Clelin Ferrell, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, doesn’t plan on taking a back seat during his first year in Oakland.
NAPA, Calif. — No, it would not make late comedian George Carlin’s list of seven dirty words. Not even close.
“They ain’t bring us in here to be no rookies,” Ferrell said recently. “Rookies can kind of get a connotation of sitting in the back, wait your turn, you don’t got to step out in front and show that you really want to play.
“I consider myself just a first-year player. … I just want to come out and compete and earn everything that we got. To do that in this defense you got to communicate, you got to be physical, you got to be a guy that wants to set the tone, set the standard and just be able to be held accountable and do your job. That’s really just all it is.”
And it’s a lot. Just not too much for the defensive end in his first week of an NFL training camp.
In fact, Raiders veterans and coaches alike have been impressed with how Ferrell has handled himself this early in his career. That is, most definitely not like your prototypical rookie.
There are quality-of-life things he has to figure out: finding a place to live, buying a car, paying bills.
But when it comes to his football IQ, well, that’s been the least of the Raiders’ worries as he settles into a role of an every-down right defensive end. He has also slid inside at left defensive tackle in the first-team nickel defense.
Ferrell had 27 sacks in three seasons at Clemson and played on two national championship teams. He had 11.5 sacks last year and the Raiders expect him to help improve their NFL-worst 13 sacks from last season.
“They know how to win and how to prepare, and how to listen,” Gruden said of the trio of Tigers. “And they know how to compete. They expect to win and they are not intimidated. And they are quality people. I can trust them on a players’ night off. I can trust them with just about everything.”
Ferrell, meanwhile, has been putting his trust in veteran middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who is also new to the Raiders this season but knows the defensive scheme intimately after six years with defensive coordinator Paul Guenther in Cincinnati.
Yes, Vontaze Burfict, the mentor.
“I don’t remember any type of rookie coming in talking as much as [Ferrell does],” Burfict said with a grin. “Even you know, getting into other player’s heads.”
“I’m a team guy,” he said. “Veterans are people who I look at as big brothers. They know what it takes to be in this league, or they wouldn’t be here. But, then again, I’m not a guy that’s going to accept [something that’s done] wrong. Wrong is wrong.
“I want to be the guy that teammates say, ‘Hey, I want him on the field with me. I want to be in the trenches with that guy. I want that guy beside me, lined up when it’s fourth-and-1, on the goal line, and we need to stop them from getting in the end zone.'”
Indeed, Ferrell hopes to instill some of Clemson’s winning culture into the Raiders, who last won a Super Bowl after the 1983 season and have only been to the playoffs once since 2003.
The Raiders’ defense was subject to a pep talk, of sorts, by former Raiders cornerbacks Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes, and Ferrell took it to heart.
“It starts with the foundation, the culture,” Ferrell said. “That’s the biggest thing. You’ve got to do the common things in an uncommon way … it ain’t just about winning; it’s about how you win because we’re not about just winning one championship. We want to do stuff to make it last.
“We’re not trying to be like the Raiders of the old, even though they set the standard. This team here, we want to elevate that. We want to set our own new heights. We want to have a chance to be better than those guys. And that’s what the old heads want us to do. That’s what the former Raiders told us — don’t try to be like us, try to be better.”