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Maurice Jones-Drew believes he was “done wrong” by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tarell Brown considered the contract offer from the 49ers a “slap in the face.” Donald Penn didn’t appreciate the lack of communication with Tampa Bay before he was released. Justin Tuck said the New York Giants contract offer was “disrespectful.”
Those feelings were expressed after signing with the Raiders this offseason. The common thread: sentiment came from players who gave their prime to the service of one team, which coldly turned its back when diminishing returns became an issue.
The Raiders generally brought in older veterans with big-game experience to a team largely lacking it. That was a concerted effort by the personnel department, often executed by giving respectful offers to players who didn’t get many.
That, as much as anything else, may characterize this veteran influx. These guys are supremely motivated.
“Most of us have chips on our shoulders, something that is going to drive us and push us to that next level,” Jones-Drew said. "I think what Reggie is doing is he’s creating a great environment to be successful and as players we have to keep bringing that on get it going.”
All of these guys, even those without colorful quotes chastising an old team, have something extra to play for. Lamarr Woodley wants to show he can stay healthy and productive outside a 3-4 defense. Antonio Smith hopes to show he’s as dominant an interior pass rusher as he’s ever been. Matt Schaub wants to prove a disastrous 2013 season was an aberration.
Jones-Drew articulated this new drive best.
“Oakland was willing to give me a three-year deal and an opportunity with incentives to go out and make plays,” he said. “And that’s all I’ve asked, to be able to go out and show what I’m worth. That’s what I will be doing.”
The Raiders have become a sanctuary for those eyeing a shot at redemption. They believe the bond will create a solid work ethic and a drive to prove detractors wrong. In many ways, that’s what the franchise itself is trying to do. They strive to be competitive, relevant and demanding of your respect.
The Raiders hope the strategy allows them to be competitive while draft classes build a real foundation for the future. In the interim, the Raiders hope motivation will help these veterans sustain long track records of success.
If words are an early indication, this group is driven.
“I had a chip on my shoulder from when the season ended this past season, because I feel like I was coming off one of my worst seasons of my career,” Penn said. “They just added more fuel to the fire, the Bucs releasing me. I do have a big chip on my shoulder, and I am ready to get back at it. I wish the season started in a month.”
The gratification of bringing a struggling team in transition back to the top has its appeal, and could punctuate several solid careers.
“Your legacy is not as strong as if you just go to a team that’s already winning,” Jones-Drew said. “If you help a team build from mid-level or the bottom all the way to the top, then your legacy is much stronger.”