ALAMEDA – Maurice Jones-Drew has heard plenty of talk about the Raiders free agent class. This group is too old, too far past its prime to reverse fortune. The Raiders supposedly signed many on the decline who were discarded by old teams, disrespected by poor offers and certainly unable to compete in a stacked AFC West.
“We’re just the throwaways it seems like,” Jones-Drew said Tuesday following his first offseason workout as a Raider. “The guys we have, supposedly a lot of people didn’t want them. I hear reports that this is great team if it were 2009. Whatever, man.”
Jones-Drew and his pack of old dogs don’t sweat the talk. Every negative report, every discount of their talent before taking a snap together only fuels their fire. The old “chip on the shoulder” is larger than ever before.
“I’ve said it multiple times. Everybody here has something to prove,” Jones-Drew said. “We all know we have something left, whether it was a bad year last year or things didn’t work out from another team, whatever it may be. As a whole, we’re fighting for the same thing: respect.”
The organization is on a similar quest following back-to-back 4-12 seasons. They’re working up toward to competitiveness and on to respectability, and they’re doing it the right way. They’ve brought in men of high character that they believe have something left to give. They’ve done so at reasonable rates while trying to build a proper foundation through the draft.
This season, however, the Raiders are reliant on older players that must stay healthy and productive, a difficult combination when dealing with 30-year olds with tread on the tires.
“Everybody that says stuff like that, but go and watch the film on all of us and tell us we can’t still play the game. I don’t really care about all that,” Tuck said. “To me, age is a number. I’m 31, and I feel like I’m 25.
“For all of us though, what I’m saying right now doesn’t really mean anything until we line up in training camp and the preseason and the regular season and go out there and do it. I can sit here and talk as much as I want to, and obviously you guys can talk as much as you all want to. I really don’t care that much right now. But, once that 15 minutes in the first quarter starts ticking down, none of this really means anything. We’ll have the opportunity to prove everybody wrong in due time.”
There was plenty of “potential” talk following the first workout of the offseason program, about the possibility of doing something special with a group still getting to know each other. There is enough maturity in the building now to understand that potential is only of value if it’s realized.
That needs to happen in the coming weeks and months as this group bonds and the veteran influx takes hold of a young core. There’s a real confidence among those who spoke Tuesday, a belief that motivation, character and remaining talent will vault the Raiders beyond expectation.
“It’s day one, so I don’t want to sound too crazy yet,” Jones-Drew said. “I’m very excited about the opportunity we have here and the challenge in front of us.”