How a re-energized Gerald McCoy plans to help take Raiders to the next level

Gerald McCoy: a six-time Pro Bowler, 11-year veteran of the league, self-described player-coach -- and a completely re-energized defensive tackle heading into 2021.

McCoy signed with the Raiders on Aug. 4 after missing the entire 2020 season due to a torn quadriceps tendon the defensive tackle suffered while in camp with the Dallas Cowboys last year. The lost season was a huge blow to a player who loves the game as much as McCoy, but it was also a catalyst for him to push to get back in it.

"The goal always was to come back because I knew immediately, as soon as I got hurt -- especially with a leg injury, 32 years old, been in the league 11 years -- people immediately assumed that's it," he told the media Tuesday. "He's a D-Tackle, he's older, knee injury, will he be able to come back?

"I love when people count me out. ... I've been a fighter my whole life so it was nothing but another fight to me."

While McCoy wasn't physically on the field in 2020, his mind was. The vet spent a majority of his time watching film of various games from home, taking notes and sharing his advice of what he saw with his friends around the league.

The main purpose, however, was to keep him sharp and ready for the next opportunity headed his way, which just so happened to be in Las Vegas.

"As much as you want to fight to get back, somebody has to give you an opportunity," McCoy said. "It doesn't matter how much you believe you're ready or how much work you've put in, somebody has to give you an opportunity and the Raiders did that. It's such a blessing. It's a privilege to be here and it's a true blessing."

Since he is coming off an injury, McCoy has been eased into practice by getting individual reps. It's clear from the way he talks about loving the game as much as he does that he's chomping at the bit to get back out there at full speed.

But for the time being, he's settling in as a veteran and mentor to his new teammates. A large portion of McCoy's mentorship is working to mold the younger players into pros, not just professional players -- an important distinction, the defensive tackle says.

"Once you sign a contract in the NFL, you're a professional. Doesn't make you a pro," he said. "Being a pro is how you approach every day.

"How you prepare, how you watch film, what do you do when times get tough on the field, what are you eating, how are you learning how to be successful in this league? That's what I believe is being a pro and not all professionals know how to be pros."

He has also been putting in extra work before and after practices, encouraging teammates to join him -- which they gladly are -- and sharing his years of knowledge.

"They're being extremely receptive to everything that I'm saying, but more importantly what I'm trying to show guys is before you can lead, you have to follow."

McCoy, who has worn the number 93 since his college days at Oklahoma, showed up to his first practice sporting a No. 61 jersey. Social media started giving him flack over the change, but it's something that he noted is just another part of being a pro.

"I will be 93. That's a part of being a leader man, you don't just come in and snatch up somebody's number. Let some numbers come available first. I can be 61 in preseason."

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