NAPA – Rodney Hudson is a realist. The Raiders center somehow strips emotion from a job that’s essentially hand-to-hand combat, keeping a clear head in all situations.
He considers it part of the job description, to keep everyone grounded when tensions and tempers flare. He, therefore, won’t let the offensive line wallow in last year’s 51-sack disappointment. He won’t let it revel in this summer’s positive press or the prospect that 2019 might mark a return to the offensive-line dominance of a few years ago.
He prefers both feet firmly on the ground, the mind lost in the daily grind. He wants those around him equally centered, keeping heads out of the clouds.
“That’s part of my job, but I haven’t had to remind people of that in this camp,” Hudson said Friday in a one-on-one interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “Guys are always picking out one or two things they need to work on for the next day, and that’s what I want to see. That’s the most important thing. What do you need to study or correct from one opportunity to the next? What are you doing well that you can build upon? You have to compartmentalize that way, and that’s the way we’re doing it.”
That’s a grand compliment coming from Hudson. It also means the offensive line has fallen in line behind him. He is, after all, the glue that binds unique personalities and playing styles together.
Hudson is the academic and the line’s unquestioned leader. His cerebral approach to the game is a luxury in the trenches, where emotions run high and can negatively cloud execution.
They trust it instinctively, mostly because Hudson’s never wrong.
“Rodney is super smart,” Miller said. “I think he identified every pressure. I’m not sure if he missed one pressure last year, so he gets the game for sure. Having him on the team is a huge asset.”
Hudson admits he can see the matrix. He’s confident in his ability to diagnose defenses and anticipate exactly how they’ll attack.
That doesn’t come naturally. Hudson works at it, day and night, over insane hours his wife Amber considers part of the job.
“Luckily for me, she’s cool with it,” Hudson said with a smile. “She knows my routine, and she understands it. It’s hard to say exactly much I study, but it’s countless hours throughout the day and night. All I know is that it’s a lot. It’s every day when I’m at the facility. I look at film when I get home. Before I go to bed, it’s one of the last things I do, to make sure I see something again and again.”
Hudson has rules to handle unscouted looks, but he’s so well versed in opposing tendencies and personnel by game day that he’s never caught off balance.
“I just try to prepare as much as I can so I can play as hard and as fast as I can,” Hudson said. “I guess I do look at it in an academic sense, but only in how it helps you anticipate what’s going to happen. Sometimes you absolutely know what’s going to happen. You still have to execute, but you can play physical and play fast.”
He also plays extremely well. Analytics site Pro Football Focus considers him the NFL’s best pass-blocking center. They have credited him with just one sack allowed in his last three seasons. He’s a team captain and a respected presence in the meeting room.
The Raiders value that, and are trying to work out a contract extension to keep him in silver and black. He’s in the final year of a deal signed in 2015, and certainly is deserving of top market value. Hudson didn’t want to discuss a possible extension at this time, preferring to keep focus on the upcoming season. He wasn’t ever going to hold out in camp for a deal right now. That’s not in his nature. Neither is discussing personal business that could be a distraction to the team’s on-field goals.
He wants to be a unifying presence and a resource for young players and veterans alike to increase their football knowledge in order to play better together.
“There are so many open books on this team, and yeah, I’m one of them,” Hudson said. “All you have to do is ask. Those meetings and interactions are always going on. I think that’s part of our job, to help out young guys. That’s a big part of it. There’s a jump going from a chalkboard to making it happen on the field. We can help guys make that jump, and you can learn how they think so, when you’re working together during a game, you’re on the same page without actually talking.”