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'Last year was last year': How Zamir White is adjusting to bigger role in Raiders offense

As Zamir White spoke with the media Wednesday morning during OTAs, he conveyed a sense of tenacity as he approaches his third NFL season.

Personality-wise, he's still the same Zamir White. He was elated to share he's added two more horses to his stable back in Laurinburg, North Carolina, naming them Queen and Zeus. That's also where he spent the majority of his offseason training, not only physically but mentally.

It was inevitable he'd come back to Las Vegas with a restructured mindset compared to his previous two seasons as it's time for him to literally, and metaphorically, pick up the ball and run with it. After the departure of Josh Jacobs in free agency, White is potentially stepping into a feature back role for the first time since he was playing at the University of Georgia.

"[L]ast year, my role was more like a quiet guy just like, when they need me, I'm here. But yeah, that's about it last year-wise," White said. "But now I have to grow back into that vocal leader and I'm just showing them on the field, every single day."

When asked if he was comfortable embracing that role, he gave an emphatic response: "Hell yeah."

With the pressure comes a growing confidence. White totaled 397 rushing yards and a touchdown in his four starts to end the 2023 season, averaging nearly five yards per carry. While analysts don't necessarily doubt White's abilities to take over the backfield, there's still uncertainty in how the run game will look post-Jacobs and with new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.

What is certain? Zamir isn't relying on his sophomore season success to change the external perception.

"Last year was last year," he said. "And now I'm in this new role, and it's a whole new ground for me."

If anyone can relate to White's current situation, it's fellow running back Alexander Mattison who signed with the Raiders this offseason. He spent five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, backing up Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook in four of those years. He took the reins in the Vikings backfield last season, posting career highs in rushing yards (700), carries (180) and receiving touchdowns (three).

While Mattison is still in direct competition for reps with White, the camaraderie in the running back room remains high.

"Even just as a group, we're able to come together and have goals as a group and just love on one another, teach each other, lending a helping hand to one another," Mattison said. "I'm excited for this running back room.

"If I have a question, Ameer's [Abdullah] there, Zamir's there. If [White] has a question, I'm here. It's one of those things where we all help each other out in learning a new system and we're all in this together. And yeah, so far it's working out, and so far, we're taking those right steps in the right direction."

White will have more than enough opportunities to prove himself in his evolving role through mandatory minicamp and Training Camp. As for what White believes he can work on in the meantime – "Everything."

"Catching, running the ball, one-on-one making guys miss and all that stuff," he said. "I want to be better at everything I can be."

View photos from day five of the Las Vegas Raiders' OTAs at Intermountain Health Performance Center.

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