The Raiders signed free agent CB Shawntae Spencer back on March 19, 2012. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
Q: Did you plan to remain in the Bay Area?
Spencer: There were several determining factors. That was one of them. I've grown quite fond of the Bay Area. It's always tough up and moving to a new city, learning a new city, and all of the other factors that play into being with a new organization. But that was one of the factors. The other was just being reunited with [defensive backs coach] Johnnie Lynn and [defensive coordinator] Jason Tarver. I'm pretty familiar with the scheme. There are some things he's changed, some things he's added in, but that really helped me out as far as the learning curve coming in and being able to be on top and play fast.
Q: What happened in San Francisco last year?
Spencer: I sustained a hamstring injury in training camp, which kept me out pretty much three weeks of training camp. So, it's understandable that when you got a new coaching staff and things like that, they have to be able to see. You have to put your resume out there and I didn't get a chance to do that because of the hamstring injury. You take the good with the bad. You learn from it, and move on.
Q: What's it like being with this team?
Spencer: It's a great atmosphere. It's funny because there are a lot of familiar faces. I know a lot of the players, and a lot of the staff. I saw yesterday Fred Formosa, his first day here as the head of security; he was in San Francisco my whole career except last year. Things like that. So many, so many familiar faces from all around the building, from the video department to the PR, things like that, so the adjustment hasn't been that difficult.
Q: What has to happen for the Raiders to take the same step the 49ers took in 2011?
Spencer: San Francisco's team was loaded. They walked into a great situation. You look at the talent over there on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive side of the ball, it was one of those situations where it never came together in previous years. Then (in 2011), offense clicked, defense played well and special teams played well and it came together. Just looking at it here, you can ask league-wide, the Raiders are always the most-talented team, size-wise, speed-wise, skill-wise, things like that. But it's changing the culture, being disciplined, doing the little things right, the turnovers, the penalties. You have to eliminate those things to be competitive in this league. You can't beat yourself. So, starting there, starting with what Coach Allen demands out of each play, running to the ball, being sound in your assignments, things like that. Once you do those things, it all comes down to the game. If you're beating yourself before the ball's even snapped, you don't have a chance. That's what he's really, really been preaching and what everyone's been buying into now. We got great attendance at OTAs. We had great attendance thus far throughout the offseason program so I think the whole building, everyone should be optimistic.
Q: What are results you see that show you the change is occurring?
Spencer: I tell you what, you just do it, come stand next to me, or go home. That's what it is. It's very in your face as far Coach Allen. Very, very instrumental, especially the secondary. He's been a secondary coach and knows what it looks like, what it's supposed to look like. That's what he's demanding from us. I'm sure it's quite the same on the offensive side of the ball with the [offensive coordinator] and that entire staff over there. It's no-nonsense. You hear different things about previous staffs, and things like that, and how different this one is. It's no-nonsense. It doesn't matter who you are, what you've done. They want everyone to embrace the team concept, playing together, playing within each scheme.
Q: How well do you know Ron Bartell?
Spencer: It's funny because I think me and Ron might be the two oldest guys here. And our birthdays are the exact same day, same year. We have a lot of mutual friends, from Walt Harris, who I played with, and he trained with Arizona, and Nate Clements and Ron are good friends, and Nate and I are friends. So we hit it off right away. Same with [Michael Huff]. There are a lot of guys I played with, from Terrail Lambert; I played with Curtis Taylor, I'm familiar with so many other guys. The transition for me was very, very smooth.
Q: You and Ron have a lot in common with your backgrounds. Sounds like you're both ready to have a fresh start?
Spencer: It's a breath of fresh air. For me, that's something that prior to leaving San Francisco, I sat down and talked to [49ers GM] Trent Baalke about. He was gracious and nice enough to say, 'Let's do this in a timely manner instead of dragging it out until August,' and then releasing me and all that other stuff. So, I do appreciate that. It was something for both sides I think, all parties involved, it was the best thing. It was time, as far as my situation. I'm not too familiar with Ron's other than I know he hurt his neck. Just hearing him talk, he's so happy; he's so relieved. That means a lot.