Why Raiders LB Derrick Johnson believes he still has 'a lot left in the tank'


Why Raiders LB Derrick Johnson believes he still has 'a lot left in the tank'

Derrick Johnson is 35 years old, with another birthday coming in November. Most NFL players are retired by then, especially linebackers anchoring a defense.

The four-time Pro Bowler is still working despite the Chiefs letting him walk after 14 years in Kansas City. He could’ve walked away, with a possible coaching position available on Andy Reid’s staff.

Johnson didn’t want that. He wanted to keep playing, which is why he signed a one-year contract reportedly worth up to $3 million.

The middle linebacker is not chasing a paycheck. He’s chasing something far more valuable.

“The main reason why I’m still playing ball, why I’m still chasing a championship, is because I feel I have a lot left in the tank,” Johnson said Wednesday in a conference call with local media. “That’s the only reason I’m back. When I get to a point where I feel like I’m just hanging on, I’ll get out of the league.”

Johnson remains an active player following a productive meeting with Raiders brass. He instantly bonded with head coach Jon Gruden over a shared desire to win now. The Raiders defensive system suits Johnson well, and he looks forward to what should be a prominent role as the middle man.

“This scheme is linebacker friendly,” Johnson said. “It’s built for linebackers to make plays. We have a lot of responsibility to make plays in this defense. With my wisdom after playing 13 years, they ask linebackers to do a lot mentally just so we can make plays. That’s right up my alley.”

There’s little doubt Johnson can dissect an offense as well as anyone. His football IQ is sky high, and relishes the rank of field general. There are some questions about a physical drop off at an advanced football age, following two Achilles’ tendon tears since 2014. His last came in 2016, and he followed that year looking a step or two slower.

It’s often the case player regain explosiveness the second season back from an Achilles’ injury, and Johnson’s experiencing that rebound.

“My burst is back,” Johnson said. “It’s better than ever, and that’s a good feeling. It’s going to help me make plays and be more explosive. The longer you’re out from a season-ending injury, it’s usually better. It helps you out mentally. This will be my second season out from my Achilles’ injury.

“I was healthy last year and I’m better this year because I got a really good offseason training that I didn’t get last year coming off the injury. I’m excited. My body’s healthy. At this age, being healthy is big. If I can be healthy, I can help this team win and be an impact player.”

Johnson wants to make an impact outside the Raiders as well. His Defend the Dream foundation did great work in Kansas City, and he plans to extend that outreach to the East Bay while he’s here.

“Playing in the NFL, we’re role models. We have to conduct ourselves in a certain way off the field, too,” Johnson said. “I can’t wait to dive into this community. There are always places that need help, especially in lower-income areas. My passion is working with kids. I’ve always been that way, even in Kansas City. Even though I’m in Oakland, my mindset hasn’t changed. The NFL gives you a platform, and kids look up to you. I’m going to use that platform to the best of my ability and set a great example. I can’t wait to start working in the community.”

Neiron Ball, Raiders 2015 draft pick, in a coma after brain aneurysm


Neiron Ball, Raiders 2015 draft pick, in a coma after brain aneurysm

Raider Nation has a heavy heart at the moment.

Former linebacker Neiron Ball, Oakland's fifth-round pick in 2015 out of Florida, suffered a brain aneurysm on Sept. 16 and is currently in a medically induced coma. He is not responding to stimuli. The Raiders sent out a tweet Tuesday asking for thoughts and prayers for the 26-year-old.

News of Ball's situation was first made public by people that run the Facebook page for his old school district in Georgia. Ball attended Jackson High School in the Butts County School System.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, in 2011 while at Florida, Ball was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, "a tangling of blood vessels." Surgery to alleviate the issue cost him the 2011 season.

"I can't really explain it," Ball told the Orlando Sentinel in 2012. "The closest thing I can think is somebody just smushing my brain...Like somebody was squeezing my brain."

Ball appeared in six games his rookie season with the Raiders, recording four tackles and one sack. A knee injury forced the Raiders to place him on injured reserve.

Report: Raiders to sign new kicker Matt McCrane

Report: Raiders to sign new kicker Matt McCrane

Mike Nugent is dealing with a hip injury suffered in a loss to Miami, which forced the Raiders to work out several kickers Tuesday morning. The Silver and Black have chosen to sign undrafted rookie Matt McCrane, according to NFL Network.

McCrane spent the summer with the Arizona Cardinals and played college ball at Kansas State. He was 4-for-4 on field goals in the preseason, including two from beyond 50 yards. 

While the team hasn't announced his addition, McCrane has already added "kicker for Oakland Raiders" on his Twitter profile. The account, however, is not verified. 

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden didn't formally rule Nugent out of Sunday's game against Cleveland, but his hip injury is of concern. Nugent has been solid since assuming the kicking job this regular season. He was 6-for-6 on field goal attempts, including two conversions from 50-plus yards. 

The Raiders worked out McCrane, 2017 kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, among others on Tuesday. Tavecchio was released early in camp for Nugent, who was expected to be Eddy Pineiro's mentor during the preseason. Pineiro suffered a groin injury at the end of training camp and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.