Saturday, August 2, 2014
Tony Bergstrom fitting in at center
By Paul Gutierrez
NAPA, Calif. – No matter what Oakland Raiders guard Tony Bergstrom accomplishes the remainder of his NFL career, he will always carry the following title: first-ever draft pick of the Reggie McKenzie/Dennis Allen Regime.
Another label the third-year offensive lineman might one day carry: husband to a rising mixed martial arts fighter. Yes, Bergstrom's wife Jessica, who fights under the handle "White Delight," is 1-0 with a 45-second stoppage and, intended or not, her new pastime just might help her husband prep for daily battle the trenches.
"Sometimes she jumps on my back and tries to choke me out," Bergstrom said with a laugh. "She forgets I'm 200 pounds heavier than her."
The levity is warranted, even welcomed after the 6-feet-5, 310-pound Bergstrom's first two mostly forgettable NFL seasons.
Drafted out of Utah at the end of the third round in 2012, No. 95 overall, Bergstrom was a tackle for the Utes before the Raiders converted him to guard. He appeared in just nine games as a rookie, starting the season finale, and spent the 2013 season on injured reserve after suffering a Lisfranc injury in the preseason finale.
A week into his third training camp, Bergstrom is seeing time as the second-team center.
"They're just testing the waters," Bergstrom said. "That's what camp is for, is to kind of move guys around, see what people can do. The more you do, the more you can screw up."
Bergstrom laughed, because under Allen, the more you can do, the better chance you have at making the 53-man roster.
Then is the former tackle and one-time guard feeling good at center?
"It's not terribly different from guard from a mental standpoint," he said. "The most awkward thing about it is just everything looks different. It sounds weird but … it takes a second longer to identify fronts, and that comes with reps.
"At guard, you're set back a little bit off the ball. At center, I mean, you've got the ball here and the noseguard is right in your grill."
Earlier in the week, Bergstrom had a pair of miscues with rookie quarterback Derek Carr, one snap being fumbled with Carr under center and another snap sailing over Carr's head when he was in the shotgun.
"Anytime you change a position, even if you're just moving over to the other side, it's really awkward for a while but then it starts feeling natural," Bergstrom said. "It doesn't take too long. So it's feeling good now."
The idea to try his first draft pick out at center, behind starter Stefen Wisniewski, floated around Allen's mind throughout the offseason. He just decided this week to put Bergstrom in against live competition in pads.
Bergstrom said it's the first time he's played center since his junior year of high school.
"It's something that we want to begin to take a look at a little bit and see how he develops," Allen said. "When you're a backup player, your versatility in being able to play multiple positions gives you more value on the football team. I think that's something we want to continue to look at. We're going to see how this thing develops."
At center, Bergstrom is responsible for making line calls and identifying the defense.
"It's a challenge and that is the fun part," he said. "After playing guard in the system for two years, you kind of sit there and go, OK, I've kind of seen everything, I know what's going on. And all of a sudden they throw a monkey wrench at you [by moving you to center] and it's a challenge and that makes the game more fun.
"You can't just walk up to the line … you have to do some real calculus in your head."