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NAPA – Omar Gaither was at home in Charlotte, N.C. on Sunday afternoon, watching TV with his family. A day later, he was getting paid to hit people.
The Raiders signed the free-agent linebacker to a one-year deal on Monday morning and threw him into the fire that afternoon. The Raiders didn’t give the veteran a moment’s respite during the padded practice, not with so many linebackers out with injury.
Gaither can play multiple positions but was brought in for depth at middle linebacker, where the Raiders are woefully thin. With no player of substance working behind starter Nick Roach, the Raiders looked to a familiar face for support.
Gaither played seven games, made four starts and had 20 tackles for the Raiders last season. When training camp injuries piled up, the Raiders knew whom to call.
“Anytime you get guys that have played for you and understand what your system is, you want to make sure understand where they’re at,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “It’s like calling up the Triple-A guy to come up to the majors.
“He was a guy that we felt good about the way he played for us last year, coming in toward the middle end of the year and at the end of the day started some games for us at the end of the year. Anytime you have those guys, you got to pay attention to where they’re at and when you have injuries you got to come in and fill some spots. We had an extra roster spots that we were able to make available for him.”
Despite spending the offseason unemployed, Gaither stepped right in, practiced well and left with a headache to be proud of. “I got a little headache, a little ringer, but I’m good,” Gaither said. “It’s good to always get to put the pads on after so long and hit somebody. You run around in jerseys and pants, and all offseason you’re working out in the gym. That’s not really football. It’s finally good to get out here and play.”
The need for Gaither underscores the distance Miles Burris is from active duty. He’s still recovering from offseason knee surgery, unable to start training camp and prepare to be the first middle linebacker off the bench.
Last season’s efforts ease this transition, because Gaither already knows the system “It’s just one less thing you have to think about,” When I got here last year, I didn’t know anything as far as the system is concerned. So, it took a few weeks to kind of learn the system. But now, you feel like, OK, well, I’m going to have to have a learning curve because I haven’t been here but it’s always in the back of your brain somewhere. So, it’s definitely good to be back on the same team.”