ALAMEDA – Raiders rookie minicamp starts on Friday. Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst says he’ll be a full participant.
The Michigan product insists a heart condition that caused the draft’s best interior pass rusher to free fall into the fifth round won’t impact his ability to play or practice or anything else that’s required of a Raider.
“I’m ready to go right now,” Hurst said in a conference call. “I’m going to show up to rookie minicamp just like everyone else, and go through things like anyone else would. …I don’t see it being a problem at all. That’s the frustrating thing.”
Hurst was bothered by the fact an irregular EKG that got him sent home from the NFL Scouting Combine and prompted many to remove him from consideration despite him being cleared to play by doctors at the University of Michigan and Harvard University.
The Raiders brought him to Alameda for an official draft visit a few weeks back, where he was medically examined. Hurst was cleared by team doctors, which gave Raiders brass confidence when selecting him.
“The fact is, he does have a heart condition, but it is a situation where he’ll get checked every year," Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. "Right now, he’s good.”
McKenzie was asked if Hurst's status is essentially year-to-year, and whether his long-term availability is contingent on annual examinations.
"It's something he has to go through, however you want to term it," McKenzie said. "Now that they've found out whatever this condition is, I'm not going to get into all the medical terms, all the what-ifs. He's just going to have to follow a certain deal where he gets checked just so everyone is on the same page and we all know everything. When something like that happens, to be smart is to keep getting checked."
The Silver and Black felt good about employing Hurst and traded up 19 spots to take him with the No. 140 overall selection, but...they passed on a first-round talent five times. They claimed Hurst him with their sixth pick, halfway through the fifth round. Why then? Why not before, considering his unquestioned talent? The timing obviously worked out for the Raiders, who got a blue-chip prospect 140 picks deep.
“I’m not going to tell you my board, but we had him higher than where we took him," McKenzie said. "Let’s put it like that.”
If Hurst plays without issue, the Raiders got a straight steal in the fifth round.
The Raiders apparently don't expect one. McKenzie said as much to the press, and head coach Jon Gruden relayed that sentiment to in a conversation with Hurst.
"We are really excited to add you to our team,” Gruden said, via a video posted on the team website. “The only reason you're in the fifth round is because people have their question marks, but we have no doubts about you."
Falling so far was still frustrating for Hurst, a top talent who lost a lot of money tumbling down the board.
“I’m upset, and disappointed in teams that decided not to pick me,” Hurst said. “One team got a great player for very little. I’m excited to be a Raider.”
Hurst is excited to join Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and third-round pick Arden Key on the defensive line. Hurst has a real chance to play three technique with the starting unit, a vital role in Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme.
“There’s a talented group there, and it’s cool because I watched Coach Gruden, I loved the Bucs and Warren Sapp was my favorite player growing up. I’m excited to be a part of the process and be a piece to the puzzle.”
He has first-round talent, but had 139 players selected before him. That will certainly fuel his fire, as will a significant smaller paycheck that other top rookies will get.
“It’s tough going into this thinking you’re one of the top players in the draft and just having to wait,” Hurst said. “You think you’re better than people that go ahead of you, and that’s tough. But I’m happy to be in a good fit, with the right organization.”