Safety Nate Allen spent five years with Philadelphia and missed consecutive games only once. He started 69 of the 74 games played in an Eagles uniform, which he removed for a final time after the 2014 season.
Allen signed a four-year, $23-million contract with the Raiders last offseason and was set to be a permanent fixture alongside Charles Woodson when he got hit by friendly fire.
Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong attempted an extremely tardy tackle in the regular-season opener, hit Allen from the side and strained his MCL. He was placed on short-term injured reserve, came back when eligible in Week 10 and, four games later, got cut blocked by an opposing receiver and went back on the shelf. Allen was gone for good then, ruining a season that started with real promise.
“It was just one of those years,” Allen said after Thursday’s practice. “I don’t look at it as a setback or anything like that. This is year No. 7 for me, and I’m blessed to make it this far. There are a lot of guys who go through one injury after another, and I’ve been mostly healthy.”
That quote sums Allen up well. The 28-year old is a glass-half-full guy, someone polite, genuine and optimistic even in difficult circumstances. He was while rehabbing last year. Despite getting released and re-working a lower pay rate this offseason, despite watching the Raiders draft Karl Joseph and sign Reggie Nelson, Allen’s outlook remains upbeat.
“Every year brings a new set of challenges,” Allen said. “I had adversity in Philadelphia, and last year with injury. I’m just excited to play football and help the team in any way I can.”
Allen’s expected to be the first safety up if the aforementioned starters are unavailable. That’s the case for Saturday’s exhibition against Tennessee. Nelson missed the week’s practice with an undisclosed injury, and won’t play against the Titans. Enter Allen, a versatile player able to man either safety spot.
“That’s something we emphasize here,” Allen said. “You have to know both roles, which I think makes us more versatile and allows us to make adjustments quickly and give different, unexpected looks.”
The Raiders couldn’t adjust well after Allen went down in last regular season’s opener. They were razor thin at safety last year, filling his spot with Taylor Mays, Larry Asante – both out of football – and converted-on-the-fly cornerback TJ Carrie.
Having Allen on deck this year provides quality, experienced depth most teams long for at a crucial spot. Allen has shown well thus far, with 11 tackles, an interception and a blocked punt he recovered and returned for a touchdown in two preseason games.
Allen’s having fun after a stressful 2015 campaign where he couldn’t get right, enjoying a return to normal this preseason.
“Going through last year makes you appreciate just being healthy and being out there every day,” he said. “It really makes you appreciate the game. …Right now I’m healthy. The knee’s feeling good. I’ve been blessed to be healthy thus far, and I’m hoping to stay that way. Some times you just need a little luck on your side.”