Nearly a month after paying for a team minicamp in Georgia, Richard Seymour couldn’t have been happier with the outcome of the four-day event.
Was it money well spent for a former face of a New England dynasty who is now fully embracing his role as the leader of the up-and-coming Oakland team?
“We’ll see,” Seymour said this week with a hearty laugh. “Look, that deal won’t guarantee us anything. We don’t know if it will help on the field. But for during a lockout, it was important and I think the guys got a lot out of it. It was very beneficial for us as a young team. I’m very glad we did it.”
While they can’t personally tell Seymour, I’m sure Oakland owner Al Davis and first-year head coach Hue Jackson are equally thrilled with their Pro Bowl defensive lineman’s display of leadership. With quarterback Jason Campbell, Seymour led several players through workouts at an Atlanta-area facility. Along with doing drills, the team used the lockout season as a team building exercise. The group had team dinners and even enjoyed a poker night.
“It was great to get together with some of the rookies and the other young guys,” Seymour said. “We had the rookies go up and introduce themselves. We didn’t have them sing any fight sounds, but that’s coming. It was just good to get a start on things.”
Seymour has been keeping close tabs on the collective bargaining agreement discussions. He said that he is encouraged by what he is hearing and that the entire Oakland team is ready for a fast resolution.
“At the end of the day, we’re Raiders and we want to be Raiders,” Seymour said. “We know that this team can be good, and we want to get back to supervised sessions with our coaching staff, which I respect very much. We don’t want to miss much more time.”
Seymour said he feels a responsibility to be a leader of a team that is young in many key spots. Seymour, who’ll turn 32 in October, is one of the Raiders’ best players and is the most accomplished. He is a six-time Pro Bowl player and won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. One of the toughest and most intimidating defenders in the league, Seymour saw his future secured before the lockout started. A prospective free agent, Seymour signed a two-year deal that could pay him up to $30 million.
“The Raiders didn’t extend me this year just because they want me to just lead,” Seymour said. “They extended me because I made the Pro Bowl last year and they want me to perform well on the field. But this is all part of it. I take the leadership part of the job seriously, too.”
Seymour said he has completely embraced being a Raider. It took him nearly a week to report to the Raiders after his shocking trade from New England in September of 2009. Seymour did not see the trade, which occurred eight days before his first game as a Raider, coming at all. Yet, in his two seasons as a Raider, Seymour has played well and has spoken highly of the organization. Acquired for a first-round pick this year, Seymour has a total of 95 tackles and 9.5 sacks with Oakland.
“I truly love putting on the Silver and Black,” Seymour said. “Wearing the Silver and Black means a lot to me. Bringing a winner back to the (Raider) Nation is what this is all about.”
The Raiders are certainty pleased they traded their first-round pick in April (the Patriots took Colorado tackle Nate Solder with the No. 17 pick acquired in the deal). After the April draft, Jackson said he thought Seymour was the best first-round pick in this year’s draft in an interview with Sirius Radio.
"A lot of people say we didn’t have a first-round draft pick, but we really felt like we did because obviously we got to retain the services of Richard Seymour, who we traded for and we felt we had the best first round draft pick in the draft. I feel very good about him and where he’s headed,” Jackson said.
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. believes Seymour was a good acquisition for Oakland because of his talent, his leadership and how that he anchors a strong, young defensive line.
”I think he is still tremendous and yes, it appears as though Oakland did quite well on this trade,” Williamson said. ”He is a future Hall of Famer with great leadership skills and is still playing at a real high level. He can play all over the defensive line. He can rush the passer and stop the run. He really doesn't have a weakness to his game.”
Seymour knows expectations are high for him and the Raiders after the team finished 8-8 last season, ending a seven-year streak of at least 11 losses (an NFL record) in Oakland. He also knows fans are excited about the May workout session. Still, Seymour said the 2011 Raiders will succeed or fail on the field.
“Just talking about it is not going to do anything,” Seymour said. “I want nothing more to get this team back to the playoffs, and I like our chances. But it is done with hard work, and that was the whole idea of the session last month and that’s why we can’t wait to get back to work.”