Raiders

How Clelin Ferrell plans to earn respect within Raiders’ locker room

How Clelin Ferrell plans to earn respect within Raiders’ locker room

ALAMEDA — The Raiders drafted Clelin Ferrell to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. Everything else is secondary. Let’s be clear about that.

Production’s the only requirement for a high NFL draft pick, and the Raiders took him No. 4 overall with the belief his scheme fit will facilitate consistent performance.

The Raiders are getting more than that, adding traits deemed important to create a new locker-room culture. Ferrell’s best off-field asset: natural born leadership.

“It was such a good thing to bring in a guy like Clelin so early because he’s one of those guys that just brings people along,” fifth-round receiver Hunter Renfrow, also Ferrell’s teammate at Clemson, said Friday during Raiders rookie minicamp. “He’ll say, ‘Alright, follow me. We’re going to go and we’re going to go do what it takes to win.’”

Ferrell understands leadership is earned. It’s not something that transfers. No matter how much street cred he had at Clemson, that won’t carry over to a Raiders roster loaded with veterans and an established leadership structure.

The defensive end isn’t walking in with his chest puffed out, even if that’s often allowed with status as the No. 4 overall NFL draft pick.

Ferrell started this weekend's Raiders rookie minicamp and subsequent offseason program work looking to showing something.

“Just that I’m a worker,” Ferrell said. “The play is going to come with itself, but I just want to earn the respect of my teammates, that’s the biggest thing. So much going on around because you’re a rookie and don’t know much. Everything is just new, it’s a whole new situation, whole new playbook, whole new teammates, everything. So, just come in with the right mindset and right attitude, work hard and just earn the respect of my teammates is the biggest thing.”

Ferrell learned that respect is earned growing up in a large military family where both his parents served, and he attended a military college prep school.

“It comes from where I grew up and just how I was raised. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s always about your attitude and about your outlook on life,” Ferrell said. “You could always be in a worse situation, you know what I mean? So for me, it’s always about my attitude, so regardless of anything that I’ve ever been through, any struggles or success, you know, I always try to keep a positive attitude because that’s so important just as far as, you know, affecting others and if you want to get out of those situations.”

Ferrell understands that respect is earned with action, and that a message is better-received following solid performance. Helping the team win is the way to good graces, and he’ll need to perform well right away to help a team sorely lacking pressure off the edge.

That was clear heading into the NFL draft, and was a major reason why Ferrell was one of three defensive ends added in nine selections. Fourth-rounder Maxx Crosby and seventh-round pick Quinton Bell are also in this mix, though more development is required – Bell has a ways to go after a late position switch from receiver – to make great impacts.

The Raiders could use Crosby to learn quick and find an early role. Ferrell could help with that.

“He’s gotten bigger and stronger every year that he’s played and some of his second effort production is what stands out the most, but he really tested well at the combine,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s got real big upside and I think he’s got a real big role model to learn from in our first-round pick.”

Crosby and Ferrell met during the pre-draft process, and there’s respect established between the two pass rushers.

“Maxx is someone who is going to be really good too, as long as he just puts his head down and goes to work and takes it all in,” Ferrell said. “There’s going to be good days and bad days, none of them are going to be perfect, we just have to accept that. Just come back, come with the right mindset every day, he’s going to be fine.”

[RELATED: AB, Carr building rapport during offseason program]

There’s great confidence Ferrell will be fine in his role. He’s a high-floor player capable of stepping in quickly, though expectations for rookie pass rushers should always be tempered. A strong spring, summer and start to the 2019 season will endear him to those already on the roster.

“Everybody’s been open-arms,” Ferrell said. “They have just been easy with giving out knowledge and things like that. It’s been really good. I’m excited, can’t wait to meet the rest of the team and finish out strong with this minicamp for sure.”

Ex-Bucs claim Barrett Robbins' absence just excuse for Raiders' loss

Ex-Bucs claim Barrett Robbins' absence just excuse for Raiders' loss

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

A number of factors went into the Raiders' demoralizing defeat at the hands of Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. The story behind the mysterious disappearance of Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins is revealed in NBC Sports' latest Sports Uncovered podcast, which was released Thursday.

Robbins missing the biggest game of his life no doubt played a role in the 48-21 thrashing the Raiders suffered. As did coach Bill Callahan's puzzling decision to alter the game plan at the last minute. But some Raiders believe Gruden and the Bucs knew their plays and formations, making the rout all but a certainty, blaming Callahan for giving the game to his former boss.

To a few former Buccaneers, though, all of that is just a bunch of excuses.

"The fact that your center went to Tijuana and got lost, and all of a sudden, um, he's not the quarterback," said Booger McFarland, who was a defensive tackle for the Bucs. "He's not the star wideout. He's not the star defensive player. He's the center."

"I've seen [Bill] Romanowski at a couple different events," Shelton Quarles said. "I've seen Rich [Gannon] at a couple of different events. And we've had conversations, and they're like, 'Oh, well you guys got lucky because Barret Robbins was out. We had a backup center, and our game plan was to run the ball down your throat.' OK, well, then just run your game plan. If that's something you practiced all week then run that."

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

As for the charge that Gruden and the Bucs knew the Raiders' plays, Tampa Bay had seen the scheme before. Every day.

"It's the same offense that Jon Gruden ran when he was there," McFarland said. "So, we practiced against the same offense for a year. So, if you're not going to change any of the same audibles that Gruden uses in Tampa, then that's on you."

In the end, Robbins' absence didn't play a huge role in the Bucs' romp. Gruden and the Buccaneers were ready for anything and everything the Raiders were going to throw at them, and Callahan was outmatched from the opening kick-off.

The Raiders approached the matchup as if they had already won the Super Bowl. Owning the league's No. 1 offense and facing a Bucs team no one expected to be there, some members of the Silver and Black were ready for the parade.

"I was like, 's--t, I'm about to get my second ring,'" defensive tackle Sam Adams said. "We about to drag these jokers. They ain't doing nothing against us. Nothing. We about to whoop these jokers."

But once Callahan made the last-minute game plan switch, Tim Brown and the rest of the Raiders entered Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego knowing they weren't bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.

"We go into the Super Bowl knowing that we don't have a chance to win," Brown said.

[RELATED: How Davis told Trask of Robbins' Super Bowl disappearance]

The Raiders' defeat at the hands of Gruden and the Bucs can be laid at the feet of many people.

Barret Robbins was an easy scapegoat at the time. The center went out and partied too hard and missed the game, so it's his fault. Years later we know better. The Raiders knew better in the moment.

Even if he had suited up, the Bucs were prepared to slow down Callahan's offensive attack. Almost like they knew what was coming.

How Raiders' Al Davis told Amy Trask of Barret Robbins' Super Bowl absence

How Raiders' Al Davis told Amy Trask of Barret Robbins' Super Bowl absence

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

Amy Trask had a conversation with Barret Robbins on the morning of Super Bowl XXXVII. The brief exchange between the then-Raiders CEO and Pro Bowl center didn’t raise any red flags.

A phone call with owner Al Davis a short while later, however, indicated that something was very wrong.

“Quite early that morning, I had gone out on a run and saw Barret in the lobby,” Trask said. “I ran into him, went up to my room and not long thereafter, Al called me and said, ‘Barrett’s not playing.' I said, ‘I just saw him in the lobby. He can play. I just had a conversation with him. He can play.’ And Al shared with me that others had made the decision to send Barret home. I hung up the phone, looked at my husband and I said, ‘We just lost the game.’ ”

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

The Raiders ended up getting trounced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that night at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, and losing their top-notch center just before the game didn’t help. The distraction of Robbins' disappearance the night before, while on a bender that carried from Friday through Saturday evening, certainly didn’t help.

Neither did the fact that coach Bill Callahan changed the game plan at the last minute, or that Jon Gruden was on the other sideline and used his knowledge of the Raiders’ scheme and personnel against the team that traded him to Tampa Bay during the 2002 offseason.

All of those topics are discussed during Thursday’s episode of NBC’s “Sports Uncovered” documentary podcast, which delves deep into Robbins’ sudden disappearance and the root causes of it, exploring the role his mental health played in that period and over his entire life.

Robbins admitted that he wouldn’t have been able to play in the game. He was not mentally able to do so after a night of partying and a mental-health episode that put him in a bad state. The Raiders evaluated Robbins after he returned to the team hotel Saturday evening and decided he wasn’t able to play.

Team doctors concluded that he wasn’t in a proper mental state to play in the biggest game of his life.

“On [Sunday] morning, I woke up and stretched and walked with Willie Brown and saw the doctors and everything,” Robbins said in an archived interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Greg Papa. “And, if they would have told me I could have played, I don’t know if I could’ve at that point. To be honest with you, I was sick.”

The Raiders sent him away and checked him into the Betty Ford Clinic in Riverside. It was only there, for the first time in his life, that Robbins was accurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He wasn’t properly treated for the condition before then, which led to problems off the field with substances of abuse.

Robbins was transported to a hospital on Sunday and barely watched any of the game.

“I saw a couple of plays on TV,” Robbins said. “They were watching it when I got there, but I didn’t sit up and watch it. I was there while I was, you know, on suicide watch. … It was a bad situation, obviously, and to recover from that, I don’t know if I have.”

[RELATED: The real reason why Barret Robbins missed Super Bowl XXXVII]

The Raiders haven’t gotten over that loss, either. It ended a short but dominant run and ushered in an era of futility unlike any in Raiders history. The Raiders have made the postseason only once since losing the Super Bowl.

The loss was difficult for those heavily invested in it. Among others, Trask took it particularly hard.

“When we lost, I cried myself to sleep that night wearing the same clothes I wore to the game,” Trask said. “I put my head on my husband’s shoulders and cried myself to sleep. But I never, ever lost sight of the fact that Barret Robbins is a human being. As badly as I felt, and as miserable as I was, and as hurt as our fans were and our organization was, I can only imagine Barret’s pain.”