Here is what specifically fed Marshawn's desire to play for the Raiders

Here is what specifically fed Marshawn's desire to play for the Raiders

ALAMEDA – March 27 was a dark day in the East Bay. The Raiders were formally approved to leave Oakland for Las Vegas by a vote of NFL owners, marking the second time the Silver and Black chose to abandon their native home.

Marshawn Lynch has an unbreakable attachment to it. Oakland’s most popular resident and loudest champion was disappointed his neighbors were losing a point of civic pride in the near future.

The Raiders will move into a new Las Vegas stadium in 2020. Lynch wants no part of that.

He wanted to be an Oakland Raider before that opportunity moved away, and inspire young kids in their own backyard. That, more than anything else, brought Lynch out of retirement and into silver and black.

He talked about that decision after Tuesday’s OTA session during a meeting with local media, and quickly pinpointed the moment he chose to come back.

“When I found out they were leaving. It’s always been something, being from Oakland, that you want to play at home,” Lynch said. “I had that opportunity. Maybe them staying wouldn’t have been so big for me to want to come back and play, but knowing that they were leaving…”

Playing at home a unique opportunity to personalize his overarching message, that good things come from hard work and perseverance in adverse circumstances.

“A lot of the kids probably won’t have an opportunity to see most of their idols growing up and being in their hometown (after the Raiders leave),” Lynch said. “With me being from here and continuing to be here, it gives them an opportunity to see somebody who actually did it from where they’re from and for the team they probably idolize.”

Oakland was electric after he agreed to a new contract and the Raiders acquired him from Seattle. Billboards went up, fans went nuts and a community raved over the chance to see its favorite player suit up for the local team.

“To be honest, it was heartfelt, but, at the end of the day, I still walk outside so, beside the billboards and all that, I get out with the people,” Lynch said. “The billboards are for the commercials, but when you get outside and walk in the cracks, you get to find out what’s real.”

Lynch connects with Oakland like only a select few do, and he expects to feel that on game day. It drives him to play hard and play well far more than joining an AFC championship contender featuring Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack.

“I got the town -- you feel me, though? – behind me,” Lynch said. "That’s good what they’ve got going on… but I have a whole new Oakland behind me, though. I mean, you know, the way we feel just about where we’re from and why we represent where we’re from so hard is because we know what the struggle is and how we get down. Every home game that I get to come to this m----- f-----, I’m probably going to be ridin’ with the whole town. When you’re going into something like that, it ain’t like, ‘I’m coming to y’all’s city and I’m riding with y’all.

This is actually (where I was) born and bred and pissing in them hallways and running down alleyways. I really did that right here. Now I get an opportunity to play here. All that s--- you said (about the Raiders’ rising stars) is great and that’s good, but it’s more for Oakland though.”

Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders


Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had a hand in drafting Josh Johnson a decade ago. The agile quarterback and Oakland native was a Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick in 2008, Gruden’s last year as Buccaneers coach.

The pair will reunite in Johnson’s hometown. The well-traveled quarterback signed with the Raiders on Monday, the team announced.

Johnson will compete with Connor Cook to backup starter Derek Carr, and brings a veteran’s influence to the position group. It likely spells the end of EJ Manuel’s short tenure in silver and black. The strong-armed former first-round pick, who started one game last season, remains a free agent after a year with the Raiders.

This move should make Marshawn Lynch happy. He and Johnson are extremely close and together run the Family First Foundation, a charitable organization that does significant work for East Bay kids. Johnson and Lynch also played football together at Oakland Tech High.

Johnson has played 10 NFL teams prior to this Raiders stop, but hasn’t played in a regular-season game for some time.

Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'


Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden needed specific tools to run his running game. He wanted blocking tight ends and a bruising fullback, relics of a bygone offensive era.

“If Marshawn Lynch is the feature back, I think it’d be nice if we serviced him with a fullback,” Gruden said at the combine. … You need a blocking tight end if you’re going to slam the ball with a beast. So, those are two things that I’m looking for.”

Gruden said he wanted to import some old-school elements to help run with brute force.

Enter free-agent fullback Kyle Smith and tight end Derek Carrier. Welcome back, Lee Smith.

Then, on Sunday, Raiders made another vital move in this old school effort. They cut Marshawn Lynch a $1 million check.

The Oakland native’s roster bonus came due and the Raiders had no problem paying it, the clearest sign Lynch will be the Raiders feature back in 2018.

He’ll have a great chance to thrive in that role. The Raiders have a hulking, expensive offensive line (that still needs a right tackle). They have new ancillary blocking elements, and the centerpiece remains in place.

That last part was expected in recent weeks. The coaching staff, offensive line coach Tom Cable especially, wanted Lynch back. NFL Network confirmed those facts, stating Lynch will be around in 2018.

That was the case, even with Doug Martin’s addition. The former Tampa Bay back is expected to be a backup bruiser, someone who might put DeAndre Washington or (less likely) Jalen Richard’s job in jeopardy.

The Raiders can cut Lynch without a cap hit. Lynch is scheduled to make $6 million in salary and bonuses, with another $2 million available in incentives. The Raiders should hope to pay those; it would mean Lynch is running well.

The Raiders have given him a great opportunity to do so. They have solid blocking and a coach in Cable who helped him succeed during dominant days in Seattle.

Lynch proved he’s still got it in 2017’s second half, with 70 percent of his 891 rushing yards in the final eight games. He struggled early on, and upset some fans by helping the opposition during a scuffle with Kansas City. That mitigated a PR bump the Raiders looked for when signing a popular Oakland native just months after committing to Las Vegas long-term.

Jack Del Rio and staff grew tired of what they perceived as leeway given to Lynch unavailable to others, and probably wouldn’t have kept him on if still gainfully employed.

Gruden seems committed to Lynch this season, though nothing is ever 100 percent with an enigmatic rusher who doesn’t make private thoughts public.

His elusive, rough-and-tumble rushing style fits well with what Gruden wants, though he demands commitment to the team and sport. Sports Illustrated relayed a story of Gruden saying he needed a “full-time Lynch.”

If he gets that, the Raiders run game should thrive.