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Karl Joseph has ‘quietly become a leader’ for Raiders, still looking to prove himself ‘contract stuff will handle itself’

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason the Raiders opted not to pick up Karl Joseph’s fifth year option, leading some to wonder if he is in the team’s future plans. But he has decided he isn’t going to worry about the things he can’t control.

Joseph was selected in the first round of the 2015 draft under the old regime of Jack Del Rio and Reggie McKenzie. There aren’t many around from the Del Rio and McKenzie draft classes but Joseph is one of the few holdovers.

His career got off to a slow start as he recovered from an ACL injury he suffered at West Virginia in his senior season. Last year, he found himself struggling to get on the field early as Paul Guenther instead leaned on Reggie Nelson, whom had experience in Guenther’s scheme in Cincinnati. By midseason Joseph’s name was even being thrown around as a potential trade chip as Jon Gruden was cleaning house in last season’s fire sale.

By week 11, Joseph was a regular in the lineup and was showing signs of promise, including a week 16 performance against Denver when he tallied seven tackles and a quarterback sack.

That strong finish wasn’t enough for Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock to pick up Joseph’s fifth year option. And to add fuel to the fire they selected hard hitting safety Johnathan Abram in the first round of April’s draft.

“I obviously had a conversation with Mr. Mayock and Coach Gruden about it,” said Joseph. “They told me the decision they made. My only focus is to come in and get better every day. Come in mini camp, training camp and get better and try to help our team win.”

Joseph has worked with the first team at safety throughout offseason workouts and by the final OTA and minicamp practices he was not replaced, but joined by Abram with the first team according to S&BP’s Levi Damien.

Despite being thrust into a contract year early, Joseph swears he isn’t looking at this season any different.

“I’m looking at it as just another season I have to prove myself. I don’t think any year should be more important than another one,” Joseph continued. “I’m looking at it as another season I have to prove myself. Come in, prove myself and earn the starting job and just get better. Contract stuff will handle itself.”

Gruden noted this week that Joseph has responded well to his fifth year option not being picked up, adding “He’s quietly become a leader here on this team,” and even that Joseph had all the rookies over to his house this offseason.

“I think it’s important,” Joseph said. “I know what it’s like being a rookie, so I try to invite those guys over, have a little fun, barbecue and stuff like that. For me it’s just about getting better every day. Be a leader by the way I come in every day with my attitude and my work ethic.”

Leadership and character are major themes of this new Raiders philosophy. Emphasis has been put on foundational players who can help change the culture of the organization as they embark on their final season in Oakland and look ahead to the move to Las Vegas. Joseph is doing what he needs to do to ensure he can be part of that foundation.

“I want to be a Raider for life, but at the end of the day I have to take care of my business on the field. I’m not focused on the contract, that stuff will take care of itself.”