Marcel Reece came into training camp with the usual enthusiasm and zeal for all things silver and black.
Yet for anyone who has observed the Raiders fullback over the past few years, something was missing, and it was evident at first glance. Reece has lost about 15 pounds, going from 250 pounds a year ago to around 235.
Why would a two-time Pro Bowl player change anything?
“I change my game in a lot of ways every year,” Reece said following practice Monday. “This year it just happened to be physically noticeable. I didn’t think it was a big deal until I got here and you guys started talking about it.”
Reece was fast enough last season to burst for a career-long 63-yard touchdown run against the New York Jets. He leaked out of the backfield often enough for 32 receptions for 331 yards. He wanted more. He went to running backs coach Skip Peete, offensive coordinator Greg Olson and head coach Dennis Allen and everyone agreed Reece might be more explosive at a lighter weight.
Correction: The Raiders running backs coach is Kelly Skipper. Skip Peete is a former Raiders running backs coach.
“Everyone focuses on the number, whether it’s 255 or 238 or 240,” Reece said. “To me, it’s not about that. It’s about feeling good, feeling leaner, feeling I can do anything on the field without limitations.”
The immediate concern among fans is that Reece’s blocking could be jeopardized. However, Reece is more valuable as an offensive weapon and matchup problem than he is as a blocker, with Jamize Olawale available for pure power. Blocking isn’t always about size, as evidenced by Raiders assistant Justin Griffith, who was an excellent blocking fullback for the Falcons and Raiders while seldom weighing over 230 pounds.
“I think actually it will help my blocking,” Reece said. “When you’re younger, you think it’s all brute strength and size and how big you are. To be honest, blocking is really technical. Of course there’s a physical aspect to it, but my strength as gone nowhere. I feel stronger than ever.
“It wasn’t about losing weight and slimming down _ a lot of people lose weight. It was about losing body fat, gaining lean muscle.”
Allen said he didn’t think Reece’s blocking would be affected and said, “where it’s going to help him is in the passing game. Marcel’s been effective for us and we’ve been able to get Marcel the ball and we’re going to continue to get Marcel the ball. He’ll be a guy that we’re going to count on to help us this year.”
Reece’s receiving numbers were down overall in 2013 after catching 52 passes for 396 yards in 2012.
– The Raiders are off Tuesday and resume practice Wednesday at 3 p.m.