NaVorro Bowman bringing Raiders experience, leadership and physicality

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Khalil Mack was sitting at his locker, espousing the virtues of NaVorro Bowman after practice Monday night. Bruce Irvin, down a stall or two, nodded his head.

"A lot of experience, a lot of leadership, a lot of physicality, a lot of different things, man," said Mack, the Oakland Raiders' reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, of Bowman. "We can talk about it all day, but Thursday's coming. And that's what we're waiting on and I know he's waiting on it as well."

Irvin's ears perked up as Mack continued.

"You're talking about a guy that, all you've got to do is turn the ball back to him," Mack added, "he's going to be there."

Irvin interjected.

"Facts!" Irvin said to no one in particular.

"And that's," Mack continued, "what we're ready to do."

Irvin jumped in again.

"Facts!" he said.

As the two mostly charged with setting the edge for the Raiders' No. 23-ranked defense, Mack, an edge rusher, and Irvin, a strongside linebacker, figure to benefit mightily when Bowman takes over in the middle -- even with his left knee and Achilles' having been rebuilt in 2014 and last fall, respectively.

"Another dog," Irvin said of Bowman. "Another dog, man. He's a proven veteran and he knows a lot of football. Been around a lot of football and been in a good system so, like Khalil said, we've just got to do our job and turn [the ball carrier] back, and he'll be there.

"He's got the pedigree. He knows what a good defense consists of. He knows the blueprint on how to become one of the top defenses in the league, so I'm just happy to have him with us."

Bowman said he would play against the Chiefs if he got himself up to speed, and it is hard to imagine the four-time, first-team All-Pro sitting out such an important game with the Raiders riding a four-game losing streak.

Of course, there are schemes and terminology to learn, not to mention jelling with the likes of Mack and Irvin. But this is not Carson Palmer coming out of retirement on a Tuesday and playing on Sunday while trying to decipher Al Saunders' famously arduous playbook.

Defense is all about see ball, get ball -- even with Bowman joining a new team on Monday and trying to play on Thursday.

"Hey," Bowman said with a smile, "I'm going to show you something."

Bowman has also been charged with teaching something to Oakland's relative romper room of inside linebacker corps, with Marquel Lee a rookie fifth-round draft pick and Nicholas Morrow and Xavier Woodson-Luster both undrafted rookies.

So it wasn't surprising that starting weakside linebacker Cory James, a sixth-round draft pick in 2016, said one of the first things he wanted to do was sit and watch film with Bowman.

Bowman was signed to not only help shore up a run defense that is ranked 21st in the league in giving up 117.2 yards per game on the ground, but also to be a mentor of sorts.

"I've always enjoyed teaching and giving my knowledge to anyone," Bowman said. "Young guys, they tend to think a lot when they're at this level. I'll be able to slow it down for them and it's always easier to hear from a player than a coach, just because you're a player and you're in the same shoes as them.

"Coaches kind of make you a little more intimidated and nervous. I'm bringing that ease to the scheme and trying to get everybody on the same page so we can win."

It was at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii in 2016 when Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Bowman, then with the San Francisco 49ers, had a fanciful conversation.

"You know, it wouldn't be bad if you came and played for the Raiders," Carr told Bowman, who laughed.

"Oh man, it would be fun," Bowman answered. "Maybe one day we can play together."

Said Carr: "Now that it happened, it's an amazing thing. He's one of the best middle linebackers in football. I know that from watching him on film. Nothing you hear about the guy is negative. Nothing you hear about the guy is bad. He's a hard worker ... just like all those Penn State linebackers are, super smart. And he plays aggressive. He's going to bring a lot of leadership to our football team."

As Irvin would chime in: Facts!