HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Veteran linebacker K.J. Wright spent the past offseason angry.
“Very, very angry,” Wright said. “I’ve been at peace, but I’ve been mad at the same time if that makes sense.”
Spending his first offseason as a free agent, he continued to embrace the adage “trust the process,” knowing he still had so much to provide to any team willing to invest in his dependability and experience.
“When you watch the guys go to OTAs, watch the guys go to training camp, that’s not easy,” Wright said. “That’s pretty hard, especially when I’ve been doing it my whole (career). I was in my word constantly, this is the closest I believe I’ve been to the good Lord, and His peace and comfort just guided me throughout this process.”
A process that landed him in Las Vegas, where he signed a one-year deal and steps in to help a banged-up linebacker group as the Raiders prepare for their regular-season opener at home on “Monday Night Football” against the Baltimore Ravens.
Wright, a Super Bowl champion who was drafted by Seattle in 2011 and spent his first 10 years in the league as an pillar in the Seahawks’ defense, with 86 tackles, 10 passes defensed and 11 tackles for loss last season, finishing as the only player to reach double digits in those last two categories.
“That’s more experience, more excitement with the type of player he is and the type of players we got on this team,” said linebacker Denzel Perryman last week after being acquired via trade with the Carolina Panthers. “That’s going to be exciting.”
Wright and Perryman not only bring veteran leadership to the unit, but experienced ties to first-year defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, something desperately needed after the Raiders lost starter Nicholas Morrow (foot) and backup Javin White (knee) to injuries during the exhibition season.
Both played for Bradley, with Perryman playing the past four seasons for the Chargers and Wright in his first two years in Seattle.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden is hoping that familiarity will help expedite their integration into Bradley’s system, as Perryman will be able to plug holes in the middle while Wright can be a stopper on the outside.
Wright said any other team would have had him taking “baby steps” to get used to the scheme, but in reuniting with Bradley, not to mention defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, the transition was seamless when he first stepped on the field with the Raiders.
“There’s a lot of similar lingo that’s been transferred over now, so I’m able to talk to the guys with a lot of the same verbiage, same signals, same communication,” said Wright, whose 54 passes defensed are fourth most of any linebacker during his 10-year career. “So get plugged right in, understand the gaps, the calls, so it feels good.”
Wright said he was also comfortable in putting on a new jersey and starting a new chapter on a new practice field, as Gruden introduced him at the team meeting and players welcomed him with open arms.
And with his change of scenery came a new uniform number he was glad to have, shifting from 50 to 34, a number he requested after first being given 58.
Wright wore 34 in high school and college, and it was also the number his father wore, making it even more special.
After winning Super Bowl 48, Wright’s father told a hometown news station his son said, “Dad I wouldn’t have been here without you.”
Wright said he feels he is in the best shape of his career and is ready to prove he still belongs in the league, making an impact with a playoff-caliber team.
”(I) had a lot of people doubt me this offseason, I’m still keeping it going,” Wright added, from the Raiders practice facility. “I’m thankful to be here, but that burning desire you’re talking about, it’s on 100 right now.
“I’ve been in some situations to where I feel my presence made an impact on us being successful to win.”
A relaxed and smiling Wright added he’s already found a place to live and has a vehicle, as he’s settled into Southern Nevada and prepared for the next version of his career with a team he believes is ready to take the next step.
“This team is hungry,” he said. “There’s really good energy here, everybody wants to be successful that’s in this building. I love it, it’s really good vibes. We gotta make sure we start fast on Monday. Start fast, come out ready to work.”
NOTE: In a corresponding move with the Raiders signing Wright, the team waived linebacker Tanner Muse. Muse was a third-round selection (100th overall) by the Raiders in the 2020 draft.
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