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Next man up: Marcell Ateman looks to make the most out of his big opportunity 

Marcell Ateman isn’t afraid to ask questions.

And for a rookie just a few days out from likely making his NFL debut, that’s a good thing.

The former Oklahoma State Cowboy was selected in the seventh round (No. 228 overall) of this year’s NFL Draft, and after a productive preseason in Silver and Black, found his way to the team’s practice squad where he stayed until October 23.

But even though he spent the first seven weeks of the regular season as a spectator – at home or on the sidelines of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum – the rookie wide receiver remained vigilant, and never stopped learning.

“Derek [Carr] and those guys are open,” explained Ateman. “They want you to ask questions. Just to know that you’re into it…. They want to see you engage, and they’re open to it. Sometimes you know when to ask questions, when not to ask question. You just understand.”

Now, with Martavis Bryant out for a couple of weeks, and Jordy Nelson’s status for Sunday’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals very much in the balance, Head Coach Jon Gruden will look to Ateman – as well as fellow rookie Saeed Blacknall – when the team kicks off Week 11 at State Farm Stadium.

“He’s really grown up and just become a pro, and that’s every rookie,” Carr said when asked about
Ateman. “They need to figure out – they don’t even know where to lineup for stretch half of the time, you know? Let alone acting like a pro during games and that kind of thing. So, one thing that really stuck out is during games, he’ll come up to me and ask questions, not in a bothersome way or anything like that just, ‘Hey, what did you see here? What if they ran the route like this?’ So, I can tell that he’s not just here taking a redshirt year, enjoying his time wearing the team colors, he’s really put in a lot of work and it means something to him. He’s shown that, so hopefully he just goes out there and cuts it loose, because he’s done all the right things, now he’s just got to go play?”

As Carr said, Ateman has remained an astute pupil throughout the infant stages of his NFL career, and even though he now has one of the 53 coveted spots on the active roster, the questions won’t stop.

“I was really just wondering. Just how he [Carr] sees the game, and me having the opportunity to be on the sideline and see things [for] just whenever I did get my chance, I wanted to know. ‘On that play, what do you think?’ ‘What do you think he should have done on that play,” Ateman explained. “So if I were to ever have my opportunity, I know not to do that – or I know what to do.”

With a plethora of veteran presences in the wide receivers room, ranging from Jordy Nelson to Brandon LaFell, No. 88 has taken advantage of all the football knowledge around him, particularly as far as their preparation for gameday is concerned.

“Just how serious they take it,” Ateman said of his veteran teammates. “They have fun throughout the week. They enjoy the time when you’re with your brothers, and they just prepare the right way, in the meeting room, outside, taking care of their bodies, and I just learn a lot from those guys. Just the way they approach practice.”

With 12 catches good for 139 yards in his four preseason appearances, Ateman was definitely productive during the last time he saw live, game action, but he knows as well as any that there’s a big difference between the preseason and the regular season.

But, after waiting over half the season for his chance, Ateman is ready to make the most of it, and hopefully ask a few more questions along the way.

“I’m just excited,” he said. “Just to have this opportunity, it’s such a blessing. You never know when, you never know why, but I’m going to take full advantage of it.”

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