ALAMEDA – The Raiders got back to Oakland just before dawn Monday morning. The flight was solemn, downright quiet after Washington whooped the Silver and Black 27-10 on national television.
Players had the day off, plenty of reason to ignore the alarm and relax. The defensive line resisted that urge. There was important work to do, and it required a smile.
Kids at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland didn’t care much about Sunday night’s final score. They have bigger problems to deal with. They just wanted to have some fun with their heroes.
Bruce Irvin, Khalil Mack, Mario Edwards Jr. and the entire Raiders defensive line made sure that happened. They played Uno. They helped make arts and crafts. They signed autographs. They thanked nurses for their service and visited kids quarantined to a hospital room, spending time with patients and caregivers on an individual basis.
“It was important to me because I have a son,” Irvin said. “Seeing those kids in those kids on those situations can be pretty painful, but it also makes you feel good because, during little time they see us, they're the happiest people in the world.”
They didn’t feed the hungry or revitalize a neighborhood or teach kids to exercise. The goal was to make a kid smile, and it’s as important as anything the Raiders do in the community.
“It was a moving experience,” Edwards Jr. said. “It was sad at times, but it was definitely cool to see how much of an impact that we made. The area I went, those kids can’t leave a section, or go beyond double-sided doors or else they’ll get sick. To have a piece of the outside world come in was pretty big.
“To see how big an impact you can have in that little bit of time was definitely great. … Seeing those kids smile was really powerful.”
This trip was of particular importance to a group who made a sociopolitical stand on Sunday night in response to Donald Trump’s comments about NFL players who have tried to bring light to a cause during the national anthem. The defensive line sat arm-in-arm on the bench Sunday with several other position groups as a sign of unity.
That was a one-time thing. Making an impact in the community is not. Irvin and Edwards Jr. were interviewed for this story, and both men said they want to do more.
“With us doing what we did Sunday, I want to get out there and be more involved in the community,” Irvin said. “I don’t want to just to stand for what I feel, but be hands-on in the community and show my face, show these people that I care and I’m a human just like them. I want to give back more.”
Irvin, Justin Ellis and Jihad Ward went out in consecutive weeks. They passed out food with the Alameda County Community Food Bank after beating the Jets, and gave up another day off to visit kids in the hospital.
Irvin says he wants to do something on a regular basis.
“I wasn’t put in this position to only bless me,” Irvin said. “I was put in this position to bless other people, too. That’s why I want to be more hands on.”