A franchise that likes to revel in its tradition been assigned an unwanted reputation throughout the NFL.
“A lot of people say you go Oakland for your career to die,’’ defensive end Justin Tuck said Tuesday as the Raiders began their offseason program. “I’m not looking at it like that. I’m looking at this as an opportunity to revive a storied franchise.’’
If the Raiders manage get to .500 and beyond after consecutive 4-12 seasons, much of it will have to do with a core of veteran free agents signed by general manager Reggie McKenzie, most of them between the ages of 29 and 32 and with a history of having played and won big games.
Tuck, wide receiver James Jones and running back Maurice Jones-Drew spoke to the media Monday. The Raiders also brought in defensive lineman Antonio Smith and Lamarr Woodley, left tackle Donald Penn and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers, with all expected to play key roles.
Yet with the Raiders not having had a winning season since 2002 and with their failure to lock up young talents Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston, many reviews of their free agency splurge have been negative.
“You hear these reports about how this is a great team for 2009,’’ Jones-Drew said. “Whatever. Everyone here has something to prove and they’re going to work and we all know we have something left.’’
Attendance for the offseason program is voluntary and the Raiders would not confirm who attended. Fullback Marcel Reece put it at “very close to 100 percent, and couple of guys that aren’t here, I know why they’re not here.’’
Talking to reporters at the Raiders commitment to excellence dinner, Reece said he wanted McKenzie to make “bold, Raider moves.’’ He believes he got his wish.
“We weren’t looking for any saviors to come here and get in this locker room,’’ Reece said. “We were looking for help to bring the tradition, the winning attitude and a championship pedigree back to this locker room and I think we did that.’’
Jones, who brings a level of professionalism and experience to a very inexperienced receiving corps after seven productive seasons with the Green Bay Packers, said the veterans were of a similar mind.
At age 30, Jones, after catching 59 passes for 817 yards, found the free agent market only lukewarm for his services. He signed with the Raiders for three years and $11.3 million with a $3.65 million guaranteed.
“We have a lot of guys with chips on their shoulders, a lot of guys coming from teams that didn’t want them, didn’t want to pay them a certain amount of money, didn’t think they were worth it, didn’t think they had enough gas left in the tank,’’ Jones said.
Tuck, who had 10 sacks last season with the Giants challenged critics to “go watch the film last year and tell me I can’t play the game . . . to me, age is a number. I’m 31 and I feel like I’m 25.’’
Jones-Drew, coming off foot surgery at age 29, says he’s healthy and looks forward to competing with incumbent Darren McFadden.
“I will see where I am, see if I still have it,’’ Jones-Drew said. “that’s what you want . . . my goal is try and do whatever I can to help this organization get back to where it belongs. If that’s starting, then it’s starting. If it’s backing up, then it’s backing up.’’
In their last winning season in 2002 veteran acquisitions such as Rod Woodson, Bill Romanowski and John Parrella helped the Raiders win an AFC championship.
“I’m glad the Raiders have finally gotten some veteran players in that locker room,’’ wide receiver Tim Brown said in a recent phone interview. “That’s always been a big part of their tradition and I’ve been saying that for the last 10 years.’’