Quick question, would you be scared to go up against a pissed off K.J. Wright? Asking for a friend.
The Pro Bowl linebacker officially signed with the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday with a chip on his shoulder. You would think that a Super Bowl champion with nearly 900 total tackles wouldn't have anything left to prove, but he does. The former Seattle Seahawk spent 10 seasons with the organization before they decided they want to go in a younger direction at linebacker and contract negotiations went in disarray. In the time Wright, 32, has not been at Training Camp, he's been getting in the best shape of his life and is hungrier than ever to play.
"I've been pissed off all offseason," said Wright. "I've been very, very angry. I've been at peace, but I've been mad at the same time. I've had a lot of people doubt on me this offseason and I'm still keeping it going. I'm real thankful to be here, but that burning desire. ... It's on 100 right now.
"I told myself in the beginning [of the offseason] just stay the course, trust the process. This is my first time ever being a free agent and when you watch the guys go to OTAs, watch the guys go to Training Camp, that's not easy. It's pretty hard, especially when I've been doing it my whole time."
That same hunger and desire that Wright has within him is what gravitated him to the Silver and Black. Before signing with the team, he closely evaluated the defense and believes that the young group has the potential to be even better with his arrival.
The linebacker is coming off a 86 tackle, 10 pass deflection season and was ranked as the 67th best player in the NFL Top 100 list in 2021. During his introductory press conference, Wright pointed out Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue as players he's most excited to get on the field with.
View photos of new Raiders linebacker K.J. Wright in action. In 144 games, Wright has recorded 934 total tackles, 54 pass deflections, 13.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles and six interceptions.
"I watched a little film on them and thought, 'Oh, these guys are pretty good.' I watched their preseason game that they had against Seattle, and so this team is hungry. There's really good energy here. Everybody wants to be successful that's in this building. So I love it, it's really good vibes."
Wright also expressed his excitement to be reunited with two familiar faces from Seattle. His career is coming full circle with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who was his first defensive coordinator in the NFL. Additionally, he lines back up with defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, who he played with for four seasons in Seattle. The two played a pivotal part in convincing Wright to make the journey to the desert.
"I played MIKE when I first got to Seattle so me and [Bradley] were close, making the calls with each other. I had him for those two years and over the years, whenever we see each other, it's always love," Wright said. "Always seeing him, I'm shaking his hand, talk in the offseason every blue moon. Just to come back with Gus – somebody that I trust, somebody I know – he'll take good care of me, so I'm excited.
"Q [Quinton Jefferson] was calling me all offseason telling me, 'Hey man, you need to get out here, we'd love to have you,' so I want to make it happen. With Q, to see Q grow over the years – I was with Q when he was a rookie – so to see where he is now as a pro and making plays the way he is. He called me all offseason saying he'd love to have me. He's a great teammate, great friend of mine so I'm glad I can play with him again."
The Raiders defense being the weak link of the team is perhaps no more. The front office has been diligent about bringing in a plethora of proven veteran players and draft picks in efforts of bolstering the defense, which looks very promising as we head into the regular season. Wright is the newest piece in the puzzle for the Raiders to, as he said, "make sure this defense is one of the best."
Another thing Raider Nation should be excited about is seeing the Pro Bowl linebacker return to an old jersey number of his. Wright, who wore No. 50 his entire NFL career, is the latest Raider to take advantage of the new jersey expansion for certain positions and will wear No. 34 -- a number he hasn't donned since he was at Mississippi State.
"High school number, college number, my dad wore No. 34, so it runs in the family. It's just a good change already. Nick [Morrow] is No. 50, so that was out of the question.
"It only made sense to go back to my roots."
The Raiders return to Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center as they gear up for their primetime matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.