On the eve of the 2009 season, The Oakland Raiders executed a trade with the New England Patriots for veteran defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Everyone in the NFL knew that the Silver and Black were getting an All-Pro talent with three Super Bowl championships to his credit but what the Raiders also received was a defensive leader, a catalyst that aimed to elevate the defense to new heights.
Seymour, who essentially was the Raiders' first round draft choice this year after the Silver and Black swapped that pick in exchange for the stellar NFL performer, made an immediate impact with the Raiders. He recorded two sacks in his debut during a Monday Night contest against the San Diego Chargers. The veteran carried the momentum of his initial season in Oakland into the 2010 campaign, as he continued to shine as one of the NFL's elite defensive linemen, earning Pro Bowl alternate honors. With the arrival of defensive line coach Mike Waufle, Seymour moved exclusively to defensive tackle and dominated the competition. In all, Seymour totaled 5.5 sacks for 34 yards in losses, 48 total tackles, two passes defensed and one fumble recovery. He helped the Oakland defense tie for second in the NFL with 47 total sacks and he was rewarded with his sixth career Pro Bowl selection and first as a member of the Silver and Black.
At no point during the 2010 season was Seymour more dominant than during a three-game Raider winning streak in the middle portion of the year. While the Silver and Black offense was busy setting franchise records in a 59-14 win at Denver on October 24, Seymour was leading an equally effective defense by recording four tackles and a 10-yard sack. The following week, he got to the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback twice for 15 yards in losses and notched his third multiple-sack game as a Raider. In an overtime win against Kansas City at the Coliseum the following Sunday, Seymour made his presence felt with a personal season-high eight tackles, helping contain a potent Chiefs running game.
The 11-year veteran's performance and leadership qualities on and off the field have made him a fan favorite among the Raider Nation. Seymour returns the affection in kind, stating that playing in front of Raider fans is unlike anything else in the NFL. "I think the fans are definitely committed and they want the same type of players to play in this organization," Seymour said late last season. "The history of being here, representing that Silver and Black and representing the Raiders has been a life-long dream for me."
With his imposing presence in the middle of the line drawing increased attention from Raider opponents, Seymour's play has helped lift the performance of those around him. Tommy Kelly, his partner on the defensive front, enjoyed a breakout season alongside Seymour last year and was named an alternate for the Pro Bowl after establishing a career high with seven sacks.
"Tommy does a lot of things well," said Seymour of his imposing teammate. "He can rush the passer, he can play on every situation on the field and he is a guy you don't want to bring off the field. I think we saw that in his play during the season and he is excited about his future here as a Raider."
Seymour plans on helping the entire Raider team continue to improve in 2011. After posting an 8-8 record last year and sweeping all six games against AFC West opponents, the Silver and Black is poised for a memorable year.
"If you look around, we definitely have a lot of talent, so we're just trying to build upon what we started here last year," said Seymour at the start of training camp in Napa. "I think we have a pretty good taste in our mouths from where we ended the season last year. I thought we were the best 8-8 team in football and we just want to come out and build upon that. We have an amazing, energetic coaching staff that won't accept mediocrity, which is something that I definitely believe in, so we're excited about what we're trying to do here."
All 32 NFL teams begin the new season with a goal of winning the Super Bowl, but Seymour believes that striving for such a lofty goal as a member of the Oakland Raiders is particularly special. "I enjoy putting on the Silver and Black and I think it starts from the top with 'Commitment to Excellence," said Seymour. "As a defensive lineman, this is where you want to play. You want to put on the Silver and Black and play in the Black Hole."
With the Raider Nation supporting the team and Seymour leading the way on the defensive side of the ball, greatness remains in the future for the Silver and Black.