Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton played most every snap for last year’s New Orleans Saints. He led the team with 144 tackles, the sixth straight time he’s hit triple digits in that stat.
Lofton did all that and still got cut. It wasn’t exactly his fault. A $9.25 million cap number was to blame. The Raiders should be thankful for that, and a roster bonus that proved to be the contract’s poison pill.
That allowed them to fill a cavernous void in their defense and import Lofton on a three-year, $18 million contract with $10 million guaranteed.
The Raiders are pleased to find a replacement for Nick Roach, released after struggling to recover from an Aug. 2014 concussion. Lofton is a pillar of stability, something expected from a field general.
“I’m going to be the middle linebacker and kind of the quarterback of the defense,” Lofton said. “I’m here to take charge and help these young guys get lined up. They brought me here to win.”
That’s something the Raiders haven't done much recently. There are just 11 notches on the belt since 2012. There were three last season following an 0-10 start, dismal results due in some part to Roach’s absence.
The Raiders didn’t have a true backup middle linebacker on the roster, leaving Miles Burris to play 16 games out of position. The Raiders have a line of succession this season, with Lofton as Plan A and versatile linebacker Malcolm Smith as a super sub or preferable option on passing downs.
Lofton is the sort who doesn’t take time off. He’s played every game of his seven-year career and started all but one. That’s the tonic for last season’s ills, and a playing streak the 28-year old holds dear.
“That’s definitely my pride,” Lofton said. “There have been times when I didn’t think I was going to be able to play and I found it within to play. I think I’ve got this burning force inside of me that loves to compete, and I feel like anytime I’m on the field, I give my team a great chance to win.
"So I always try to be out there regardless, and plus, I always put my team above my own needs and my own health. That’s how I’ve always been and that’s how I’ll always be.”