- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter
- 0 Shares
So why would the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end want to pack up his Darth Vader face mask and his 60.5 career sacks and come cross-country to join a franchise that has not had a winning season since 2002, when Tuck was a sophomore at Notre Dame?
“I like the direction that this team is talking about going in, and I just want to be a part of it,” Tuck said in a conference call on Thursday. “Obviously, everyone knows the history of the Raiders, and I just want to be a part of the group that brings it back.”
The 6-foot-5, 268-pound Tuck signed a reported two-year, $11 million contract with the Raiders and said he liked Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie’s approach and history.
“He has a true, honest feeling about him,” Tuck said. “The appeal is young talent needing leadership, and the feel is just the opportunity to start fresh. Obviously, everyone knows I love the New York Giants and I appreciate nine years of my career being there, but I just wanted a new, fresh start, and I think Oakland is definitely a good place to be. Everyone knows the fan base is great out here. I am looking forward to it.”
Tuck turns 31 on March 29, and while he endured injury-riddled seasons in 2011 and 2012, getting just nine total sacks over those seasons, he rebounded last year with 11 sacks.
“Everyone talks about once you turn 30, it’s all downhill,” he said. “I don’t believe in that. I don’t look at myself in that regard. I feel like I have a lot of great football left in me. I think the efforts that I bring to this team off the field are going to be tremendous also as far as leadership and just how to stand out in the community and becoming integrated with Raider Nation. That’s something I’m looking forward to doing.”
In the Giants’ 4-3 scheme, Tuck lined up mostly on the left side of the defensive line. I asked him how his skill set -- he is also strong against the run and played inside in the Giants’ "NASCAR" package on passing downs -- fit in Oakland. The Raiders lost their leading sack artist from last year when defensive end Lamarr Houston, who had six sacks, signed with the Chicago Bears.
“I mesh well with it,” Tuck said. “I had some opportunity to look at some film while I was here and go over terminologies. Our scheme now is very similar to what we ran at the Giants. I think I’ll fit in very well, and hopefully build on the great year I had last year and continue to do so.”
“I already put my word in with both of those guys,” Tuck said. “Obviously, they have decisions to make, but also we can get guys like that, that are used to winning and know what it takes to win -- just football players that would help us rebuild this thing. So, yes, I will be a recruiter.”
Justin Tuck spent nine years in the media capital of the world, helping the New York Giants win a pair of Super Bowls while becoming one of the faces of their defense.