Raiders

Khalil Mack earns respect, surprise visit from all-time NFL great

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USATI

Khalil Mack earns respect, surprise visit from all-time NFL great

Khalil Mack passed a somewhat familiar face while walking to a Raiders team meeting. A moustache caused him to do a double take.

“Was that…Dick Butkus?”

Questions stormed through Mack’s mind. Why would the legendary Chicago Bears linebacker be in Alameda? Was the feared Hall of Famer, one of the best defenders in NFL history, a guest speaker during the offseason program? Head coach Jack Del Rio often used creative tactics this time of year. Maybe that was it.

Then Mack walked into the auditorium. Fellow players were seated, and team cameras were focused on him. Something was clearly up.

Mack was surprised to be the man of the hour, given the professional Dick Butkus award by its namesake, who flew from Los Angeles for the event. It’s given to the best professional and collegiate linebacker, and Mack was runner up for the amateur honor at the University of Buffalo.

“It was a pleasant surprise man,” Mack said Thursday, a day after the presentation. “In college I wanted to win it, and being like I won it now, it’s a surreal thing.”

Whether Mack plays linebacker anymore is debatable, but there’s no doubt he’s an elite defender. He was named a 2015 All-Pro at linebacker and defensive end, and was the NFL’s defensive player of the year last season.

He’s physical, immensely productive and excellent under pressure. Stats bear that out. So does the eye test.

Turn on last year’s tape and be wowed, from his interception returned for a touchdown to four fourth-quarter sacks including a strip that beat Carolina. Then there’s the never-fail run defense, which would make an old school football man proud watching.

Butkus is one of those. Most professionals receive the Butkus award without fanfare, but the legend wanted to do this one in person.

“It was awesome. Dick Butkus had his people call and ask if he could come and present,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I said, ‘If you’re coming, absolutely. Love to have you.’ It was a big honor to have one of the legends in Dick Butkus come himself and acknowledge a great player for us and a guy who was defensive player of the year last year.”

The presentation’s initial focus was on the presenter.

Butkus highlights flashed across a big screen, showing a Monster of the Midway at his ferocious best.

“Dick Butkus highlights are crazy,” Mack said.

They feature intimidation through violence, an acutle aggesssive style that were effective yet wouldn’t fly in today’s NFL.

“If you could grab somebody’s helmet like that now, oh man. That would be lovely,” Mack said with a smile. “That would be lovely, man.”

A reporter also reminded him it’d be a fine. “I know, right?” Mack said. “That’d be a lot of money.”

Mack hasn't ever been fined. He has found a way to intimidate through proficiency, to excel in this era without the bravado typically accompanying such stature. His rarely wavers, but leadership has become more vocal with seasons gone by. Check out the peer pressure he applied to keep players out of trouble during summer break, telling them not to throw away a lottery ticket.

There’s no chance Mack will do so. He doesn’t take true breaks, preferring to stay in work mode during offseason lulls. He typically takes a few days after the season. He won’t go find some place exotic before training camp begins July 28, even when most others will.

“Everybody’s talking about what they might do, but I doubt it," Mack said, laughing. "I’m going to stay away from the beach. I grew up in Florida, I had 18 years to go out and walk on the sand, the beach and stuff. So, I’m over it. I’m going to be working.”

Trump targets Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch in Twitter rant

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Trump targets Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch in Twitter rant

MEXICO CITY – The President of the United States Donald Trump has taken several shots at players who choose to sit during the national anthem.

Raiders running back was in his crosshairs early Monday morning.

Trump was bothered by Lynch’s actions before Sunday’s 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots at Estadio Azteca.

Lynch sat for the United States’ national anthem, as he has in every game this season. Then he stood for Mexico’s anthem, though he spent most of that song getting his equipment adjusted.

The President took exception in a Twitter rant that has become a staple of his presidency.

It is believed that Lynch is sitting in protest of racial inequality, a movement popularized by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, though he has never declared that publicly. He refused to answer questions on that topic this summer.

That hasn’t stopped Trump from demanding he be suspended the rest of the season for his actions. The league won’t do that.

Trump won’t get his way, but with a quick Tweet he brought the issue to the Raiders’ doorstep in what will become a topic in Alameda all week.

Lynch was probably asleep when Trump’s tweet went public at 5:25 a.m. ET, and therefore hasn’t responded in any way.

Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots

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USATSI

Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the Patriots

MEXICO CITY – Three things you need to know after the Raiders’ 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City:

1. So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders aren’t stacking wins as they’d like. Nobody in the AFC West is, either. The Chiefs lost another one, meaning the AFC West crown remains within reach. They’re two games back in the division and one back in the wild card race.

That, above all else, will keep the Raiders motivated after a disastrous loss to New England.

“We're professionals and to me, so long as you have hope, you keep your hope, you keep hope alive,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So, we'll continue to scratch and claw and fight for everything we can.”

The Raiders can harken Lloyd Christmas from “Dumb and Dumber.” So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Raiders will only stay in it if they start a prolonged winning streak. There’s a chance do that on an upcoming two-game home stand. They play Denver and the New York Giants, respectively, in Oakland over the next fortnight. Those teams have five wins between them.

Wins can’t be assumed with the Raiders. With their inconsistency and mistake-prone play, they can lose to anyone.

Fight remains in this group. They’ll continue to push, especially with a 9-7 record being a legitimate playoff contender. They haven’t played worthy of such consideration, but remain hopeful a switch gets flipped.

“We are who we are, we're not going to turn on each other, we're not going to turn on anything about what we do,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Obviously, we know that our culture and everything that we do works, because we have seen it work.”

2. Receiver corps becoming a weak spot

The Raiders have a talented group of receivers lacking consistency and production. That was the case on Sunday, when pass catchers hindered offensive flow and scoring opportunities.

Seth Roberts was the biggest offender. He had a drop, a false start and lost a fumble near the goal line with the Patriots up 14-0 late in the first half. Roberts had 12 yards in his pocket but held the ball one-handed, away from his body fighting for more. Marquis Flowers knocked it free and Patrick Chung recovered.

That was the turning point, a true 10-point swing. The Raiders lost a chance to reach the end zone, and allowed New England to get a field goal as the half expired.

“That was a major turn of events,” Del Rio said.

The slot receiver wasn’t the only receiver who stalled the Raiders offense. That group had five drops, according to Pro Football Focus, including two from Michael Crabtree. Johnny Holton wasn’t credited with a drop, but he had a perfectly thrown deep ball clang off his helmet and shoulder pads.

It’s a bad night in a bad year for the Raiders receivers, who haven’t been producing.

3. Lopsided score keeps Marshawn from going Beast Mode

Running back Marshawn Lynch was the only player who had a good Sunday. The bruising back ran roughshod over New England’s front seven, right from the start. He totaled 67 yards on 11 carries, and seemed primed for a big day and a higher-than-usual carry volume.

He and the Raiders run blocking was consistent, allowing him to reach the second level on several occasions.

The lopsided score, however, meant the Raiders had to abandon the ground game.

“I thought we ran the ball well early,” Del Rio said. “I would like to have ended up with 30-plus rush attempts in the ball game, but you got to stay within reasonable amount of the score in order to stick with the run.”

The Raiders were down two touchdowns in a flash, and were three scores behind at the half. That forced Derek Carr to chuck it towards an unreliable receiver corps. That method proved inefficient and never created the big moments.

Lynch has run well since returning from a one-game suspension. He has 25 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. If there’s a positive to take from Sunday’s beat down, Lynch’s efficiency might be it.