Versatility has been the key for DJ Turner’s push to the Las Vegas Raiders’ 53-man.
The 2021 Raiders’ practice squad member knew going into training camp that he couldn’t just rely on his skills as a wide receiver to make the team. He know he needed to be a strong return option as well. But he know he couldn’t be a one-trick pony on special teams. He knew he had to be a factor throughout the special teams unit.
In short, Turner felt like he needed to be as complete of a player as possible training camp and in the preseason to make the roster. Well, it worked. After a strong preseason, Turner, from Pittsburgh, was one of the five wide receivers on the Raiders’ initial 53-man roster.
His plan worked.
“Special teams is as important, if not more important, than any other phases of the game. Especially in this level, you’ve got to be able to do everything,” Turner recently said. “So, I spent some time back there returning, but I also tried to hone in on being a gunner, being a guy on kickoff. Even if I had to go on a couple front lines of the kick return and block, I tried to take all of those and be the best at all those because you never know, they might need you to fill in right here one week, might need you to fill in there one week.
“I feel like versatility in all four phases of special teams is big for everybody, not just myself ... Just versatility on special teams. I’m sure just being a returner won’t be enough, because I mean we have plenty of returners on the roster or plenty of guys that can go back there and do that. Just being able to be moved around and like I said make yourself as available as possible for the special teams coaches. I feel l like that plays a big part in it.”
Turner will be a bottom-of-the-rotation receiver and a factor on special teams and should be in the return mix.
Now that his journey from an undrafted free agent to a practice squader to a member of the active roster is complete, Turner is soaking it all in before the regular season starts. But he’s not about to slow down.
“It’s definitely a great feeling, but I kind of look at it as an opportunity to get another opportunity to do more,” Turner said. “Even though it’s the initial 53 roster, I feel like every day is still up for grabs. You’ve got to go out and you’ve got to compete and be your best every day, because like I said, the nature of the business is you never know. So, just going to continue to work and continue to get better every day.”