New energy surrounds Raiders as OTAs begin
Raiders rookie tight end Mychal Rivera said he wants to work on his route running and blocking. (AP)
ALAMEDA -- When did it hit Mychal Rivera that he'd made it, that he'd been drafted into the NFL?
Sure, the LAPD showing up at his family residence in Southern California in the wake of a raucous celebration with the Raiders using a sixth-round draft choice on him was an eye opener. Especially after a few of the officers were Raiders fans.
And no doubt showing up at the team compound and being fitted in silver and black gear felt oh-so-right.
But the key "a-ha" moment?
"It hit me when my feet started hurting out there on the field," Rivera said with a smile at last week's rookie mini-camp. "It’s hitting me now, but I’m really proud to accomplish these goals and I’m just going to continue to strive hard to accomplish them."
Imagine, then, what it's going to feel like for the tight end from Tennessee today, when he takes part in OTAs with the veterans and, presumably, the rest of the Raiders' 90-man offseason roster.
"I think it’s going to speed up a lot more when the rest of the guys get here," he acknowledged. "But I feel like the SEC prepared me for the speed that I’m seeing right now, and everything is pretty normal to me.
"In college, I played a lot of different positions. I played fullback. I played wide receiver and I’d go in-line tight end. The Raiders are doing the same thing with me here and moving me all around and I’m having a lot of fun doing all the versatile stuff that I always do."
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Rivera is one of six tight ends currently on the roster, along with returners David Ausberry and Richard Gordon, fellow sixth rounder Nick Kasa, UDFA Brian Leonhardt and tryout player Jeron Mastrud.
"I’m not the only one lost out there," Rivera joked of himself and Kasa, taken 12 picks earlier, at the rookie camp. "There’s two guys trying to figure things out and we both help each other and its real fun."
And while Gordon and Kasa are seen as the more prototypical blocking tight ends, Rivera and Ausberry are thought to be better as pass catchers.
"I have a lot of areas I feel like I need to improve on," Rivera said. "I should improve on my blocking, my route running and things like that, but what I am bringing to the table is some good stuff. I’m running really good routes and I’m catching the ball really well."
Even if he's not the best, ahem, entertainer in his family. That title would go to older sister Naya, who stars as "Santana" on the show "Glee."
"She loves it and she’s ready to come to all the home games," he said. "So she’s ready."
But can the tight end also sing and dance?
"No, I leave that all up to her," he laughed. "You guys don’t want to hear that."
Besides, baby brother Rivera's dance card is already full.