Antonio Pierce-led Raiders ‘putting in that work’ together during offseason

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Antonio Pierce-led Raiders ‘putting in that work’ together during offseason

HENDERSON, Nev. — The day linebacker Robert Spillane signed with the Las Vegas Raiders last March, he made his way to the weight room to get a workout in. When he got there, he saw defensive end Maxx Crosby, offensive tackle Kolton Miller and other veterans already working with the training staff.

“The leaders of the team were showing that they’re not too big to come in and work every day in the offseason,” Spillane said Monday. “So, that inspired me to stick around here for the majority of the offseason and to encourage other guys. You know, get in the building. It’s free meals, free workouts. You get to be around the boys. I was really proud of the guys that stuck around and showed that they’re putting in that work.”

The Raiders started Phase 1 of their voluntary offseason program Monday. During the next two weeks, they’re limited to holding meetings, strength and conditioning and rehab. It’s essentially the ramping-up period ahead of the start of OTAs next month.

For weeks, however, the Raiders have already had dozens of players in the facility on a regular basis. The players weren’t allowed to formally interact with coaches or members of the front office until Monday, but they’ve been working out, receiving treatment from the training staff and spending time with each other.

The movement started shortly after Super Bowl LVIII in February. Given that’s usually a time of year players use to relax, it surprised the coaching staff.

“It’s shocking,” coach Antonio Pierce said in February. “I don’t know why, but they seem to like to be around a little bit more. They seem to understand what they can do to get better and help us get better and win. There’s some meat on the bone and guys felt like it’s unfinished business. The season ended and they wanted more.

“I think we created a culture and a fit at the building where it’s OK to hang out. We’re not going to step on your toes. I give ’em a wave when I see ’em, but I don’t check in and see if they’re doing this and that. We’re going to see results when we get out there in the spring and, more importantly, when we get to training camp.”

Some notable players who have been regulars at the facility this offseason include Crosby, Spillane, Miller, receiver Davante Adams, quarterback Aidan O’Connell, center Andre James and defensive tackle John Jenkins. Their collective leadership has set an example for the other players.



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“AP challenged me early and (told me) it’s not just about me,” Crosby said. “There’s a lot of really good players, but the great ones bring others up. I took that personally. Guys like Spillane and John Jenkins and other dudes, it helps when you’ve got guys like that coming in because it gives the young guys no other option but to be here. We wanted to be here and work together and just continue building what we already started.”

For all of the good vibes Pierce brought during his nine games as interim coach last season, the Raiders finished with just an 8-9 record and missed the playoffs. The players’ consistent presence in the facility this offseason is undoubtedly a byproduct of their belief in Pierce, but it’s also a sign of knowing they need to be better in 2024.

“I feel like this team has all of the potential,” Crosby said. “We have more than enough talent to go out there and achieve great things. But all that is bull—- unless you go out there and do it yourself.”

Although the Raiders’ level of player participation this offseason is uncommon in the NFL, it’s reminiscent of how things operate in college. College football players are typically on campus for eight or nine months a year for classes, spring camp, fall camp and the season. That has made it a smooth transition for some of the younger players on the roster.

“You’re with your guys the whole offseason in college,” O’Connell said. “I took a couple of weeks off right after the season to get away from football and rest my mind, but I like to be doing stuff throughout the year. So, even in those couple weeks, I got a little stir-crazy. I was itching to get back.”



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It also doesn’t hurt that the Raiders have a state-of-the-art facility. In this year’s NFLPA player team report card, the franchise ranked third in the league in the weight room category, fifth in food/cafeteria, nutritionist/dietician, locker room and training room, seventh in strength coaches and 13th in training staff.

“It just goes to show how great of a city Vegas is and I think it also goes to show (the quality of) the strength staff that we have here,” James said Monday. “Why would you go out and pay thousands of dollars for training when you have some of the best equipment and some of the best crew here always available? There’s not really anywhere else you would want to go.”

Teams aren’t yet allowed to conduct any on-field work, but the last couple of months were impactful when it came to strengthening the culture that Pierce began to instill last season. It has had a contagious effect that has spread among returning players and newcomers alike.

“It looks different,” Pierce said last month. “The players are protective of it. … We’re checking badges. We’re checking resumes. We’re checking how you are. That’s important to us. … Being a Raider is different. We want that fit to be perfect.”



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The players have been taking their workouts seriously, of course, but the atmosphere in the facility has been loud, loose and personable. That’s indicative of the fact that players have been in the facility so frequently because they genuinely enjoy it, not because they feel like they have to be there.

“I know the guys that went off campus, they still did their work and they’re still putting in that work, but it’s always good to be around each other,” Spillane said. “I think it brings about a level of inspiration both to and from. Guys were asking me, ‘What do you get from these offseason workouts?’ I said, ‘I get inspired by young guys.’ I love getting chased. Those next guys behind me want my job as bad as I want my job. So, how can I keep my job with this team? Just being here inspires me.”

One of the primary reasons former coach Josh McDaniels was fired last season was his inability to create that type of environment. It remains to be seen if Pierce can maintain this positive vibe, but it’s a strong sign that he was able to cultivate it so quickly.

“That’s how football should be,” Pierce said. “You shouldn’t come to work mad. You should be enjoying every day and every second of the day. … Don’t take it for granted. Love what you do. Be proud that you’re in the Raiders organization. And then, hopefully, you’re around something that we’re building that’s going to be special.”

(Photo of Antonio Pierce and Robert Spillane: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)