Not everybody has been thrilled with the way Reggie McKenzie has been running the team since taking over and a level of criticism his way is understandable. However he is following his plan and bringing in people that want to be here and that is going to pay dividends in the long run.
Looking at the players that he has brought in with him its clear that he is looking for players that have a passion for the game and want to prove themselves. That philosophy is one that is going to find diamonds in the rough because the truly great players all have that drive within them.
I don't know if any of the signings of this year are going to be fruitful once they get on the field, nobody does until we see them play. The approach deserves respect whether he finds any spectacular talents or not this year though.
"Real teams", as Rolando McClain would call them, are built with chemistry and the desire to be a singlular unit. That all starts by finding players that really love the game and take pride in what they do which is clearly a part of Reggie McKenzie's plan. Is it foolproof and guaranteed to succeed? No. The players signed still need to be solid players and hopefully that will be what is shown on the field.
When you read the quotes from the interviews that Levi Damien was a part of though you can't help but feel excited about the possibility of one or more of these players being a steal. Here are some of my favorite quotes so far from the newly acquired players:
"I did feel like I belonged in the NFL and that would be regardless of the round I was picked in whether it was the seventh or the first, that's just me as a person, I always feel that I have to prove something, regardless of everybody's for me or everybody's against me. Being a seventh round pick put more pressure on me to produce in the position I was in because I didn't have the time that a higher draft pick would have as far as errors were concerned so if I make mistakes, I'd be out of there so that definitely pushed me to realize my potential a lot faster but as of now I realize that it's about me as a player and I know what I've capable of and I always strive to be the best so that's definitely what I'm trying to get out of life and football." -- DT Vance Walker/ quote from "Vance Walker brings the swagger"
"I think the biggest thing was I told them was I wasn't coming in to play the same position as my brother. I'll go on record saying that. I want to make sure that we all understand that I'm coming in here to assist my brother, first and foremost, and come in here and play the best I can, provide leadership, and ownership of your responsibilities.." LB Kevin Burnett/ quote from "Kevin Burnett excited to join brother, ex-coach"
"For me it was just about whatever opportunity was in front of me, I was going to take advantage of it. I was ecstatic when I made the practice squad in San Diego. I didn't really feel like I was slighted, or deserved anything more than the opportunity that was presented at that time. It's just the daily things that have led up to this point where I was able to get a chance to play and produce a little bit." LB Nick Roach/ quote from "New Ro', new attitude: Roach speaks to media"
"I'm a hardnosed guy, I come to work every day, I lead by example. I'm not the ‘rah, rah' guy leading speeches but I lead by example and I come to work every day. I play hard and I'll go to war with anybody, man, and I feel like my teammates will appreciate that. I'm a tough guy, I pride myself on being one of the tougher players, and I'm here to win. So, hopefully everything works out in that aspect." LB Kaluka Maiava/ quote from "Kaluka Maiava speaks"
When reading those quotes it is very clear that they have the common theme of being hard working and caring. They all have confidence with themselves and they all want to help the team get better. If they perform half as well as they believe they can the defense will definitely be improved in 2013.
There is an obvious connection with these players. They all want the right fit for them and believe that Oakland is their best opportunity. The belief they are on the right track in choosing the Raiders can help build the chemistry and camaraderie that teams need to be successful. Whether these particular players succeed is yet to be seen but this philosophy of finding players that really care (like these players obviously do) is a good plan.
It is exciting to see players that want to be here and want to prove themselves wearing the Silver and Black colors that we all love so much. Raider Nation deserves players that love the team as much as the fans do and want to be here playing for the best franchise in sports. One day the win/loss record will reflect the valued history of the Raiders again and this is the path that is going to insure that happening. Players that care about the team, what a nice change from the dark days of the recent past!