ALAMEDA – Bruce Irvin is a new kid on this block. He’s been a Raider just a few months now, but has quickly endeared himself to this franchise and its fan base by simply being himself.
The veteran edge rusher is opinionated, outspoken and unafraid of expectations. He hasn’t tiptoed through the offseason, trying to find footing among the incumbents. He stepped right into a leadership role, using voice and example to guide fresh faces.
“They didn’t bring me here to be a follower,” Irvin said Tuesday, after the team’s first OTA session. “I’m a very outspoken guy. You guys will learn that about me. I’m coming to be a leader. I’m not stepping on any toes, but if I have something to say, I am going to say it.”
He comes from Seattle, where winning is common and championships are often realistic. Talent is key, and the Raiders have plenty of that. Irvin says wins require talent plus drive.
Irvin has noticed that these Raiders are hungry for success.
“Talent is cool, but when you have a group of guys that can work and want to get better, it’s scary,” Irvin said. “Being in Seattle, I know the formula. I know what it is to be on a No. 1 defense. I know the grind of a 16-game season. I know that when you get in the playoffs, it’s way harder.
“I’ll tell you this: when you get a bunch of guys believing in one thing, putting each other before they put themselves, it’s scary. You can see it in Seattle. The past three, four years, a bunch of guys playing for each other, a bunch of ‘us,’ not a bunch of ‘me’ guys.”
Drive and work ethic are qualities easily identified this early in the offseason, when it’s impossible to win or perform under pressure or even tackle. That, more than any outside, is adding confidence to the offseason’s proceedings.
The Raiders swear it isn’t coming from outside hype, which has been steady following significant roster upgrades that lead many to consider the Raiders a playoff contender. The Raiders don’t want to win the offseason, when real victories happen in the fall.
“We’re all really excited, already, regardless of what the media [says] or what the buzz is around the Oakland Raiders organization,” new cornerback Sean Smith said. “We’re just excited. We have plenty of potential inside this building, plenty of great players, great leaders. We have all the tools, everything we need to be successful. We’re just looking forward to going out there on the field and putting it on tape.”
Some opinions, those from inside, have weight.
The Raiders imported Irvin, cornerback Sean Smith, guard Kelechi Osemele and safety Reggie Nelson this offseason. Each player has been in the playoffs within the last two seasons. That experience is welcome in Alameda, and holds clout in an organization looking to get over the hump.
“We’re on the way up,” Irvin said. “…The good thing about it is it’s a young group. You have a lot of guys who are willing to listen to the older guys, so that’s the greatest thing about coming to a situation like this.”