Raiders

'Old soul' Tavecchio channels Aristotle as he lives out his Raiders dream

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AP

'Old soul' Tavecchio channels Aristotle as he lives out his Raiders dream

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Giorgio Tavecchio has a typical autumn Sunday routine. He’ll go to mass in the morning and watch sports the rest of the day. Catching an Inter Milan soccer game comes first. That is, after all, his hometown team. Then it’s on to the NFL slate, with a keen eye on the Raiders. The dog gets a walk at some point, and his Moraga neighbors get some company.

“That’s the simple life,” Tavecchio said. “I’m an old soul.”

And an emotional one. That’s why eyes welled after a major change in his Sunday routine and one his very best days.

Tavecchio converted all four of his field goal attempts in his NFL debut, including two 52-yard bombs and a 43-yarder that iced a 26-16 Raiders victory over the Titans.

He stood still amid the postgame celebration, just trying to soak Nissan Stadium in. His mind drifted some, focusing away from the moment’s euphoria toward the friends and family, teammates and coaches who helped him get here. Tears came with it.

“It wasn’t just me kicking out there,” Tavecchio said. “It was hundreds of people of have taken every step with me on this journey.”

This last part was intense. Tavecchio was working out at Campolindo High this week when the Raiders rang. They needed the recently cut kicker on the practice squad as insurance in case Sebastian Janikowski’s ailing back wasn’t right. It was so bad the 18th year veteran was placed on injured reserve Saturday afternoon.

That’s when Tavecchio got promoted for the first time at age 27. His NFL debut came after four teams, six years and seven cuts. Each one hurt, even if they were expected. That included this last one, which ended his fourth offseason/preseason with the Raiders.

There were times when Tavecchio thought his day would never come. Doubt became reservation. Those voices told him to quit.

He stuck with it this fall, hoping one day he wouldn’t be watching football from the couch. That dream was realized on Sunday, and he did not wilt. He nailed each attempt without hesitation.

“I have been dreaming about this moment for a very long time,” Tavecchio said. “It is special. I’m feeling gratitude, catharsis. You spend so much time waiting, hoping, imagining, dreaming, and then when it happens you can’t get too caught in the moment and what it means to you. This isn’t about me, this is about the Raiders playing the Tennessee Titans. I am just grateful I got the chance to contribute. You can imagine it’s been a crazy week with all the highs and lows. I am Italian, so I live fully. This was a great week of life for me.”

So Giorgio, was the experience what you expected?

“Aristotle said anticipation can be the greatest form of pleasure,” Tavecchio said. “I think it was a little exaggerated in my mind. The reality of the moment is sweet. That’s something that is subtle but special. When I look back on this time, when all this is said and done, I’ll always be grateful for this day.”

He was instantly congratulated for be the first NFL player to quote Aristotle.

The Cal product smiled and laughed.

“Go Bears.”

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

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USATSI

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Several defensive players were upset about Norton's firing, but Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.” Defensive stars declined comment Wednesday or didn't appear in the locker room when the media was present. 

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

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USATSI

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio put out a statement Tuesday explaining why he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

He went into greater detail Wednesday afternoon, his first time facing the media since a change was made

Specifics will be discussed further down this story. We don’t, however, want to bury the lede.

Del Rio’s main message wasn’t about Norton. It applied to all in Silver and Black. This season has not met lofty expectations. That is unacceptable.

“I know one thing,” Del Rio said. “Nobody should feel comfortable, because what I’ve been watching is not good enough.”

Del Rio didn’t absolve himself from blame. Norton got fired, but everyone has played a part in this disappointing 4-6 record.

“It’s always shared,” Del Rio said. “A change was made, obviously. We all share in it, all of us, starting with me. It’s coaches and players. It’s a team game, and we’re all in it together. And nobody is coming to help us.”

The Raiders must look inward to start a prolonged winning streak they’ve shown little evidence they can create.

The seat will be warm under players and coaches alike, even if only one change was made. Expect further shakeup on the coaching staff after the season, if vast improvements don’t come down the stretch, possibly with several position coaches being shown the door. More than a few higher profile players could be cut or allowed to leave, especially on defense.

While Del Rio has taken more heat the past month than at any other time in his Raiders tenure, expect him to be around a longer term. He was given a contract extension in February, and has significant capitol built after changing the culture in Oakland and re-teaching this team how to win. One bad year, even if this season continues heading downhill, shouldn’t erase that.

Del Rio was looking to shake things up, and Norton was the obvious move. Experienced play caller John Pagano was on staff – he was Chargers defensive coordinator from 2012-2016 – and firing the popular Pagano’s style could create some new waves and looks that any offensive Norton would make an impact in the locker room and prove this story’s opening quote, that no one should feel comfortable.

Del Rio hopes firing Norton will be a shock to the defense’s system.

“I really felt like I needed to shake things up,” Del Rio said. “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.”