Why joining Raiders was easy for longtime Broncos LB Brandon Marshall

Why joining Raiders was easy for longtime Broncos LB Brandon Marshall

NAPA – Brandon Marshall played a long time for the same team, beloved in Denver as a Broncos defensive fixture and pillar of the community. The interior linebacker was entrenched as a leader and was integral to their Super Bowl 50 run.

The NFL eventually turns all players into assets, and Marshall’s stock fell far enough that the option on his contract was easily declined. The axe came swift and clean, all part of this football business.

Marshall was neither surprised nor offended. A knee injury sapped his effectiveness in 2018, with his departure foreshadowed by an inability to reclaim his starting spot.

While pondering the next chapter of his career, Marshall was immediately attracted to the Raiders. He knew they were headed to his native Las Vegas in 2020, tempting him to accept a one-year, prove-it contract in Oakland that he'll try to parlay into a hometown engagement.

“I came in for my visit and they initially start talking about Vegas,” Marshall said after Monday’s practice. “They showed me the model of the stadium. They were selling me on Vegas and I was like, ‘Well, you don’t have to sell me because I’m already in.’ I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be part of a team that’s established a new culture around here, a new set of standards, so I think it’s going to be good.”

Marshall plans on being an integral part of this rebuild. He can flash a Super Bowl ring and talk about his athletic rags-to-riches rise, but performing well on the practice field amplifies his message.

That wasn’t possible this spring. The Raiders were cautious and kept him out of offseason practices, preferring to let him rehab his balky right knee back to full health.

Now he’s back practicing regularly, starting in the base defense and sub packages. He has done well early, looking to sustain performance long term. That’s when his message resonates.

“I like to lead by example. I want to show the guys how to do things, how to work, how to practice, but me being in the training room the whole time it’s kind of tough,” Marshall said. “Now that I’m on the field and I’m getting used to everybody, I’m getting used to playing and practicing, being a Raider. I’m just still trying to establish myself, as well as bring some young guys on, and I have a story that I think a lot of the young guys could take to.”

The Nevada-Reno alum was Jacksonville's fifth-round draft pick in 2012, but got cut after just one season. He signed with Denver’s practice squad in the summer of 2013, spent one season there and earned a starting spot the following year. His career truly launched from there, with four years as an established starter and respected piece of a ferocious Broncos defense.

Marshall is working toward a similar place with the Raiders, as both a mentor and steady producer. He understands that integration to a new team takes time.

His track record expedites that a bit.

“It has been great, you know, because he’s a vet, too,” new middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict said. “He’s been around just as long as me I believe, obviously just a different defense for him, but he’s a smart linebacker with great instincts.”

Marshall has practiced three straight days, the last in full pads, a good sign considering recent health issues. He’s working to maintain this health, even doing band work on his right knee during down times in practice. Staying on the field is key at this stage, especially after missing the spring. Marshall spent significant time watching last year’s Raiders defense and studying coordinator Paul Guenther’s playbook to hit the ground running this summer.

He’s 29 now with recent injury troubles, but believes he can bring stability, discipline and smarts to the Raiders linebacker corps.

“I think I bring some good leadership and play-making abilities,” Marshall said. “I’ve always been around the ball in my career and that’s not going to change here. I’m going to be around the ball, I’m going to make plays. I’m going to do my job and I’m going to be where I’m supposed to be. That’s all I’m expecting of myself. I have high expectations of myself, so I’m going to be around the ball. I’m going to make plays.”

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He has no problem doing so in new colors, even some that represent his former team's major rival. It was weird at first, but he quickly grew comfortable with the concept. 

"We were taught to hate the Raiders. We were taught to hate the Silver and Black," Marshall said. "It was the rivalry and I know it’s business, so personally I never hated the Raiders. It’s just the aesthetic that came with being a Bronco. So, when they didn’t bring me back and the Raiders were on the table, I was all in. I’m like, ‘Cool! This is where I want to go anyway.’"

Raiders' Karl Joseph disappointed to get hurt playing his best football

Raiders' Karl Joseph disappointed to get hurt playing his best football

ALAMEDA -- Karl Joseph sat in the Raiders locker room Monday, with a pair of crutches by his side. A walking boot was nearby, transportation aids given the state of his ailing foot.

Joseph got hurt sealing Thursday's victory over the L.A. Chargers, a leaping interception was his final on-field act as a 2019 Raider.

That’s a difficult reality for Joseph and those around him. The West Virginia alum was popular throughout the locker room, a relentless worker playing the best football of his career before an injury that ended his season far earlier than expected.

“I think, as a team, we really started to click. That’s especially true in the secondary,” Joseph, who formally placed on injured reserve, said Friday. “It wasn’t just me necessarily. I think I was playing good ball, but we were coming together. I really believe we started to play good football and I wanted to be part of it moving forward.

"We have a strong chance to go to the playoffs. That’s what is frustrating part for me.”

Joseph is an eternal optimist, someone who relies on faith to weather tough times. It doesn’t eliminate frustration completely. Joseph knew his season was in jeopardy right away.

“The first night was pretty rough,” Joseph said. “I knew right away that something was wrong. I couldn’t even walk right afterwards. The next day I was rebounding. I was raised on strong faith. I’ve been through a lot of adversity in my life, so this is nothing new. I’ll be okay.”

Joseph is waiting for the swelling to go down before formulating a rehabilitation plan. He will visit with renowned foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, Wis., and ponder surgery based upon the doctor’s evaluation.

His season is over no matter what, with the possibility of a lengthy rehab ahead. The timing isn’t great considering the Raiders didn’t pick up his fifth-year option. He’ll head into unrestricted free agency without a chance to show he’s fully healed and ready to play at the high level found in games before the injury.

The Raiders’ 2016 first-round draft pick hopes to remain in silver and black next season, when the team moves to Las Vegas.

“Of course. This is the team that drafted me,” Joseph said. “I love playing with this group of guys. I love working with this coaching staff and in [defensive coordinator Paul] Guenther’s system. It’s great for me and the safeties. We’ll see what happens. It’s out of my control now. All I can do it get healthy and get better.

"I believe everything will work itself out.”

Joseph’s safety partnership with Erik Harris was working out well. The pair was in great sync in recent games, allowing both players to maximize abilities, make big plays on the ball and minimize the communication errors that plagued the secondary earlier this season.

Harris was disappointed to see his partner fall, especially when an interception slipped through his hands a few plays earlier.

[RELATED: Swearinger ready to bring immediate aid to Raiders' ailing secondary]

“He has a very positive outlook on life and that will help him through this,” Harris said. “I just feel bad because, if I would’ve made that pick, then him and [Lamarcus Joyner, who suffered a hamstring strain a few plays before Joseph got hurt] would be healthy right now. It’s just unfortunate.

"Karl is a great guy and a great player. I want to see him be healthy and to get paid. There is not a harder worker in this building than him. He strives to be great. He will lean on his faith, and that’s big.”

D.J. Swearinger ready to bring immediate aid to Raiders' ailing secondary


D.J. Swearinger ready to bring immediate aid to Raiders' ailing secondary

Yes, the Raiders are 5-4. Yes, the playoffs are a realistic possibility.

But issues abound in Oakland.

Jon Gruden's gritty club has fought through a rash of injuries, a five-game road trip, the suspension of Vontaze Burfict and Antonio Brown's decision to go AWOL to be in the thick of the playoff hunt in November. But the Silver and Black's secondary is running on emergency power after Karl Joseph suffered a season-ending injury on the final play of the Raiders' Week 10 win over the Chargers.

With Joseph out for the season, that means the Raiders are missing both of their starting safeties -- Johnathan Abram has been out since Week 1 -- as well as their starting middle linebacker and two defensive ends. Gruden is trying to patch the defense together as the Raiders prepare for a playoff run.

D.J. Swearinger is the latest member of the duct tape brigade. The Raiders signed the veteran safety Saturday, and hope he can slide in immediately and give them some relief in the backend. 

It's hard for players to come in cold off the street and learn a new system, but Swearinger played in a similar scheme in Arizona, so he isn't worried about the learning curve. 

"It's not a new system for me because Arizona ran the exact same system," Swearinger said Monday. "Just got to get the different terminology, which is sort of the similar terminology in Arizona --- almost identical -- with a few coverages so it's not a hard transition for me. I'm going to fit right in, do my studying and make it happen."

Swearinger played in four games for the Cardinals this season before being released. The 28-year-old veteran safety has played for four teams prior to the Raiders, including two stints with the Cardinals, notching 14 interceptions and 40 passes defensed in his seven-year NFL career.

He's versatile, experienced and likes to hit. Most of all he's hungry and ready to seize the moment, both for himself and the Raiders.

"It's a great opportunity, man," Swearinger said. "I'm happy to be here. Happy to be with a coach like coach Gruden. I know what he means to football, know what he brings to the table. I'm excited to be here, they are doing some great stuff here. I'm ready to add whatever I can to help this team win and win a championship."

With both their starting safeties done for the season, the Raiders are in the unfortunate position of having to rely on a guy that's been in the building for only couple days. Swearinger has the talent, and the Raiders need him to be at his best right away.

"I like Swearinger," Gruden said Monday. "He played for my brother in Washington. I was a broadcaster at one point, I spent a lot of time in South Carolina with my friend [Steve] Spurrier, so I know a little bit about Swearinger. I think he's a good player, he just has to put it all together. That's what he needs to do. He's got to start that process today. We need the very best of Swearinger."

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He's spent the last month waiting for an opportunity, viewing this tough Raiders team from afar.

"They got grit and it starts with the head coach," Swearinger said of his new team. "I love the head coach, I've always loved coach Gruden. From way back in college, from him doing Monday nights. I know what he brings to football and I know playing for a coach like that we're going to bring it every time we step on the field. He expects that. The guys in the locker room ... there are some young guys but they are talented and they want to go to work and you can help but come in and get with the coach."

The Raiders will face an 0-9 Bengals team Sunday in Week 11, a vertically challenged team that should present limited problems for a new safety getting his feet wet in silver and black. Swearinger prides himself on being a physical safety with underrated cover skills. He's tough, emotional and hard working.

Gruden and the Raiders need all of that to translate into winning football in the backend of the Raiders' secondary. The playoffs might depend on it.