NAPA — Raiders linebacker Sio Moore walked up to the assembled media members and began his news conference by saying “Remember me?”
After being a spectator for most of the offseason program following major hip surgery, Moore was taken off the physically unable to perform list on Saturday and practiced for the first time.
Moore returns to a position group that is much deeper than the one he left after the Raiders signed Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Smith as free agents in the offseason, drafted Ben Heeney and Neiron Ball and gotten improved play from Ray-Ray Armstrong during Moore’s time on the sideline in the spring.
Despite those additions, a new defense to learn and a new coaching staff to impress, Moore said he doesn’t believe his time rehabilitating during the offseason program will hinder his development now that he’s healthy.
“There’s no excuse to be behind,” he said. “You don’t put yourself behind. You put yourself ahead.”
Moore’s injury happened last December and forced him to miss the final three games of the regular season. Before that, he had been one of the Raiders’ better defensive players in his two years since being drafted in the third round out of Connecticut.
Moore had 7 1/2 sacks, 13 quarterback hurries, 15 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles in 26 games over his first two seasons. But now he has to show first-year coach Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. that he still belongs as a starter after the offseason upgrades.
“We need to find out what he can bring,” Del Rio said. “I haven’t really seen him full tilt. He is active now. He has joined the team again now in a full-go capacity. I’ll get to learn more about him. We need all of our players to grow and improve and become great teammates and he’s no different.”
Moore is excited about the opportunity to play for former NFL linebackers and enjoys a new defense that puts more of an emphasis on reacting than thinking.
“It’s just every man doing what they have to do but faster,” he said. “That’s pretty much it. You have to be a dog.”
That enthusiasm also sometimes led to missed tackles and missed assignments, as well as an argument with San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the tunnel to the locker room at halftime of one game last year and a premature celebration that almost cost Oakland’s its first win in 2014.
With Kansas City driving for a potential go-ahead score last November, Moore and Khalil Mack celebrated a third-down sack deep in the Chiefs backfield while the offense rushed to get a fourth-down play off. Only an alert timeout by Justin Tuck spared the Raiders a penalty or a play against a short-handed defense. The Raiders held on to win to snap a 10-game losing streak to open the season.