The new members of the Raiders have heard all the outside critiques: They are too old, past their primes and far removed from their Pro Bowl years.
The Raiders brought in more than a dozen newcomers so far this offseason, the majority arriving with a winning pedigree in their past but viewed to be on the downside of their careers.
The new Raiders convened with the holdovers for the first time on Tuesday as the team officially started its offseason program with hopes of ending an 11-year playoff drought.
Many arrived with a similar mindset of having something to prove to their former teams that let them leave and to outsiders who doubt they can regain their star form.
“We’re just kind of the throwaways, knowing the guys we have a lot of people didn’t want them,” running back Maurice Jones-Drew said of the outside perception. “You hear these reports about this is a great team in 2009. Whatever.”
Jones-Drew was one of the many notable offseason additions made by general manager Reggie McKenzie, joining quarterback Matt Schaub, receiver James Jones, defensive linemen Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers as players with proven pedigrees but all at least 29 years old.
Despite their advanced age, Tuck sees no reason why the new-look Raiders can’t be this year’s turnaround team in the NFL.
“A lot of people say you go to Oakland for your career to die,” Tuck said. “I’m not looking at it like that. I’m looking at this like this is an opportunity to revive a storied franchise that’s in a city with a great fan base that’s going to be behind this football team, and the energy and excitement around this football team should be great. I’m excited about it.”
Tuck understands that the only way to change the outside perception of the Raiders is to win games once the season starts.
The Raiders have lost an NFL-worst 123 games over the past 11 years, posting no winning records and earning no playoff berths since going to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season.
That damaged the reputation of a once-proud franchise and has made it difficult to attract some of the most desired free agents, leading to the short-term deals with the aging veterans.
“The impression was they had a lot of talented players but they couldn’t finish,” Jones said. “Obviously their record speaks for itself. I wasn’t a part of the team back then but as we talked today, 4-12 is not good enough. When you play the Raiders in the past you kind of put that win on the board already. Now everybody has to look themselves in the mirror and we have to understand we really don’t get much respect and we’re not going to get no respect when you’re 4-12.”
For the longtime Raiders who have never experienced winning in Oakland, the changes this offseason provide a major boost of energy. Fullback Marcel Reece, a team leader, spent plenty of time recruiting potential free agents and new left tackle Donald Penn even told him Tuesday that he got tired of all the text messages.
Reece stated before free agency that he wanted McKenzie to make bold moves and he’s happy with the additions. Reece said he believes that the championship experience of players like Tuck and Woodley can only help everyone on the roster.
“Coming in to this free agency as an organization and as a team and as a leader for myself personally, we weren’t looking for any saviors to come here and get in this locker room,” Reece said. “We were looking for help to bring the tradition, the winning attitude and a championship pedigree back to this locker room and I think we did that.”