Quarterback Derek Carr
Physically, he might have been in pain, but as Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr was helped off the field in the fourth quarter of the Oakland Raiders Week 16 game against the Indianapolis Colts, internally he couldn't have been more confident about the state of the Silver and Black.
Admittedly that might sound odd since Carr's injury ended his 2016 season just two weeks before the start of the postseason, but as he was taken out of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with a towel draped over his head, the Raiders franchise quarterback was reassured more than ever about where the team was headed.
"The feeling that I had after I broke my ankle, hopping off that field, hearing the crowd chant, and all those kind of things, it was just so reassuring to me that we're headed the right way," said Carr recently. "For someone to be in the Raiders stadium, and they're chanting 'M-V-P', for Khalil Mack to be jogging off the field and people are yelling 'All-Pro,' and 'you're the best ever,' and things like that, which he very well could be, it shows me that our organization is headed the right way, and that's what makes me happy."
Carr went on to say that the days of being booed at home are gone, and that the "genuine care and love" from the fans is what motivates him, particularly as he recovers from injury.
And while Carr talks about the lean years for the Silver and Black like it was a lifetime ago, the fact is that in 2014 – Carr and Mack's rookie year – the Raiders started 0-10, and were a far cry from the offensive juggernaut they have morphed into as of late.
"When I first got here, oh my goodness, we weren't winning too many games, I'll just say it like that," Carr explained. "Obviously, we started 0-10. We ended up with a top five pick, and that's no place I ever want to be again… We're in a position now, that we can just add to our team, and just get good players."
However, fast forward three seasons, and "DC" wouldn't change a thing about the first few years of his NFL career, rough starts included.
"Going into my fourth year, if you would have told me that we'd be here, winning 12 games, making the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, and the culture is changing, everyone is having fun, we're re-signing our coach, we're re-signing our GM, if you would have told me that from the beginning, I would have signed up for it immediately," Carr said. "That means we're heading in the direction that I want to head in. As long as we continue to get better, there's only one thing out there left for us, and we have to go out there, and bring a trophy home to the city of Oakland."
The first step for Carr on his journey to hoist the Lombardi Trophy is to get healthy, and because of his injury rehab, this year's offseason has been a little different than others in his NFL career.
"It's been different, obviously, rehabbing my ankle and things like that," Carr explained. "If you saw me down in the training room today, you would have been like, 'yeah, he's ready to go right now.' I feel great."
And get this, after surgery, Carr thinks he's actually stronger now than before his fibula broke Dec. 24.
"I actually feel stronger which is weird; it's like more bionic now, I guess," he said laughing. "I feel stronger. I feel more driven, and that's always a good thing around this time of year… For me, I'm more driven now than I ever have been, if that was possible, and I guess it is, so I'm trying to dominate my recovery, and come back stronger than ever, that way, when we hit the football field, we're a better football team, and that's what's important to me."
Here are other notables from Carr's sit down with Raiders.com:
Carr spoke about his excitement at Todd Downing's recent promotion to offensive coordinator:
"He's like family. Ever since he got here, he always put my feelings, and the way I wanted things done, all those kinds of things, he always put that at the forefront of his mind, and he tried to make me the best he could, the way that I wanted him to. He's always been trying to do things for me, and it was cool to see Coach Del Rio see how valuable he was, the way that I saw him, how valuable I thought he was, and to promote him, to make him the offensive coordinator. It's not just a coach and player relationship with Coach Downing, it's family."
He was also ecstatic when he found out that Khalil Mack had won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award:
"When he won that award, I found out on twitter, I honestly was just so overwhelmed for him, because I know what kind of feeling that would be, and I got to celebrate that with him kind of, and just reaching out to him, and telling him how happy I was, how proud I was of him, and also that it's just the beginning. It sounds good. It's fun, but we're nowhere close to where we want to be."
No. 4 also made sure to send a message to Raider Nation:
"Be excited. Have fun with it. Enjoy it. Obviously, as Raiders fan, we know that they don't always happen. You never know, and so whenever they're happening, enjoy it. there's' going to be ups, there's going to be downs, but Raider Nation is the most loyal fan base in the world, so I'm not worried about it. We're going to all grow together, and we're all going to bring a trophy home someday."