New Raiders LB Bruce Irvin: We're ready to capture the AFC West

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- So why, exactly, was Bruce Irvin signed by the Oakland Raiders this offseason ... aside from the obvious?

“They didn’t bring me here to be a follower,” Irvin said following last week’s initial OTA practice. “I’m a very outspoken guy. You guys will learn that about me. I’m coming to be a leader. I’m not stepping on any toes, but if I have something to say, I am going to say it.”

So there.

Of course, Irvin was brought in to be a bookend to All-Pro defensive end/outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who racked up 15 sacks last season. So Irvin’s on-field resume, which includes 22 sacks in four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, more than speaks for itself.

Irvin’s intangibles, though, are what the Raiders are hoping truly translate to a relatively young and on-the-come defensive unit.

“You wouldn’t think we were a 7-9 team last year,” Irvin said. “Talent is cool, but when you have a group of guys that can work and want to get better, it’s scary. Being in Seattle, I know the formula. I know what it is to be on a No. 1 defense. I know the grind of a 16-game season. I know when you get in the playoffs, it’s way harder.

“So, I’ll tell you this, when you get a bunch of guys believing in one thing, putting each other before they put themselves, it’s scary. You can see it in Seattle. The past three, four years, a bunch of guys playing for each other, a bunch of ‘us,’ not a bunch of ‘me’ guys.”

Sold yet?

Because as far as Mack is concerned, Irvin is a “cool dude” who is bringing “great energy” to the team. But when it comes to an actual payoff, Mack is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“I mean you can talk about what it will benefit, but until the day comes, that’s what we’re looking forward to,” Mack said. “We’re looking forward to actually putting it on field and showing that this helped and this helped. I can’t really speak on the future. I can’t really speak on what will be, but I know that I want to uphold my end of the bargain in this situation.

“We have to put in the work, that’s all that I’m focusing on right now.”

Said Irvin: “On the field, [Mack] is more power and I’m more of a speed guy. I think we’re a great complement to each other. I really expect us to do a lot of great things this year.”

In Seattle, where he played in two Super Bowls, winning one, Irvin said the competitive spirit “caught a couple of violations” in the offseason.

He laughed.

And while he is not advocating the Raiders break rules this offseason, he feels a similar kinship.

“You could definitely tell it’s a tight group,” he said. “We’re on the way up.

“You have a lot of guys who are willing to listen to the older guys, so that’s the greatest thing about coming to a situation like this ... I have to say, it’s a bunch of guys who are hungry. They are ready to take the next step. We know what we have to do. We’ve seen the blueprint to win a Super Bowl -- it’s running the ball and playing great defense. I think we are ready to take that next step and really capture this AFC West.”

And on the personal front?

“I feel like I am a versatile player and I can do a lot of different stuff,” Irvin said. “But, I would prefer to go forward [and rush the passer] more than going backwards [in coverage], obviously, in Seattle these last three years. So, that’s the plan and, hopefully, Khalil can draw double- and triple-teams and let me just run free and get those sacks.”

Irvin laughed again. And why not? Eight of his sacks came as a rookie.

“Like I said, we are going to keep working each and every day and keep getting better,” he said. “We are going to be ready when the season gets here.”