Two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Flores sounds off on Raiders

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Two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Flores sounds off on Raiders

Opinions? Yeah, the first quarterback in franchise history and the only coach to win two Super Bowls for the Raiders has some.But as a team radio broadcaster and long-time confidante of the late Al Davis, Tom Flores has mostly kept his thoughts to himself. But in a wide-ranging interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio's "The End Zone" show this weekend, Flores did broach several topics.He said, "Time will tell whether that was a good trade or not," in regards to the deal brokered by Hue Jackson and OK'd by Mark Davis that landed the Raiders Carson Palmer in exchange for a first-round draft pick as well as a conditional second-rounder.Flores was also asked how his Raiders teams were able to overcome penalties to win games while the more recent vintage teams could not, especially last year's team that set league records with 163 penalties for 1,358 yards."We were always good enough to win," Flores said. "We had good enough players to win, overcome the penalties, overcome the turnovers, but they're not good enough to do that right now and they've got to have a little bit more discipline and I think, in my opinion, they've got to have better linebacker play."Which, of course, led to some pointed criticism of middle linebacker Rolando McClain."I think he was a disappointment last year," Flores said of McClain. "One play he'll look like an All-Pro and then the other play he'll look just like an average guy. And then the fiasco when he went home for an occasion, that didn't go over too well. But he's got to prove himself still, in my opinion. He hasn't lived up to expectations so I think there's still some speculation there."In this corner, Flores deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for the trails he blazed in the NFL as a player, coach and general manager. Following then, some Canton-worthy thoughts of Flores on several other Raiders-related topicsOn the upcoming division race: "I think it's exciting, I think it's a good time to be in the AFC West because I think the whole thing is up for grabs. I don't think there's any team that you're going to say right now is going to dominate the division."On Oakland's chances in the AFC West: "The Raiders have a very young team. Very fast but very young, and they need to grow uplast year, there were about two or three games they dominated for three quarters and then lose it in the fourth and that kept them out of the playoffs."On a certain high-priced defensive back the Raiders cut this offseason: "They got rid of Stanford Routt. Whether that's a good thing or not? He made plays, and then he made plays for the other team with all the pass interference calls that he had. He led the league in pass interference."On the recent reunionlife celebration held in Las Vegas for Al Davis that was attended by 300 people: "A great final standoff to somebody that I was with for many, many yearssome warm and fuzzy (stories), some not so warm and fuzzy. But you know the old saying Whatever happens in Vegas stays there? Some of the stories we better leave them there."On the Raiders' biggest weakness on defense: "I think most of it came from the linebacker position. I think the defensive line is pretty solid(Aaron) Curry, I think, came on well last year. That was a good acquisition when they got him from Seattle. He's the only one right now I'm feeling pretty good about. The rest of them all have to rise, or somebody has to rise to the occasion on the other two positions. And then a lot of it depends on what they're going to try to play. Their outside linebackers last year, most of them with the exception of Curry, were pass rushers, instead of linebackers."On the ongoing regime change in Oakland with new general manager Reggie McKenzie, who played linebacker for Flores: "I like it right now, I sure do. He's had to come in and change (things). The team was not caught in time, but as long as Al Davis was alive and running the show it could be run the way it was run. But now with him gone, they've got to go to the next level or the next generation, the next era, I should say, and Reggie will bring some experience that he gained under Ron Wolff in Green Bay and on his own in Green Bay, pretty good solid organization. So it's going to be a different style."

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.”