I know a lot of you want the blown up out of proportion revenge game storyline.
You're all vying to see what Raiders Darren Waller and Yannick Ngakoue have in mind to inflict pain and devastation on their former team. That's the sexy angle that we're all looking out for in this "Monday Night Fight" that Lamar Jackson coined to the media Thursday.
However, I can't honestly give you that angle. Waller and Ngakoue seem at peace and are just ready to play ball.
The story of Darren Waller has been documented in great detail several times now. Waller's rock bottom came while overdosing in his car in Baltimore down the street from his former team's practice facility after being suspended from the NFL. Now he's gotten not only his football career in order, but his life in order. And he doesn't take it for granted.
"With my life path I feel like there's nothing promised for me," said Waller. "I can't go through a day and feel that another day is promised. Treat every game like it could be my last. Every play, every moment and let those things stack up. Just playing with a sense of urgency and just enjoying the game for me and enjoying being part of a team. Not so much about the results or what other people may think or anything like that.
"Just enjoying the game of playing football and cherishing that opportunity."
Ngakoue has also had to go through a lot in a short period of time before coming to the desert. Despite being a former Pro Bowler and proven edge rusher in the league, things have not been steady for him. The defensive end is now playing on his fourth team in three seasons – his last one being the Baltimore Ravens who didn't re-sign him, despite trading for the Maryland alum midway through the season. Ngakoue has not been discouraged by things and has come to the realization that everything happens for a reason.
"Even though you may not be utilized the right way, you just got to know you have to keep pushing forward. Everybody's story and journey is different," Ngakoue said.
The defensive end will also have the task of gearing up his defensive line to go up against superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson – someone that he's pretty familiar with.
"If you're on your assignments and on your keys, specifically as a defense, we should be able to have a lot of great fits to stop what he has going on," Ngakoue said on playing Jackson. "Not taking anything away from him, that's my guy. He's a great player, superstar, but if we do what we're supposed to do, there should be some great results."
Of course there will definitely be a lot of emotions running through Waller on Monday, but he claims to have no bad blood toward his former organization. He's just grateful that John Harbaugh and the Ravens initially gave him the opportunity to live out his NFL dreams, despite it ultimately not working out with each other.
"As a human being, I'll naturally reflect on my times there. [It] will be cool to see people there that I knew and that I had worked with before, but it will be a normal game for me," said Waller. "There's not any kind of hard feelings or resentment or anything like that. They didn't even have to give me a chance to be on the practice squad, they could've just cut me before then. They had no reason to bring me back and they still did and gave me an opportunity and that allowed me to improve upon my skills and take advantage of this opportunity when I came here.
So I'm grateful for them and once the ball is kicked off I got plenty of things to worry about as far as scheme and just seeing how they're going to be covering me and the rest of the offense. It will be just normal football."
Harbaugh echoed the tight end's sentiment, saying he's excited at the challenge of going up their former 2015 draft pick and the offensive threat he's turned into.
"Every time I see him do something or read his name in the paper, I get mad because he was here. It's like, 'What happened?'" the coach told Ravens media with a laugh on Thursday. "Now we have to play against him for the first time and it's a huge challenge."
The moment will also be big for both players as they take the field as team captains against their former team. Waller and Ngakoue were both selected as captains of this 2021 Raiders team, making this the first time either have been a captain of their team on the professional level.
"It means a lot, it's something I always wanted to be my first four years in the NFL," said Ngakoue. "It wasn't that time for me to be that, but now it's my time. And I take the role super serious and just lead by example."