Experience keeps Latavius Murray grounded: 'I know how fortunate I am'

Experience keeps Latavius Murray grounded: 'I know how fortunate I am'

ALAMEDA – The Raiders made Josiah Moore an honorary captain prior to their Week 9 clash against the Denver Broncos. The boy battling an adverse heart condition became a Raider for a weekend via the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and attended a Saturday practice, a Sunday night game and was part of the pregame coin toss.

He spent time with several Raiders, including Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, Seth Roberts, Reggie Nelson and Latavius Murray. Before the game, he pulled Murray close and asked for a favor.

“He asked me to score some touchdowns for him, and I asked him how many he wanted,” the Raiders running back said. “He said three.”

That’s a difficult request. The touchdown total isn’t unrealistic or easily attained. Scoring three would be difficult, not impossible. Murray promised to give it a shot.

He first found the end zone from a yard out in the second quarter, extending the ball just across the goal line. Murray powered a second touchdown through from the same distance. The Raiders were a yard from pay dirt again in the fourth quarter, and Murray leaped over both lines to reach the end zone, giving his team a three-score lead and fulfill a promise.

It was a proud moment for Murray, who was awesome in a 30-20 victory over the Broncos. He finished with 20 carries for 114 yards and three touchdowns for Moore.

“I know how fortunate I am, and I know what kids in the Make-A-Wish program have to go through,” Murray said on CSN California's Raiders Insider Podcast. “Any way that I can help make a kid’s day, I’ll do it. Just being a part of something bigger than myself is always important. You want to give back whenever you can.

“That’s what it’s all about, and it really meant something that I was able to do that for him.”

Murray doesn’t let these moments slip. He knows playing in the NFL’s a privilege afforded to precious few, and that opportunities to play and produce should be cherished. That’s why he’s excited to contest the Houston Texans on Monday night in Mexico City, where he has acted as a team ambassador for promotional events.

That’s why you won’t hear complaints about lower carry counts or contract insecurity here. At his core, Murray’s a guy grateful for this chance.

He still thinks about opportunities missed, which is why he didn’t plan an exotic vacation last week during the Raiders bye. He went back to Onondaga, a small town in upstate New York, to watch his high school in the state playoffs. Onondaga Central hadn’t reached these heights since Murray was a Tiger.

Murray had his number retired, but never won a state title. Onondaga Central didn’t this year either. They lost a heartbreaker, but a homecoming was worth the long flight east. It’s a place where Murray could recalibrate and mentally prepare for the season’s home stretch. Onondaga is a comfort zone impossible to duplicate.

“I feel at home every time I go back there,” Murray said. “The community and the high school there have shown great support, and that’s why it was special to go back. That town is a part of the person and the player I am.”

Onondaga’s pull is strong, not just because he has close friends and family there. His rock resides there, too.

His mother Tawanna Wright is a stabilizing force in her son’s life, and at times set him on the correct course. She wanted him to attend Central Florida over local options and pursue his preference to play running back despite also being recruited as a linebacker.

She also kept him upbeat after he tore a knee apart playing pickup basketball while at Central Florida, an injury that put Murray in a funk. He lost the 2010 season rehabbing multiple torn ligaments, which prompted a decision to come home and play for nearby Syracuse. Wright pushed hard for an about face and eventually got one. Murray went back to Central Florida, flourished and became a draftable impact starter.

"The best part of Latavius is his mom," UCF coach George O'Leary said, via the Orlando Sentinel. "She's a very sound, sturdy woman and that's why he's back here.”

While Murray’s ego doesn’t overinflate, Wright tries to keep him centered and grounded to this day.

“It’s a constant reminder for both of my sons but more so for Latavius because people in his position can become arrogant when fans put you on a pedestal,” Wright said. “You have to always remind them to stay humble. You can be up one minute and down the next.

“Use your gifts as a tool, and always be humble about it. Success is a gift that isn’t easy to come by. Staying humble will open the door for more blessings.”

The door is open wider than a few years back.

Murray was a sixth round pick who spent his rookie year in Oakland sidelined with injury and most of his second season buried on the depth chart. His third year earned a Pro Bowl spot, and his fourth has featured decreased totals as the Raiders have split carries between Murray and rookies Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.

While some Pro Bowler may demand the rock, Murray likes the rotation. All three backs remain focused on being efficient with carries they get, though Murray paces that pack when healthy. He won’t come close to last year’s 306 touches, but doesn’t mind considering the Raiders’ steady production on the ground and his efficiency with ball in hand. The young additions, Murray says, have given the run game a jolt.

“DeAndre and Jalen continue to push me and do great things when they step on the field,” Murray said. “They bring explosiveness and make guys miss. I’m trying to take things from them and continue to learn. We continue to compete in that running back room, and that’s why I think we’ve had success.”

That success has contributed to a 7-2 record that has the Raiders in position to make a playoff push. Murray was on terrible teams to start his pro career so, as you’d guess, he isn’t taking these wins for granted.

“I still have those moments where I realize where I am in life and the opportunities I have in front of me,” Murray said. “I was talking to Jalen about it during the (Broncos) game.

“We playing were in primetime, with the whole country watching. Here I am, a kid from Onondaga Central, from a little town in upstate New York. Jalen said he felt the same way. I said, ‘never stop feeling that way, because it’s going to separate you from guys in this league who may get comfortable. Always love the feeling, and revel in the knowledge that you’re fortunate to be in such a great spot.'”

Raiders to sign former 49ers defensive lineman


Raiders to sign former 49ers defensive lineman

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden wanted veterans to help turn his defense around. He added a linebacker and defensive backs aplenty. Then, on Friday night, he gave the front some help.

Former 49ers defensive lineman Tank Carradine will sign with the Raiders, the 28-year old announced on his Instagram page. 

The Sacramento Bee first reported the news. 

He visited the Raiders on Thursday and was in Seattle earlier Friday, but will sign with the Silver and Black.

Carradine could help their transition to a more traditional 4-3 alignment, able to play end in the base defense. He has proven himself as a solid run defender, but believes he can be an effective pass rusher if given the opportunity.

Carradine didn’t get many pass-rushing chances with the 49ers, who generally removed him on passing downs. He has 5.5 sacks in four professional seasons. He played 37.9 percent of 49ers defensive snaps during eight games with the 49ers last season. He missed the same amount on short-term injured reserve with an ankle injury.

At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, he has the size to be a 4-3 base end. He’ll likely have to battle Mario Edwards Jr. for snaps opposite Khalil Mack, though Bruce Irvin will take that spot in sub packages.

Carradine will be the 10th free-agent signing expected to make the roster, which means the roster turnover this summer should be significant. 

Here was his Instagram post from Friday night: 

Proud to become an Oakland Raider! Let's go #raiders#nation

A post shared by Cornellius Smith (@tank.carradine) on

Adding Rashaan Melvin the key move to Raiders' revamped secondary


Adding Rashaan Melvin the key move to Raiders' revamped secondary

The Raiders started this offseason looking to revamp their secondary around their last two first-round picks. Gareon Conley would start at one cornerback spot. Karl Joseph was penned at strong safety.

Every other job, however, was wide open and likely filled from the outside.

Safety Marcus Gilchrist came aboard Thursday, but one premium spot remained open opposite Conley. Veteran cornerback Rashaan Melvin took it Friday afternoon, agreeing on terms of a one-year $6.5 million contract.

NFL Network broke the news of a bargain compared to other cornerback free-agent deals. They aren’t attached to him long term, and Melvin can sign a bigger deal if he plays well in 2018.

The Raiders declared interest in the former Indianapolis cornerback early this week and worked toward an agreement sealed during a Friday morning visit at the team’s Alameda practice facility.

The 28-year old’s fresh off a career year, allowing just 29 receptions for 328 yards and two touchdowns on 55 targets in 2017. He had three interceptions and 13 passes defensed. Quarterbacks had a paltry 60.3 passer rating against him.

Melvin stands 6-foot-2, 196 pounds and has the athleticism to excel in Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s system.

Melvin bounced around before settling with the Colts, struggling to find footing in Tampa Bay, Baltimore New England and two offseason programs in Miami. He found a home in Indianapolis, and became a regular starter in 2016. His breakout 2017 season was cut short by a hand injury that kept him out the last five games.

Melvin projects to start right away. The Raiders will be thrilled if he stays healthy and retains recent form. Melvin has solid ball skills, regularly forces incompletions and thrived in tough assignments that came with being the Colts’ top cornerback.

Gilchrist’s addition, Melvin’s deal and the Friday addition of Shareece Wright fills a cupboard in the defensive backfield laid bare by design.

The Raiders cut David Amerson and now-jailed Sean Smith this offseason. TJ Carrie took a big deal in Cleveland. Reggie Nelson’s allowed to walk as a free agent.

The Raiders added three free agents to the group thus far, and could well draft another defensive back next month.

They’ll have safety Obi Melifonwu in reserve – he’ll have to earn a role after missing most of 2017 with injury – and cornerbacks Antonio Hamilton and Dexter McDonald vying for spots.

Melvin will be plenty motivated to have a big year and cash in at age 29, for what might be his last shot at a big payday.