New Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. go way back. The pair worked together in Seattle, when Norton Jr. was his position coach, and developed a familial bond.
Irvin was drafted No. 15 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, and the edge rusher/end from West Virginia turned into more of a complete linebacker under Norton’s tutelage. Norton helped Irvin get on the correct path and away from off-field issues that were part of a four-game suspension in 2013 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
“He’s a great guy, one of the main reasons that I decided to get here,” Irvin said Thursday night in a conference call. “I wanted to get back with him. Like I said before, that guy, he’s done a lot for me, not only on the field, but off the field. He saved my career by bringing me from defensive end to a linebacker, so I have the utmost respect for that guy.”
Irvin can play all three downs now, adept at rushing the quarterback on passing downs and dropping into coverage. Strongside linebacker is a solid fit, a position that can show off his athleticism without the grind of playing on the line every minute.
“It was a pounding every play, and then I would be an undersized D-end at 255, 260, so I just felt like playing in more space will allow me to showcase my talents and really help my team, really help Seattle out,” Irvin said.
Now he’s focused on helping Oakland out. Irvin is a kick on social media, quick with a joke or full-on recruiting push. He did that with free-agent safety Eric Weddle earlier in the week, said he texted Donald Penn to bring him back to the fold and dubbed himself “Baby Reggie. ”
The moniker’s homage general manager Reggie McKenzie, a popular cat these days after three solid free-agent acquisitions in Kelchi Osemele, Sean Smith and Irvin.
Why go out and try to bring others in?
“I’m just trying to win, baby,” Irvin said with a chuckle. “That’s it.”
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Irvin wants others coming into this defensive mix, but is pretty excited about the roster as it stands. That starts with Norton’s position and extends to one premiere pass rusher.
“Besides Norton, that was the next biggest thing, playing with Khalil Mack,” Irvin said. “The guy is a premier rusher. He’s on his way to being one of the best rushers in the league. (Denver Broncos OLBs) DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller0 laid the blueprint out in the Super Bowl; you’ve got to have rushers and tandem rushers at that. The AFC West, man, I look at it, it’s a lot of tandem rushers. You’ve got [Kansas City Chiefs LBs Justin] Houston and Tamba Hali. You’ve got Ware and Von. You’ve got me and Mack.
“I’m looking forward to playing with him and benefiting off of him, because I know he’s going to draw so much attention, it’s going to leave me a lot of one-on-one situations, so I’ve got to make the best of them.”