Linebacker LaTroy Lewis
Following the Oakland Raiders loss to the Seattle Seahawks Thursday, all attention immediately shifted towards the roster reductions which will take place between now and the 1:00 p.m. PST deadline on Saturday. Whether you're a member of the coaching staff, or a player especially, the next couple days are never easy.
The NFL is a business, and at the end of the day it's all about producing on the field. When that level of production isn't met in the eyes of a team's general manager, or coaching staff, they're forced to make a difficult decision.
A decision that Raiders Head Coach Jack Del Rio knows is hard.
"You always try to be fair, but the reality is it's a hard day," said Del Rio during his postgame press conference Thursday. "It's really the hardest thing that we do is to have to tell young men that are really dedicated and giving us everything that they have and really have a great desire to be here and then tell them that that dream is over."
There's a lot of game tape to evaluate, and positions to review, but for linebacker LaTroy Lewis, it seems as though he's been productive from the jump.
After going undrafted out of the University of Tennessee, and getting picked up by the Silver and Black in May, Lewis has come in ready to work from day one. At 6'3" and 254 pounds, the former Volunteer has shown off his strength, but what's taken many by surprise is his speed.
While many college football players were invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, Lewis was not, which is partially why his speed may have flown under the radar. On multiple occasions, No. 46 flashed his athleticism by showcasing his ability to get into opposing backfields and either sack the quarterback, or make a tackle for loss.
In total, Lewis recorded three sacks, 14 tackles, three for loss, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown this preseason. His performance over the last few weeks has not only helped the Raiders defense come up with some crucial plays, but it's impressed his Head Coach in the process.
"I think he's taken full advantage of the reps he's had, and been a guy that's been able to come in here and make some plays for us," Del Rio said. "Certainly had some nice moments throughout the preseason, so that'll be good tape to evaluate."
Even with the encouraging words from Del Rio, Lewis is all too aware that the next few days will feel like an eternity, but he's prepared to spend that time wisely. For many of the players, they're away from their families for long periods of time, and it's clear that for him, speaking with his family keeps him calm.
"A little excited, and excited to spend the time talking to my family, and to be hopeful," said Lewis. "But at the end of the day you still always feel like there's a fire up under you until it's all said and done."
The fire that continues to motivate Lewis, helped him put together a solid résumé this preseason. Success often coincides with self-confidence, something you need to have at the professional level, as well as good leadership.
Fortunately for the rookie, he had a little bit of both.
"It was me against me, the hardest matchup you can ever have in life," Lewis said with a grin. "I rose to the occasion and I played well, but I can always say I had good mentors in Coach Jed [Defensive Line Coach Jethro Franklin, and Coach Norton [Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.], and having [Defensive end] Khalil [Mack], and [Linebacker] Bruce [Irvin] has definitely helped in my maturation and my growth as a player."
When asked if anyone has taken him aside to impart wisdom, or if anything significant that's been said has stood out, he very simply said, "all of it." From being in meeting rooms with some of the best in the business in Mack and Irvin, to being coached by the Raiders defensive staff, it's all played an influential role in Lewis' development.
As Lewis waits for the impending call, which will ultimately decide whether he remains a member of the Silver and Black, he remains positive that even if it's the end of the road with the Raiders, it's not the end of his journey in the NFL.
"Bruce told us in May, he goes, 'rookies we're glad to have y'all here, if we going to be good this season, y'all got to be good for us, but if you don't make it here there's 31 other teams,' Lewis explained. "I'm hoping my film reflects how I play consistently, and for me there's a lot of little things to work on."