NAPA -- Justin Tuck loves a good underdog story. In movies and sports, it’s always dramatic when the long shot wins.
The veteran defensive end doesn’t mind the title applying to his Raiders, though he could do without the accompanying disrespect. He’s surely seen Raiders at the bottom of most power rankings, or that Las Vegas expects just five wins from a revamped unit.
Tuck disagrees with national perception, and his opinion should be valued. After playing for two Super Bowl champions and just one sub-.500 team in nine seasons, he knows what a good team looks like.
“They act like we don’t get paid to play football for some reason,” Tuck said after Friday’s practice at the Napa Valley Marriott. “We’ve got a lot of talent on this team.”
Talent and wins don’t always go together, especially on a team with a recent history of losing. Even with an infusion of veteran talent with Super Bowl rings, culture changes take time.
“We’ve got to put it together, obviously, and we’ve got to exorcise some demons that have been here,” Tuck said. "We have to change some thought processes of some guys that are used to having 4-12 seasons. The mindset has to change.”
It helps to have a pair of alphas in camp. LaMarr Woodley and Tuck didn’t tiptoe their way through the offseason. Despite being new, they came in, worked hard and spoke up without fear.
“I didn’t come here to cash paychecks,” Woodley said. “I came here to help this organization win football games. I’m going to do it in any way possible. It hasn’t been hard to get guys to buy in, because everyone wants to win and eventually win a Super Bowl. When you have played on struggling teams for a while, you want to see what it’s like to have some real success. The young guys are the same way. Everybody’s hungry.”
Leading the way, in Tuck’s mind, involves a little less talk, and a lot more action.
“You don’t want to press,” Tuck said. “The last thing you want is guys thinking, ‘he thinks he knows it all,’ because obviously, I don’t. I think the biggest thing is just coming here and going about your business, like I always have done. And that’s setting a good example of how to practice, setting a good example of how to be in meetings, setting a good example of being early in meetings. Taking notes, whatever it may be. That’s what people watch. They don’t watch what you say, or rah-rah this or whatever. They watch you by example and how you walk every day.”
The Raiders walk with an air of confidence this season, and believe they are far better than most people think.
“I hear all the things that people say,” Tuck said. “I’m in the business of proving people wrong.”