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NAPA – Tony Bergstrom is in a fortunate, yet awkward spot.
The Raiders offensive lineman is competing to be the starting left guard, a title he’s longed for since being drafted in 2012. Problem is, he has to beat his friend and roommate Lucas Nix to get it.
The two alternated first-team reps through the first three practices in a hotly contested position battle. In the fourth, Nix went down. He sustained a left knee injury on Monday that coach Dennis Allen considers minor, a relative term when dealing with the fickle, often fragile joint.
Bergstrom has taken over first-team responsibility with Nix out, a task he didn’t want to be given. He wanted to earn it outright. He certainly didn’t want Nix to get hurt, even if it becomes a positive for him.
"You never want a friend and a teammate to go down with an injury,” Bergstrom said. “I want the starting spot, but I want him to do well too. I think we push each other and make each other better when we’re both going strong.”
Bergstrom has an opportunity to take control at left guard, especially if Nix’s absence extends from days to weeks. “You have to take advantage of your opportunities,” Allen said. “He and Nix had been rotating in and out, and with Nix down we need someone else to step up. This is an opportunity for Tony to take advantage of the extra reps.”
Left guard is a crucial spot in a new blocking scheme based on gap creation and control. Either Bergstrom or Nix, with just one start between them, will man that spot.
Competing against a good friend can be difficult, but it’s a part of life within a position group. In Bergstrom’s case, his competition with Nix doesn’t extend beyond the practice field.
“You’re not playing directly against other, so that rivalry doesn’t develop,” he said. “Off the field, we’re pretty close. We’re roommates and we’ve lived together since we were rookies. There’s no bad blood at all. We understand that we’re both working to make the team better.”