NAPA – Valentine’s Day is a half a year away, but Justin Tuck isn’t afraid to share his feelings when it comes to this year’s Oakland Raiders squad.
“I love how everybody is already counting us out,” Tuck said on Friday. “I’m an underdog story guy. I’ve always rooted for the underdog in movies.”
It was assumed the two-time Super Bowl champion and All-Pro end gave the Raiders a discount when he signed a two-year, $11 million contract in the offseason. Tuck hints the Silver and Black showed him the favor.
“My impression hasn’t changed,” he added. “I have true and utmost respect for the Raiders from afar, before I got here. I know the history. I’ve had many conversations with coach Madden and Howie Long and a lot of the greats that played this game before, and always watching NFL film and really admiring how they went about beating up on people.”
“I’ve always (had) a fascination for the Silver and Black, and that definitely hasn’t changed here, that’s kind (of) grown a lot.”
Tuck’s words are refreshing after passionless efforts from free agent additions like Randy Moss and Kwame Harris. While the Raiders haven’t seized a Lombardi trophy in three decades, the 32-year-old won’t diminish value with age. Tuck has forerunners to thank for his own success.
“I’ve always been a fan of the old soul. I’ve always hung around older guys. When Michael (Strahan) was with the Giants I hung around him, and same thing for the other guys who came in. I’ve always tried to linger around guys that have been around whatever I’m doing,” he added. “Longevity speaks for itself. There’s a reason they’ve been in the league that long. Because they obviously know some things some other guys didn’t know.”
Tuck is an elder, tied with fellow import Antonio Smith for most years in the league (10) among the Oakland defensive front. The ex-New York Giants star explained to the media how he prefers to lead by example, unless younger Raiders leave him no choice.
“I got a little advice from Tuck on using my hands a lot more, make it easier on my pad level,” Khalil Mack admitted. “Told me I’ve been working against myself. And it really does feel like I’ve been working against myself, so that’s been a help.”
So far no one has doubted Tuck’s leadership, but his capacity making plays remains a concern. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder appeared to be in decline, totaling 53 solo tackles and nine sacks between the 2011 and 2012 seasons before reawaking in the second half of 2013 to produce 41 stops and 11 sacks. Linemen tend to hold a long shelf life, yet Tuck’s injury history makes him no guarantee.
But decline can’t be blamed on his preparation, as Tuck knows what he needs. The defender has a cure for the Raiders’ troubles, though hugs and kisses aren’t enough.
“We’ve got to exercise some demons that have been here before and thought processes of some guys who are used to having 4-12 seasons,” he said. “The mindset has to change. I hear all the things that people say. I’m in the business of proving people wrong.”
Photo Credit: Brian Ach / Associated Press