NAPA – It’s safe to say The Nutcracker in 3D didn’t live up to the hype.
But unlike the failed film adaption, Tony Bergstrom still thinks he can fulfill his own expectations.
Bergstrom was Reggie McKenzie’s first draft pick (95th overall) as Oakland Raiders general manager. A switch in the team’s philosophy from his preferred zone-blocking scheme after 2012 and a right Lis Franc injury in the 2013 preseason have raised concerns about his future, especially considering his advanced age (27). The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Bergstrom is in serious danger of being cut this offseason, but the former Utah standout is merely concerned with justifying McKenzie’s trust.
“It’s a big honor (being McKenzie’s first pick),” Bergstrom told Sports Out West Saturday. “You don’t want to let people down, and obviously they put a lot of faith in me bringing me here, so I’ve always tried to keep that in mind. It lets you not take a day off or play off, so it’s not necessarily pressure as it is a motivation.”
The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder made nine appearances, which included one start, at left and right tackle and right guard in his rookie campaign. Bergstrom was expected to start at left guard before his foot injury, but a shift back to right guard has had its unexpected benefits.
“When I came into OTAs, it took a few practices to really feel comfortable on (my right foot). Especially moving over to the right side where I have to anchor down on that right foot, (that) was probably the best thing for me to do because it forced me to get strong there.”
Bergstrom is thankful to be pain-free, but he has no clear path to the first team. Khalif Barnes and expensive hire Austin Howard are penciled in at left and right guard respectively, while 2014 third-rounder Gabe Jackson and Kevin Boothe are expected to stand in for them. The Raiders view Bergstrom as a guard, but that hasn’t stopped him from doing extra homework.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’ll play anywhere I can. I try to make sure I know the playbook at every position. More than anything it helps you as a player to know what everybody around you is doing, and also just in case. People know that (right tackle) has been in my repertoire so they can very well say, ‘Hey we’re moving you to tackle.’ So I’m ready, if it happens.”
“Center, tackle, tight end, wherever they need me. I got hands. I got speed (laughs)…that’s a lie.”
What Bergstrom does have is light feet and a wide base, in addition to a sharp noodle. The chemical engineering major closely studied Jordan Gross and Joe Thomas, but the blind-siders may not be Bergstrom’s most pivotal influences.
“Everything I learned about football growing up came from the Madden football game, so I was a John Madden fan. I knew all the Raider greats like Lincoln Kennedy.”
“Marshal Yanda, when I was in college, I liked watching him. He has more of the body type I have. It’s hard for me to watch guys who are 6-foot-8, 350 pounds when I’m nothing like them. So my skill set is completely different.”
Bergstrom is realistic and acknowledges the adversity which faces him. But with his family life in order (he is married with two children), the one-time prospect can focus solely on his craft, and perhaps redeem McKenzie for that bold endorsement in the draft room.
Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports