When Raiders third year quarterback Derek Carr walked in the Raiders facility Monday to begin offseason workouts, things felt differently than they had the first two times he was in this position. He felt older. He's 25 years old. A ‘kid' by most people's standards. But it's all relative, especially in ‘a young man's game' like the NFL.
That feeling a stark contrast to Carr's first two seasons in Oakland which had the likes of 39-year-old Charles Woodson, and 32-year-old Justin Tuck as leaders in the locker room.
"It was kinda weird, I felt older when I walked in, if that makes any sense," Carr said. . . "I looked at our sheet and was like man, there's barely anyone over 30 on this team. . . when you come in the building and Wood's not here and Tuck's not here, I feel a little bit, I don't know if it's maturity or ‘hey, you gotta pick it up now'. I don't know what it is exactly but you can definitely feel it."
Carr took ahold of his role as a leader on this team last season. But he knew he took a backseat to guys like Woodson and Tuck who came to this team with Super Bowl rings and a wealth of NFL experience to impart upon their teammates.
With those two now retired, the leadership mantle gets passed down to guys like Khalil Mack and Rodney Hudson who the organization had enough confidence in to make them the voice of the team along with Carr on the first day of their offseason program.
"It's a little weird around here not seeing his (Charles Woodson) face, and Tuck's face and some other guys," said Mack.
"CWood wanted me to prepare. To get ready for that [leadership] role. Just taking it day by day and slowly seeing what happens. But the leadership role definitely is in effect at this point."
Hudson at 26 years old is the elder statesman of the three and is the leader of the offensive line. Mack just turned 25 in February, with Carr turning 25 just three weeks ago.
"We got a lot of guys that are really young," Carr continued. "Crab (Michael Crabtree) is looked at as an ‘old veteran' and he's only 28, you know?"
That's not to say the Raiders don't have some players in the 30s. Outside of the special teams duo of Sebastian Janikowski (38) and Jon Condo (34), they have three players 30 or over - Donald Penn (32), Reggie Nelson (32), and Marcel Reece (30).
This youth movement seems like it happened overnight. It wasn't long ago the Raiders were being criticized for being one of the oldest teams in the league in part because they weren't getting much interest from free agents under 30.
It's also the reason there is so much excitement surround the long term potential of this team. If they can be competitive this season, they have the youth to sustain it for several years.