ALAMEDA — As the team leaves the practice field, one Oakland Raider walks past a film crew, 100 feet up and supported by scissor lifts.
Entering the first floor of Raiders headquarters, he takes a left, then a right and another left. Now in the locker room, he approaches a bench with more than 10 pairs of cleats underneath and a sign above than reads “55 — Sio Moore.”
For most, an NFL career lasts all of three years. But the rookie Moore seems to have other plans.
Drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft, and only six months after shaking hands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, he has 2.5 sacks and a firm grip on the starting outside linebacker position for the Raiders.
With half of his rookie season yet to come, Moore still has a lot of time to mature. He told SFBay what he has learned from his fellow teammates:
“I talk to (Charles Woodson) a lot, whenever I’m frustrated or confused, he gives a lot of wisdom. He gives you a view from the outside, looking in that’s very advantageous to hear. A good thing about having Kevin Burnett, Nick Roach, older guys, they know their stuff and they’ve been through life. It’s about taking bits and pieces from them and then making it into my own.”
Off the field, Moore is a joker. A prankster in his own realm, he’s not afraid to reach across a scrum of reporters to get a laugh from both teammates and the average Joe.
Donning a squirrel mask — of a very creepy squirrel — Moore walked into a locker room interview of Tracy Porter, presumably in an attempt to make him crack up on camera.
Porter didn’t budge, but looked away to keep on task. Though Moore couldn’t get much more than a subtle grin from the Raiders’ cornerback, those around him — players, staff and reporters — couldn’t help but laugh.
On the field, Moore has proven himself early and Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver says he continues to get better everyday:
“Sio is starting to do everything better. He‘s been leading with his hands more, we like Sio going forward and he‘s also gotten better in coverage.”
Improving from one point to another was a constant in the college career of Moore, who finished as one of the best linebackers ever to wear a Big East uniform.
Moore led the Big East in tackles (72) during his sophomore year at Connecticut, and finished his junior and senior season with 16 tackles for a loss, second-best in the Big East Conference during those years. He also finished his final college season second on the Huskies in sacks with eight.
All in all, Moore ranked in the Top 25 all-time in five statistical categories in Big East history and was on the watch list for the 2012 Rotary Lombardi Award, awarded to the best lineman or linebacker in college football each year.
With three sacks in a mere six games, Tarver says that it’s things that Moore is doing on days other than game day that’s making the difference:
“The biggest thing that Sio is doing right now, is how he’s working in practice. He has gotten better at working in practice and that’s what translates into the game. You got to do it at a fast speed to do it in a game. Some guys have seen enough reps, but young guys haven’t seen enough. Sio is feeling it in practice and translating it into the game.”
Nabbing Moore in the third round could wind up being one of the more crucial draft moves made by the Raiders moving into the future.
Though many draftees taken after the first round fall from welcomed to forgotten, Moore was just a casualty of a draft class with defensive player depth that paralleled the Marianas Trench.
With only eight games remaining in the regular season, each possession is crucial for the 3-4 Oakland Raiders. Whether on offense or defense, players need to be at the right place at the right time, not allowing the opposition to make a play.
Head coach Dennis Allen said that the team is doing just that, and Moore fits the mold of what he wants:
“I think our guys are playing with a lot of enthusiasm and are running to the football really well and when they’ve arrived, they’ve gotten there with a bad attitude. Sio is one guy that demonstrates that.”
Moore was a nominee for the NFL rookie of the week award after sacking Ben Roethlisberger twice and recording six tackles against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Being a rookie in the NFL has never been easy, and for a prankster like Moore, there will always be some get-back. While being interviewed after practice on Halloween, other linebackers and defensive backs put in an earnest effort to make Moore laugh.
With the Philadelphia Eagles coming to Oakland Sunday, Moore has a tough task in front of him.
LeSean McCoy is one of the most electric running backs in football and DeSean Jackson is one of the fastest receivers in the league. But with the energy that Moore and his linebacking brethren have displayed — and the talent they possess — there’s no reason to doubt they’re up for the challenge.