You know it is only June and very early in the NFL landscape for 2014 just by the pure optimism that permeates through the fans and the league itself. Every team is a championship quality team at this time of year, every one is even and ready to get at it. This year's Raiders defense is showing that optimism to the extreme so far.
It doesn't really matter in the end what players say in June unless they practice what they preach come Week 1. It is important for teams to build confidence and comradery during the off-season, but it doesn't matter if they don't perform on the field when they need to. It is great to have the belief that they are going to go out there and win, but if it is denial it doesn't do anybody any good.
Nobody is louder currently about the Raiders expectations more than incoming veteran leader DE Lamarr Woodly who has reiterated his stance on his expectations for 2014. The defensive leaders are all saying the right things, but the true preacher among them is Lamarr.
"Yeah, and people said something when I said that last time because I said this was a playoff team. And I think anybody that plays this sport, that should be their main objective. If you come in here and just say I just want to be 8-8, I wouldn’t want you part of my team. Anybody on this team, the objective, and any sport and anything you play, should always be the top and say, ‘man, I want to win the Super Bowl.’ Anything less, I wouldn’t want you on my team. So when they ask me, ‘what do you think about this team,’ I think we’re a playoff team. That’s the winning attitude. That’s the attitude you need to have. If you say, ‘I just want to beat Denver,’ Denver is not the only team you play here. Kansas City, you have other teams you have to beat as well. And that’s the winning attitude I think each guy has on this team and that should be the attitude you have. If not, I wouldn’t want to play with you."
To have a veteran guy new to the team already being willing to stand up and be the voice of the team is a really special thing. It is hard to imagine this type of attitude and this type of personality not spreading throughout the team in a big way. Then again, Charles Woodson was already making waves spreading that same message.
"There isn’t a ceiling. We’re trying to bust through the ceiling. I look at the team and I feel like I have what I need from a team standpoint to get all the way there. Now, does that happen? Nobody knows until the time comes, but we have players in there, and if we all focus in, all our goals at the end of the season will be there."
Sure, two Super Bowl champions are saying the right things but that is to be expected right? I mean, these are veteran players who already have proven they know how to win, if they didn't speak so optimistically that would be more of a surprise. Even with that type of attitude to be expected from players like Woodson and Woodley, their winning attitudes are spreading to the younger guys as well, Sio Moore is the shining example of that.
"One hundred percent. The thing about it is, you have a lot of great players, and it doesn’t matter where you are, when there are a lot of great people around you, you have to up your scale and up your what you’re able to do and what you want to do, and you want to be great as well. The level of expectation, the bar is high and you have to live up to that. There’s no expectation, but that."
It is still very early in the process, but this defense is showing some extreme confidence. They are preaching winning and the message is spreading. With three players talking as much as Woodson, Woodley and Moore all do there will be no stopping that confidence from spreading. It is even starting to cross lines onto the offensive side of the ball too, look towards TE David Ausberry for some proof.
"I believe it was a good change (over the past few seasons). We have some Super Bowl winners in here and it brings a lot of confidence to the team, brings a lot of leadership. Leadership develops more leadership. That’s how I would think about it. I am just trying to spread knowledge and do what we can do to bring a championship here."
The players need to believe in themselves and they need to be working towards the greater goal of winning championships. It is important for them to hear these type of words by their leaders and to embrace the expectations of winning. That is what the defensive leaders are preaching and that is the message that this team is starting to believe in. That does not mean the fans should get too excited yet though.
Raiders fans have already learned that there is a huge difference between talking the talk and walking the walk though. We have heard promises over and over again through the years only to be let down mercilessly. We have been here before listening to the hyperbole and soaking it in with the promise of better days.
This time hopefully the Raiders back up these big promises with their play on the field. Whether they do or not we will still have months to wait to find out. It is uplifting to hear the confidence and optimism either way right now, but it hurts much more to believe it now and be let down later. Preaching winning by the team is one thing, winning on the other hand is completely another thing.
Some of the fans will wait until they back up this message on the field before allowing themselves to feel too excited, and that is logical. Even with the intentionally pessimistic (realistic probably) stance to save their own psyche's some of these words still break through. The moment they back it up come the regular season even the most bitter fans will be more than happy to embrace their promises, hopefully this year we will actually get that opportunity.
For those masochistic fans out there that allow themselves to dream of the dark days being over have at it. Feast on these delicious promises and believe away. It will be mighty nice for you to get to say "I told you so" if they do back up this talk on the gridiron, and if not at least you got to enjoy these days of optimism just a little more than the fans that chose not to indulge in hyperbole. Sounds like a win-win to me, but each year I have more and more trouble believing the preaching.