In addition to adding a little much-needed depth to the team's linebacking corps, the Oakland Raiders signed NaVorro Bowman to add some instant credibility to a group that was admittedly quite green.
With three Pro Bowls, four All-Pro designations, and a Super Bowl appearance to his name, Bowman is a legitimate middle linebacker; a player whose presence on the Raiders roster was felt immediately both on *and *off the field.
"We have a legit leader now, somebody that can teach us the ropes, and help us young linebackers learn a lot," said rookie linebacker Marquel Lee. "That's what I plan to do. I know other guys are going to learn a lot. He's a good learning tool, and a good guy on game day who can just let it rip. Last game he had a big game for us, and I'm excited."
And to call Bowman's debut as a Raider "big", might just be a tad on the conservative side. The former San Francisco 49er not only played every defensive snap save two, he led the Raiders with 11 tackles, also adding a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.
Oh, and he did all this just three days after signing with the team.
"Yeah, that's pretty impressive," Lee said about Bowman's performance on such short notice. "I was impressed by that. He's a veteran guy, class act, came in, went to work right away. No excuses, none at all, just got to work."
"I was just being me," Bowman said. "Coming in and just showing the guys I'm a complete football player, I love this game, and that you can count on me, and I let everything else take care of itself. As far as guys looking up to me, or noticing what I do as a leader, I let that take care of itself, but as long as you execute your job, and play well, guys are going to respect you."
Regardless of how you slice it, Bowman's performance was impressive, and a perfect example of why he's been one of the most-productive linebackers in the game since he was drafted in 2010.
Bowman said Tuesday that he loves a good challenge, and coming into a new team, and learning a playbook on incredibly short notice is about as big of a challenge as you can mock up – even for a veteran linebacker like No. 53.
"I love challenges, and I felt like last week was a challenge for me personally, and a risk for the Raiders to take with putting me out there so fast," Bowman explained. "I didn't want to let them down, and I also wanted to step up to the challenge. With me having this full week of preparation, I look to just getting better at the calls, at the defense, and seeing if I can improve my game on Sunday."
And Bowman and the Raiders defense will have its hands full come Sunday when they travel to Upstate New York to take on a resurgent Buffalo Bills offense led by LeSean McCoy, a player that Head Coach Del Rio believes is one of the best in the game.
"LeSean always challenges you on how hard of a tackle he is," Bowman said. "I know a lot about him; I know exactly what they can do. We as a defense, we just have to keep that in mind, but not let that get away from who we are and how we play defense."
While Marquel Lee hasn't yet been able to take the field with Bowman – he was unable to play against the Chiefs while he recovered from an ankle injury – he was still able to learn a lot from watching the veteran linebacker go to work.
"I took it how I could, in the most positive way," Lee explained. "Just trying to learn, seeing him, asking him questions coming off the sidelines, trying to see what he sees, and learn what he's looking at, and deciphering offenses, and things of that nature. I appreciated that time I was on the bench, because I got to sit there and learn, and watch and learn, and take it all in."
And as good of a teacher as Bowman can be, Lee also thinks that Bowman's presence alone is a benefit to the Raiders defense, just as the team hoped when they signed him.
"We see him going out there and balling out, and everybody wants to make plays," Lee said. "Any emotion is contagious, I feel like, so if he's riled up and ready to go, I feel like all of us get behind him, and everybody will start making plays."