Posted by NFL Editor and ANG football writer Jerry McDonald
Tight end Rickey Dudley drifted into the left flat unnoticed, wide open. He went unnoticed by quarterback Andrew Walter as well, with the ball going elsewhere.
Hoping for a second chance with the Raiders, Dudley has none of the pressure which accompanied his first go-round as a much-hyped first-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 1996.
Few tears were shed when Dudley left as a free agent following the 2000 season. The media was full of critics, the stands were full of boos. Some of his teammates didn’t know what to make of him. Some coaches looked at his unemotional exterior and wondered if he really cared.
He was remembered only for the passes he dropped, and not for the ones he caught. The drops came at an alarming rate in his rookie season, ranging between 14 and 17 by unofficial count.
While Dudley was never described as having great hands, his receiving ability was at least average in subsequent seasons, with the occasional drop serving to reinforce the memory of a difficult first year.
Dudley came in as the next great Raider tight end, with Al Davis trading up to the No. 9 pick in the draft to get him. He was 6-foot-6, 260 pounds and looked upon as a potential John Mackey.
Truth be told, both the Raiders and Dudley himself would be overjoyed with the sort of production they enjoyed together from 1996 through 2000.
In five years as a Raider, Dudley played in 80 games, starting 78. He caught 183 passes for 2,627 yards (14.4 yards per catch) and scored 29 touchdowns. In the four years since, Dudley has played in 28 games, started nine times and caught 35 passes for 397 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Dudley has no regrets in accepting an ill-fated deal from Cleveland which was derailed by a foot injury. He was gone after one year and won a Super Bowl ring against his former teammates as a reserve for Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay.
When the Bucs released him, Dudley was in the market for a job. The Raiders needed another tight end.
“One thing I’ve never done in my career is burn bridges,” Dudley said. “I think any place you start at, there’s a special vibe there. The opportunity came, so I’m here.”
If there is any bitterness regarding people’s perception of him during his years as a Raider, Dudley hides it well.
`I think what I gave was what I had at the time,” Dudley said. “I really don’t dwell on what I wasn’t able to do, if I wasn’t able to live up to someone else’s comparison. I was Rickey Dudley, and that’s what I was. I had a great time here, and that time ended. Now I’m back and I’m going to see what else I can do.”
Instead of trying to become the next great tight end, Dudley is trying his best to simply hang on. Courtney Anderson and Teyo Johnson will make the roster. Dudley will compete with Zeron Flemister, Josha Norman and John Paul Foschi for a roster spot
Dudley concedes to being older and wiser.
“You get maturity from playing in the league. You learn a lot of different things. I guess there’s knowledge I can pass on to younger guys that will help them into the long run,” Dudley said. “But as far as my personality, I’m still the same quiet, humble guy.”
Hits And Misses
“What are you doing? What are you doing?” Turner yelled. “That’s the first time in the history of nine-on-nine there’s been a fumbled snap.”
Walter later threw an interception directly into the hands of Derrick Gibson without an intended receiver in sight.
When lobbed a softball question that really was more of a statement – please comment on the progress of Robert Gallery Courtney Anderson – Turner merely laughed and said, “We’re getting that far into camp, huh?”