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Raiders Outlook 2023: Brandon Bolden’s versatility and experience can’t be denied

Veteran’s ability to contribute on special teams and offense sets him apart

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
A quality special teamer as well as a veteran presence in the backfield, Brandon Bolden’s contribution on the field and to his teammates in Las Vegas can’t be denied.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As a running back, Brandon Bolden was inevitably asked for his take on the sudden interest and scope of the position group and value and commiserate pay.

And the veteran Las Vegas Raiders tailback didn’t disappoint with his answer.

“I mean, we play this game, we go put our life on the line a lot of the time. And as one of my old former coaches would say, ‘When you carry that ball, you carry the fortune of the entire team, the entire organization on your back.’ And so we carry the brunt of that burden every time we go out there,” Bolden said during his training camp media session this past Friday. “We do a lot, it’s not just me, it’s not just one or two backs. When you look at the whole spectrum of things, running backs do a lot of stuff. We block, we catch, we run, we do a lot.”

At the ripe age of 33, Bolden has certainly seen and done lot as he’s in his 12th training camp of his long career. He’s not only the oldest in the running back room, he’s tied for the third oldest on the team with fellow 33-year-olds Greg Van Roten (offensive lineman) and Chandler Jones (defensive end).

But it’s the latter half of Bolden’s answer to the question about the status of running back’s in today’s NFL that stood out.

“So, that’s neither here nor there, I’m here to play football,” Bolden said. “I’m a special teamer at the end of the day, and I’d love to see the position get what they deserve and just go out there and have fun, play football.”

A special teamer, indeed.

Bolden has the experience and knowledge to be on offense, but it’s his ability to be a specialist that sets him apart. Last season, Bolden only saw 82 total snaps on offense (a meager eight percent of the team’s total offensive plays) while being a mainstay on special teams with 256 snaps (60 percent of the unit’s total plays) and racking up eight tackles.

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
Brandon Bolden, left, and Ameer Abdullah, right, represent the oldest running backs on the Las Vegas Raiders roster at 33 and 30 years old, respectively.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Unless another tailback or Raider proves more valuable than Bolden on special teams and in the backfield, expect the veteran to make his return on the 53-man roster when the NFL mandates all teams trim from 90 to that figure before Week 1. Even his younger teammates get in some good digs on Bolden due to his longevity.

“But my favorite one to this day was, ‘B was in the league when Jesus created the game of football.’ That’s been my favorite one so far, but yeah the jokes get outrageous more and more,” Bolden said.

The motivation to play remains strong in Bolden. The absence of Josh Jacobs creates more opportunities and snaps to the running back group as a whole. Second-year tailback Zamir White appears destined to lead the pack of halfbacks with fellow sophomore Brittain Brown, veteran Ameer Abdullah, Bolden, and Sincere McCormick likely to each get work when Las Vegas engages in joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers later this week and eventual preseason clash this Sunday. Much like last season, Bolden remains a valuable resource for younger players to go to due to the eight years he spent with the New England Patriots and his familiarity with Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels’ system.

“It’s keeping me sharp at the same time because it might be some things he comes with a question with that I, by nature, I don’t even think about, sometimes it’s just reaction,” Bolden said of his dynamic with White. “And it kind of keeps me sharp on top of everything as well. So, I appreciate Z, Brit, Sincere, Ameer, everybody, because the questions are not only for them, they also for me, just to make sure I stay on top of everything as well.”

Keeping up with the young bucks in the running back room is a solid push for Bolden. As is maintaining his status as a special teams ace. He’s able to contribute on offense while being a mainstay on Tom McMahon’s unit and it’s that versatility that separates Bolden. But he’s got some more motivation at home.

“ This is my 12th camp, so just getting ready the day before, making sure you’re getting enough rest, staying hydrated, the whole nine,” Bolden said. “And then my son, he’s 12, and so he’s kind of staying on me and was like, ‘You can’t get shown up old man,’ and stuff like that. So, I’ve got not only the young guys on this team, but I got my son pushing me as well.”