The Raiders justifiably were frustrated after losing to Kansas City. They shut the Chiefs out for three quarters, but a 28-point, second-quarter outburst dashed the Silver and Black’s upset bid in the 28-10 defeat.
Linebacker Tahir Whitehead understood the disappointment permeating the postgame locker room, but knew it wouldn’t last long. He expected the Raiders to rally, not sulk.
Sure enough, he was right. The Raiders haven’t been sulking while preparing for Week 3’s game at Minnesota. Young squads can be emotional in those moments, but Whitehead knew they’d be all business.
“We have a great locker room, from the young guys all the way up to the captains,” Whitehead said on this week’s Raiders Talk podcast. “After suffering the first loss, I wasn’t worried one bit about how the team was going to react. I got to know this team and the guys I’m dealing with. They aren’t going to ride that emotional roller coaster. I knew we weren’t going to be dealing with that. Guys were upbeat, and ready to get back to work.”
That wasn’t always the case last year. The locker room was reeling most of the 2018 season, frustrated by top talents being shipped out during the year and all the losses piling up.
Veterans left regularly during that campaign, with the personnel getting younger all around Whitehead. He was a rare constant, someone who played nearly every snap of that struggle. He learned a lot about himself during that time, and the importance of being a beacon for others who have lost their way.
“I learned that you have to be a focal point in difficult times, and I played almost every snap last year,” Whitehead said. “You really have to understand what’s going on around you. When there’s chaos going on all around, you have to be a centerpiece that brings everyone together. Last year, I learned that, when things are going on off the field, I have to bring focus back to doing my job, my 1/11th. …I take that approach, and tell other guys to do the same.”
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Whitehead went through a tough time in 2018, and he knows how tense things got. He considers the 2019 experience night and day to last year’s, and takes great confidence in the progress made already knowing there’s more yet to come.
“Being in the second year of the scheme goes a long way,” Whitehead said. “Guys are comfortable. Even from the coaching staff, those guys were new. You have players trying to mesh and coaches trying to mesh. That’s hard at first, but you can see things start to pick up as the season went on. We took that momentum and carried it to the offseason and OTAs, and from there to training camp and on into the season.
"You can see that we’ve steadily been building. It’s a sight to see. It’s encouraging, and that’s why I can walk in every day with a smile on my face, knowing that we’re better than what people think we are, and we’re better than we’ve shown. We’re going to keep chasing it.”