It's been a challenging few weeks in the sports world, as we try to adjust to the new rules and regulations mandated by the NFL to limit the spread of COVID-19. These rules impact everyone: Coaches, scouting departments, fans, and players, but we continue to find ways to get things done regardless.
A couple weeks ago, recently signed Las Vegas Raiders safety Jeff Heath joined SiriusXM NFL Radio to discuss these new guidelines and what went into his decision to join the Silver and Black.
"Yeah, it's really weird," Heath said when asked how meetings have been with coaches around the league. "It's just as weird for me as I feel like it is for everyone around the world right now, it's just a very odd time. It's weird that you sign a deal, but I still can't go officially sign the deal, or meet anybody in person, or shake Coach Gruden's hand."
The process has been altered and it's thrown a wrench in the natural flow of free agency, but it hasn't stopped teams from getting deals done with players. Heath is just one of many new additions to the Raiders and together the players are collectively anxious to get in the building and meet their new teammates.
"It's a weird feeling, man, but you know, [I'm] just kind of trying to relax and trust that this will all pass. I'm not sure when, but hopefully sooner rather than later, so we can get to work, I can meet my new teammates, meet the new coaches, and kind of get a feel for that area, everything," Heath said. "It's a big change, but I'm just taking it day by day and just waiting for the 'okay' to get out there."
For seven years, Heath called the greater Dallas area home, but he's eager to touch down in his new city, with his new team, and settle in. The Raiders are transitioning into their new home and Heath is thrilled to be a part of the transition, it was one of the main reasons he decided to sign with the team.
"It felt right, I have a lot of familiarity with some of the coaches there," he shared. "Coach Bisaccia was in Dallas with me for my first five years and Coach Marinelli was there too, and I've been with him the whole time I was in Dallas. I just got a really good feeling talking to Coach Gruden and Mr. Mayock, obviously Coach Rich and Coach Marinelli, all those guys. A lot of familiarity, it's going to be fun being a part of something new being the first year in [Las] Vegas, so it all kind of went into that decision."
As Heath alluded to, he overlapped with Bisaccia between 2013 and 2017, and was a special teams ace for him. In the two seasons Bisaccia has been with the Raiders, he's been able to pluck several of his guys from the Cowboys and bring them to the Raiders, and Heath is the latest; however, Heath is more than just a special teams player.
His last three years in Dallas, Heath became a featured starter on defense, starting in at least 13 games per season — he started every game of the 2018 season. Over the last three years he's totaled 189 tackles, 17 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and four interceptions. With plenty of youth on the Raiders defense, Heath should serve as a needed veteran voice with plenty of experience.
While he hasn't formally met him, Heath explained during his radio call that Head Coach Jon Gruden is excited to bring him aboard, and that the expectation is he'll come in every day and set the example.
"I had great conversations with all of those guys and Coach Gruden, he's one of a kind," Heath said with a chuckle. "Talking to him on the phone he brings a ton of energy and lots of excitement. My expectations are really how they've been my entire career, I'm expecting to go in and compete and try to earn everything I get. I'm going to help the team with whatever and in whatever capacity they need me. I'm just going in with the expectation of working hard and building relationships with some new guys and some new coaches, and trying to build a good team and win some games."
Heath will have the opportunity to win games in front of a new fan base that's never seen anything quite like the Raiders. Just off the strip, Allegiant Stadium will become the pinnacle of entertainment in the city of Las Vegas, and the recently signed safety can't wait to be a part of it, but isn't sure what to expect.
"It's going to be awesome, man," he said. "I have no idea what to expect, obviously I've been there for vacation on the weekends, but that's going to be a little different than what it will be like playing football there. I'm just excited to be a part of something new. I know when they got their NHL team a few years ago, the excitement and the support from the city around that team was off the charts, so I can imagine [what it will be like] when they get that football team there."
While we all learn to cope with this unfamiliar new normal for now, Heath is comfortable joining a team with a familiar coaching staff and is excited to get to work, even if he has to wait a little longer than expected.
View photos of new Raiders safety Jeff Heath. Over his seven-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, Heath has tallied 267 solo tackles and 8 interceptions.