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One thing we can agree on: Raiders situation in Oakland with Vegas looming is ‘weird’

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There’s nothing normal about any of this. When was the last time you saw a team play even a year in their current/former home after announcing they were leaving for elsewhere? And then not only ask for the fans in the city they are leaving to still support them, but actually expect it?

That’s what’s happening in Oakland right now as the team was approved last month to relocate to Las Vegas.

Monday was the first time the Raiders players were back to work at the Raiders Alameda facility since that relocation announcement. And as you might expect, much of the questions they were asked surrounded the team’s relocation.

The questions had come up with some regularity over the past year as the franchise was making their efforts to head to Vegas. But usually it was one, maybe two questions here and there that could be brushed off with a stock answer like ‘I’m just focused on football’ or ‘I don’t really worry about what might be.’

Well, now it’s real. And there are a lot more than just one or two questions along with the media scrum consisting of a good amount of reporters out of Vegas as they too can now lay claim to the Raiders in their beat.

This puts the players in an awkward position. It’s no longer a hypothetical and therefore much more difficult to brush off. They will be heading into an uneasy situation in Oakland with regard to the fan reaction.

“It just feels weird right now,” Mack said of the situation in Oakland. “but I feel once we get in that stadium and get around the fans and them knowing that the players don’t have control over those things… It ultimately comes down to us coming to work and doing our job and doing whatever it takes to win.”

Mack knows that the Raiders have a large fan base, many of whom travel to Oakland to see the team play. But he wouldn’t go as far as to say whether he thought that fact made any of this easier right now or in the long run. And he at several instances leaned on the words of his quarterback, Derek Carr.

Carr has probably the most unenviable position in all of this. Mainly because he’s the quarterback and face of the franchise, so he will see the media the most and be looked upon as his answers be somewhat representative of the team.

Usually he thrives in this environment, showing a rare level of comfort and openness with the media while not slipping up and saying anything he shouldn’t — a quality he gained from growing up watching his older brother face a considerable amount of media scrutiny as a number one overall pick NFL quarterback.

But this situation is unlike anything he, his brother, or really any player has had to face, so it’s difficult to find the right words and impossible to normalize it.

“I’m human, man,” said Carr. “It’s like, that’s crazy. How do you keep playing somewhere you love and then you have to go and play somewhere else that you’re going to have to love and love the people there just like we will?”

“What is it? Two years? Three years? . . . Obviously, there are going to be times where we’re in Vegas doing things because it’s a weird situation, but my focus is here and now, making sure that our fans feel appreciated knowing that they are going to get the very best version of me and my teammates every time we step out on the field.”

Therein lies the rub. And then, uncharacteristically, Carr stepped in it with his next response in which he said those fans who can no longer support the team despite the move are not ‘true Raiders fans’.

“We’re not going to split up like you’ve seen other cities do,” said Carr. “We’re not going to do things like that. For the ones that do, I don’t really believe that they’re true Raider fans.”

Whether or not you agree with Carr’s version of what a ‘true fan’ is, it’s not for him or you or anyone else to define it. And it puts him in a precarious position attempting to do so. You wouldn’t tell a jilted spouse that if they don’t remain loyal to their ex they never really loved them in the first place (would you?).

Soon after his comments went public, the backlash had Carr taking to Twitter to try and clarify his statements. He said he loved Raiders fans no matter their location, which is nice, but for many that was never really the issue at hand. Those who agreed with his initial statement said he didn’t need to clarify, while those who disagreed with it still do. And the awkwardness remains.

It’s moments like this that illustrate the glaring potential pitfalls for the Raiders players. Rodney Hudson was rendered basically stumped on how to respond when asked similar questions. Which is probably an appropriate response.

“I don’t know,” Hudson said of how he is handling the Vegas news. “I think as players we’re so far removed from that side almost. We only hear what we read and what not, and I’m not too big into reading that stuff. I don’t know. We just take it as it comes and focus on what we can do today.”

“I really don’t know. Like I said, something different. Obviously, I’ve never been on a team that moved or what not. Personally, I try not to dig too much into stuff that I can’t control.”

This is just the beginning.

Training camp will bring daily encounters with the media, preseason will be the first contact with fans at the coliseum, and then there’s the question of what the crowd will look like come the regular season and how they’ll respond.

Keep in mind, these guys have to try to maintain focus on winning and getting this team coming off a 12-4 season and an early playoff exit to the next level.

The elephant in the room will have its own locker in Oakland the next few years. And every now and again you can expect a player will step in its massive droppings. It’s practically inevitable.

It’s weird. No doubt about it. Even for a Raiders franchise well versed in being weird.