ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Pat Sims started a combined nine games in his previous three NFL seasons. So you would imagine being a starter for an entire season for the Oakland Raiders would tax the defensive tackle down the stretch.
Sims, who was dinged up in training camp, is playing his best football of the season of late. He had a career-high 15 tackles in the Raiders' 26-13 loss at the San Diego Chargers last weekend and has a sack in each of his past two games.
"As far as the D-tackle, we don't always have the major stats here and there, but at the same time I go out there and do my job every week," Sims said Thursday. "The stats have picked up but I'm still playing with the same effort."
"I think he's done a good job of focusing in, and I hope he does it this week and continues," said defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. "He's becoming a little bit more of the wrecking ball that we thought he could be and really rolling off and using his hands and being consistent with his hands and knocking people back.
"He's so big and strong that when he just sets his mind and does that call right, he can be really good. So again, I'm expecting that out of him this week, and I think he'll play well. And that's good for him in the future."
Surely, Tarver has to wonder why Sims was not as dominant throughout the course of the entire season, right?
"Sure, but that's why you coach and you play," Tarver said. "That's why players need coaches and coaches need players. We've just got to keep working our process and getting better at all times. He's gotten better, so that's good."
The 6-foot-2, 310-pound Sims is one of seven starters on defense who are entering their final game under contract with the Raiders. And with continuity being a point of emphasis for this coaching staff, it wants to retain players it sees as keepers.
Sims, who spent his first five seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and never had more than five tackles in any of his previous 74 games, was not sure what the future might hold for him, though.
Then would the prospect of returning to Oakland intrigue him?
"I wouldn't mind," he said, "but at the same time it's not left up to me. I can't do anything about that."
Then what about ending this season on a good note by upsetting the Denver Broncos on Sunday?
"It can set a tone for the offseason but at the same time we're losing a lot of players after this year," he said. "If you had more players coming back it would probably mean something, but for the players who are coming back it could mean a lot to them.
"Whoever they bring in, they're just going to have to step up to the plate."
Kind of like how Sims has brought it the past few weeks.