The last time anyone saw Tanner Muse play in a football game was nearly 19 months ago.
And now, he's not even playing that same position.
The two-time National Champion from Clemson will be seeing his first NFL action Saturday against the Seattle Seahawks. Muse will also be taking his first game snaps at the linebacker position, after having a decorated college career at the safety position. While it may be just a preseason game, it will mean much more to Muse – who missed the entirety of his rookie season due to a toe injury.
"I'm really excited just to be able to get out in front of the fans," said Muse. "I'm sure it's going to be packed out. My mom's coming so that will be exciting for her to see the stadium. And just being able to do what I'm here to do. That's what I was brought here to do, make a lot of plays and excel.
"So, I'm excited to just get under lights again."
The transition from safety to linebacker has gone better than Muse could've expected, even after dealing with injury. Muse racked up 191 total tackles and seven interceptions in his four years at Clemson, and the Raiders are putting him into a position to do a lot of the same things he excelled at as a Tiger, despite being in a new role.
"I'm doing a lot of different things and that what I was doing at Clemson," he said. "Sometimes I spin down on the line, stack linebacker and then being deep. So, very versatile and that's the position I'm in right now. It's kind of seamless, but at the same time, once you start dealing with more linemen the game is a little different.
"Those 300-plus pounders get their hands on you quick and once you get to the NFL, it's the best of the best. The game speed is a lot different."
Upon returning from injury, Muse put in a lot of time focusing on his weight, training to bulk up muscle to be more of a NFL linebacker. He's also taken time to learn the new defense as well as he could in order to combine his speed and knowledge to the best of his ability. The 4.41 40-yard dash speed Muse possesses is what made him attractive to his head coach and defensive coordinator at the linebacker position.
Members of the Clark County Fire Department, Henderson Fire Department, Henderson Police Department, and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department were invited to take in the sights of Raiders Training Camp.
"He's showing up in the base right now because he's showing up in the lineup," said Coach Gruden. "He hasn't won that spot yet. He's getting a good look. His speed and athleticism are what we think is conducive to that position, the OTTO position. So, he's doing some good things. We aren't in enough base to really see him yet, but that will continue to emerge as the next couple weeks unfold."
"He's done a good job," Gus Bradley said, pleased with what he's seen from Muse. "He plays outside linebacker for us in base personnel, we moved him there. He's got really good speed, very good speed. As you know in college, that's what showed up for him. So [it's good] to have an athletic guy like that on the perimeter."
Two people that have been instrumental in Muses' return the field have been safety Johnathan Abram and his linebackers coach Richard Smith. Abram – like Muse – missed most of his rookie season and had a lot to prove going into his sophomore season in 2020. He's been a good sounding board for Muse.
"[Abram and I] got the same agent, so we get to chalk it up a lot," said Muse. "He just tells me, 'Get yourself physically in shape because it's a long season. Seventeen games.' It's a lot longer than any college season so you just got to be able to 'take the bumps, take the licks and recover as fast as you can and keep that mental edge.'
"It takes zero physical effort just to stay in the film, stay in the book and just be mentally sharp and ready for each and every week."
Smith, going into his first season with the Raiders, has also made an impression on Muse. He compared Smith to Brent Venables, the defensive coordinator at Clemson.
"[Smith]'s very no-nonsense, he's very strict on what he wants and he's been around for a long time. Thirty-plus years, so he knows what it looks like and knows what it don't. So he'll correct you as soon as mistakes are made and that just helps me being able to figure it out faster in what my job entails."
Muse is one of the biggest enigmas not only to the defense, but on the entire Raiders' roster. People are still unsure of what expectations to have for the former AP All-American selection. Nevertheless, coming off the injury that took away his rookie season, he has high expectations of himself.
"I took a whole year off. I know that wasn't what the franchise was expecting -- and myself as well. I got to make up for that time and just continue to be my best every single day, and excel in special teams and defense."
Hopefully Muse can answer some questions this Saturday on what he can provide to the Raiders defense this season. His mom flying across the country from North Carolina will probably be good motivation for him to be at his best.