Each year the NFL Draft is held, all 32 teams make their selections hoping that one of their picks will wind up becoming the force that drives their respective club to the Super Bowl. Too often, that player isn’t found and teams are forced to regenerate those hopes the following year.
After the first round of the 2011 draft, head coach Hue Jackson made sure to remind Bay Area reporters that the Raiders had already been utilizing the services of their pick, Richard Seymour, the past two seasons.
That sort of talk could have been much different had the Raiders not re-signed Seymour just before the free-agent deadline, which in previous years would have marked the beginning of teams signing players from their competition. This year, that deadline was only the beginning of the end of NFL business until the league-imposed lockout has been lifted, by courts or collective bargaining agreement.
Seymour, who is no stranger to accolades like the Pro Bowl, has earned his money off the field just as much as on it since being traded from the Patriots just a week prior to the start of the 2009 season.
On the field, he immediately gave opposing offenses someone to worry about when creating their plans to score on the Silver and Black. With 9 1/2 sacks in two seasons from the defensive tackle position, it’s clear that Seymour has held up his end between the lines.
Great players are normally judged by their on-field prowess, but the level of their greatness relies on their positive effect on the players around them. Seymour has easily done both for the Raiders.
Tuesday, Seymour and teammates began day one of a four-day camp at Buford high school in Buford, Georgia. In all, 34 Raiders including Seymour were in attendance.
Starting quarterback Jason Campbell and his backup Kyle Boller ran the offensive drills while Seymour led his defensive teammates in their reintroduction to football.
The camp, organized by Seymour, was as much about chemistry as it was about football. “I haven’t seen most of these guys since we played Kansas City the last game of the season,” Seymour told reporters yesterday. “It’s a great opportunity for us to get together.”
Events like that, can only make Seymour and his teammates closer on the field, and keep them together when things aren’t going their way.
The camp is just the latest example of his impact on the team since joining in September of 2009. His biggest impact has been on the players on the defensive line.
Helping Tommy Kelly reach his full potential may be Seymour’s greatest impact on the Raiders. “Seymour leads the pack with [Tommy] Kelly,” said Al Davis in January during the Hue Jackson promotion press conference. Rather than lead that ‘pack’ down the wrong direction, the veteran Pro Bowler has put Kelly and his immense talent on the right track — and the rest of the defense has followed.
Kelly played so well last season that Seymour wasn’t shy about telling reporters, “He definitely got my vote,” when talking about the Pro Bowl at the end of the season. Unfortunately for Kelly, teammates can’t vote for him. Despite not getting votes from his teammates, Kelly was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl this season and he’s gone from being a punch line for his large contract to a respected force in the middle.
Just before the Raiders played Pittsburgh last season, then defensive coordinator John Marshall told reporters, “His leadership and the kind of professional he is is reflected in the defensive line and throughout the defense.” That weekend, Seymour promptly went out and got ejected from the game for nearly knocking out Ben Roethilsberger.
While that one instance may be the only negative for the 6-6, 310 pound defensive lineman as a Raider, that sort of nastiness had a net positive impact on the rest of his teammates.
“The thing was, all the offensive linemen, as well as some of us, were getting chippy because they were chipping after the whistle,” explained linemate Quentin Groves the week after the incident. The message Seymour sent with the slap was that the Raiders weren’t going to take it lying down — at least he wasn’t, and the rest of the team followed.
If his teammates continue to follow his lead, Seymour might just get the team back into the playoffs…or better yet, the Super Bowl.
Tuesday in Georgia was just another reason for Al Davis to feel like he got the better end of a two-year $30M contract back in February.
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