negotiating room within the set payment structure.

The team’s top picks remain unsigned, though they’ll get done in time. First round cornerback Gareon Conley, second-round safety Obi Melifonwu and third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remain unsigned.

Here’s a list of estimated contract values over a four-year rookie deal for each signed draft pick, per spotrac.com:

OT David Sharpe (No. 129 overall): $2,986,415 total; $586,415 signing bonus
LB Marquel Lee (No. 168 overall): $2,653,693 total; $253,693 signing bonus
S Shalom Luani (No. 221 overall): $2,494,414 total; $94,414 signing bonus
OT Jylan Ware (No. 231 overall): $2,484,295 total; $84,295 signing bonus
RB Elijah Hood (No. 242 overall): $2,469,750 total; $69,750 signing bonus
DT Treyvon Hester (No. 244 overall): $2,468,601 total; $69,750 signing bonus

Marquel Lee gets to play for his father's favorite team: 'He started bawling'

Marquel Lee gets to play for his father's favorite team: 'He started bawling'

ALAMEDA -- Marquel Lee’s NFL draft weekend wasn’t always fun, a byproduct of high hopes unrealized. The former Wake Forest linebacker wanted to go early, but slid into Saturday and waited well into the fifth round before his phone lifted spirits.

A 510 area code brought Lee out of an emotional rut, one so deep he started wondering whether he’d get drafted at all.

“When I got the call from the Raiders, everything changed,” Lee said in the latest episode of NBC Sports California’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “I was so excited to play for this organization.”

Marquel Lee wasn’t the only one. His father jumped over the moon.

“He might’ve been more excited than I was,” Marquel Lee said. “He started bawling. I’ve never seen my dad cry like that.”

Corey Lee’s tears don’t come easy. He’s a no-nonsense military man who served 11 years in the Navy before entering the private sector. He was a strict but fair father and football coach who instilled the discipline and work ethic required for his son to realize great potential.

Corey Lee is also a lifelong Raiders fan. Seeing his son get drafted by his favorite team created a perfect emotional storm.

“I’m as die-hard as they get,” Corey Lee said. “When they called his name in the fifth round, it was such a great, powerful moment. There was some relief, because he worked so hard and sacrificed to reach this point. When families were on vacation, we were in summer camps and working out hard.

“Everything we did was to prepare him for the next level. I was so proud to see him achieve a goal he had.”

Corey Lee didn’t break down completely when Marquel Lee officially became the Raiders’ fifth-round selection. This proud papa let emotion overcome for a beat, and then darted for his bedroom. He returned to the party with a brand new Raiders hat and a No. 89 Amari Cooper shirt from his vast Raiders collection.

Marquel Lee threw on dad’s gear to honor his new team and the golden opportunity to play for a linebacker-starved Raiders team.

That wasn’t Marquel Lee’s first time in silver and black. He rocked a full Raiders uniform at age 2, complete with a helmet, football pants and a Tim Brown jersey.

He donned one again when rookies reported to the Raiders offseason program earlier this month. The full-circle moment wasn’t lost on Marquel, a man proud of his past and excited about an NFL future.

“There’s a picture of me in a Raiders jersey, pants and a helmet on my second birthday,” he said. “I look at it now and think, ‘Wow. It really happened.’ I’m wearing a Raiders uniform for real. My dream is becoming a reality.”

Corey Lee grew up a Raiders fan in Southern California, going to games with his family at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Pardon Marquel for not following in those footsteps. He grew up on the East Coast when Donovan McNabb was a superstar and gravitated toward the Eagles. Ray Lewis performed in Lee’s Maryland backyard and became an athletic role model.

Marquel watched tons of NFL football with his dad, complete games where father and son would talk about strategy and scheme. Marquel would watch game tape with his father at an early age and when Corey Lee deployed with the Navy, his mother Katanya – she, too, understood football -- made sure that practice continued.

Marquel Lee was armed with natural athletic gifts and cultivated knowledge of the game, allowing him play quarterback and middle linebacker as a junior at Westlake High in Waldorf, Md. His dad was a guiding light as youth instructor, a JV head coach and a varsity linebackers coach, but took steps to separate family and football.

“As a father, I never would allow him to call me dad on a practice field or anywhere,” Corey Lee said. “I was always ‘Coach’ during the season, whether we were at home or at practice, because I wanted to keep him in that mindset.”

Football was a primary focus back then, when the family often traded summer vacations for skills camps. Despite buzz around Marquel’s talents, Corey was against his son doing interviews with recruiting websites or ranking services. Father wanted his son’s head on straight, and it has remained that way. 

Top schools were slow to come around, but gravitated after Marquel fully recovered from a torn patella and stood out early in his senior year. He chose Wake Forest, a commitment his father wanted upheld even with late interest from other programs.

His growth continued as a collegian, and took a real spike during the 2016 season. Wake Forest’s defensive captains graduated, leaving him to assume a leadership role and put team over stats. Lee considered his junior season at Wake Forest subpar, and vowed to do better.

“I was pressing a lot, trying to rush my time and trying to get to the NFL,” Lee said. “I was on a road where I thought I wanted to leave (school) early. I was so hard on myself, especially if I didn’t produce. That’s why I said it was subpar. I don’t think I played like a team player that year.

“(The next season) I made a decision to finish what I started and be the leader I always knew I could be. I wanted to help my team get to a bowl game. I hadn’t played in one. That was a major part of me coming back in 2016. … I grew up a lot. I feel like I gained respect as a team leader, and really understood what it took to own that responsibility.”

Lee might have major responsibilities as an NFL rookie. The Raiders don’t have many options at middle linebacker, and Lee will be allowed to compete for a starting spot. It’ll take a solid spring and summer to earn it and give the Raiders confidence to hand an important starting spot to a rookie. The Silver and Black could add a veteran to that position group, though they have high hopes for their fifth-round pick. Lee could well make an instant impact. 

“We definitely think he has the potential to start,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in an interview with 95.7-The Game. “He’s a long ways away from that. We haven’t even begun to get the pads on, so a lot will be determined in training camp and the preseason. So far, he has looked very good.”

Lee considers himself well prepared for the challenges ahead, and believes he can compete at the professional level.

“I’ve been getting ready for this a long time,” Marquel Lee said. “My dad has been telling me that this experience will be different. It’s not like college anymore. It’s a job, and I have to be mentally prepared for everything I’m about to do. I’m here and I’m learning and I’m trying to do my best.”