Hip-hop — both classic and new — blasted through the Oakland Raiders training facility Tuesday, providing a soundtrack to the first of ten Organized Team Activity sessions over the next three weeks.
Despite failing to post a winning record for the 13th-straight campaign in 2015, the Raiders were competitive in most of their games, losing by double-digits just three times en route to a 7-9 finish.
A new season brings new expectations, and for the Raiders, hopes are higher than they have been in years as they refresh their quest towards winning — and perhaps a playoff berth.
Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio, though, wasn’t thrilled about being crowned “paper champions,” even after shrewd offseason moves to add more talent:
“I think that’s a nice catch phrase for someone to write about but that’s not real. For us we’re about the work we are putting in, real sweat being put it, real effort and energy being put forth. It’s a real commitment so that’s where our focus is, not on words.”
New cornerback Sean Smith, signed from the division rival Kansas City Chiefs this offseason, agreed:
“We’re already excited regardless of what the media buzz is around the Raiders organization. We have plenty of potential inside this building, plenty of great players’ great leaders. We have all the tools and everything we need to be successful, so we’re just looking forward to getting out on the field and putting it on tape.”
Another key offseason move was bringing over pass rushing linebacker Bruce Irvin from the Seattle Seahawks to compliment superstar Kahlil Mack. Irvin’s quickness and ability should work well with the power pass rush, though he made clear to stress on-field performance, and not just promise:
“We look good on paper. Its noting till we go out here and prove it and win these games.”
Del Rio said commitment to work and preparation has given the Raiders players confidence, even without considering what outsiders are saying:
“Yeah there is no question we are gaining in confidence because of the work we are putting in. I think that’s were it starts. There’s a lot of things that are said. This time of year, talk is cheap, I don’t really spend a whole lot of time worrying about what is being said but I do pay a lot of attention to the work that is being put in and the commitment level.”
Irvin is a vocal player from his days in Seattle, and seemed content with his offseason move to Oakland:
“Coming in you wouldn’t think we were a 7-9 team last year. Coming from Seattle I know the formula. Talent is cool, but when you got a group of guys believing in one thing putting each other before they put themselves its scary. It’s a bunch of “us” guys not “me” guys.”
Some spots appear to be locked in on the depth chart, but Del Rio remained adamant that competition would be key this offseason to keeping the players intense and focused:
“There are a number of positions that are in play, backup roles, special team roles. How can you help us on Sunday win games? I would say there is still a lot to be settled, we expect it to be a real competitive camp.”