Otto Greule Jr
Raiders released wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey on the first day of free agency. I caught up with him to today to find out what his next move will be.
The move was somewhat expected for DHB. He was set to make over $10 million next season and with the team looking to cut big contracts, he was a prime candidate. I asked him if he saw the move coming and he spoke plainly.
"Well, you know, you understand the business side of things," said Heyward-Bey. "That's what football is, it's a game but it's also a business. You also prepare yourself that ‘hey, it's very slim that a guy plays his whole career in one place.' So I've always been prepared for that."
The first few years of the young receiver's career were tumultuous ones. From the moment he was drafted, he had harsh criticism from the media and the fans. He was seen as a typical Al Davis speed pick because his resume didn't show enough to suggest he was worth the seventh overall pick.
Yesterday, he tweeted that he was closing one chapter of his life and beginning a new one. I asked him about what he thought of that first chapter.
"Um, you know, ups and downs," he responded. "Didn't start off that great but the way I fought through adversity and the way that I worked on my game, I'm very proud of because I think a lot of people would have folded in a situation like that where I felt like I overcame a lot of bad things."
A great deal of that initial adversity came the moment he was drafted. The most infamous criticism coming from former NFL wide receiver turned analyst, Cris Carter, who latched onto the fact that DHB's highest college accolade was making Honorable Mention ACC. He harped on the words "Honorable Mention" and had the rest of the ESPN draft crew cackling just after they had spoken with Heyward-Bey via satellite.
The "ups and downs" came in his on-field performances during his four years in Oakland. The first two seasons were nothing to write home about. He had a total of 35 catches for 490 yards in those two seasons. The third season was an "up" for him in which he had 65 catches and was 25 yards away from a 1000 yards season.
Then the new regime came in and the receiver who spent three seasons working to prove himself, had to do it all over again for a new coaching staff and front office. They wanted to see if he could duplicate or improve upon his 2011 season, and he took a step back, catching 41 passed for 606 yards. They were already hesitant to try and extend his contract even at a lower rate. The eventual solution was to simply cut ties.
Even after all he went through, he is grateful for his career to this point.
"I just want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to play for that organization, the Raiders organization. And then for the fans just thanks for all the support. Each and every game, home game, away game, they come out to show us a lot of love and I really appreciate that."
Now that one chapter of his football career has closed, it's time to open another one.
"The next chapter of my life is a new team and trying to help that team win a Super Bowl. Looking forward to just continue to get better, become a better football player and I'm looking forward to that."
With that in mind, DHB has a message for his future team about what kind of player he is and what he brings to the table.
"I think I'm gonna bring a guy that's smart, who brings leadership, -- I had that role the last two years with the Raiders -- and a guy that's gonna bring it each and every day. Big play capabilities. I've shown that I can break some tackles and get into the endzone."
Free Agency began less than 48 hours ago so it's still early yet. We may have seen the last of him in Silver and Black but I don't expect it will be too long before DHB is able to begin trying to prove his strengths to his next team.