Gerald McCoy hasn't played in an NFL game in 609 days.
And boy, did it feel good for the six-time Pro Bowler to step back on the field.
"Today was my first real reps. I took a few of my first practice reps this week and have been getting reps here and there but today it was like, 'Throw him in the fire,'" McCoy said postgame. "It felt great. My legs felt great, no pain in the knee. Knocking the rust off felt really good. I was just back in my element."
The veteran — who missed the entire 2020 season due to a torn quadriceps tendon the defensive tackle suffered while in camp with the Dallas Cowboys — didn't realize it had been so long since he'd taken a snap, but he didn't miss a beat in the Raiders' preseason finale.
His return to action came up against the San Francisco 49ers' first string offense, which helped in bringing him back to the speed of the game and plunge him into what felt like a regular-season game.
"A lot of it is just reading your keys and playing what you see," he said. "With an offense like that, they draw it up so well that it's a lot of window dressing. A lot of smoke and mirrors to get you to look all over the place for something simple. They're one of the best in the league in doing that."
Both McCoy's teammates and head coach celebrated his debut in the Silver and Black, with Maxx Crosby tweeting support and Coach Gruden mentioning the vet's performance during his postgame press conference.
"It was great to see him out there. He had a tough injury, did not play last year. We've been smart with him and I thought this was a really great step in the right direction for him," Gruden said. "Really positive results, I think."
McCoy noted that while some may see the preseason slate as unnecessary, especially with his 11 years of experience, he knew he had to be on the field and get some reps if he wanted to play in Week 1. Not to mention, he just really loves playing football and was eager to be back at it.
For the defensive tackle, it was also less about the outcome, but about what transpired in the game and how that can help the team's mentality going into games that count.
"When you've been doing this as long as I have, more than just the result, you look at the fight and how guys push through adversity," he said. "We didn't have a lot of guys today but guys were fighting regardless of how long they had to play, how many snaps they had to play. … When you can have a team full of guys doing that, it can take you a long way."
View photos from the Raiders' preseason Week 3 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium.