HENDERSON, Nev. — Davante Adams rocked right and then back to his left.
With Ameer Abdullah properly back on his heels in front of him, Adams leaned back and swished an 8-foot jumper on the new mini hoop in the Las Vegas Raiders locker room on Thursday afternoon.
To his left, a little while later, the laughing Raiders offensive linemen were busy wrestling each other.
It might have been the happiest locker room ever, and while no one was going to come out and say it, the reason was that the Raiders have a new head coach. Antonio Pierce replaced the fired Josh McDaniels on Tuesday night, and there is definitely a different energy in the air. It’s overstating it to say McDaniels had an oppressive need to control things, but players are looser now and not worried about someone watching their every move and it getting back to the critical boss.
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Besides McDaniels, general manager Dave Ziegler and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi were also fired by owner Mark Davis on Tuesday night.
“Don’t get it confused, it’s not a celebration that we have a new coach and that there’s been changes made,” Adams said. “It was time, obviously, one way or the other for some type of change. Just to bring a little juice in and revitalize the team a little bit.
“It’s more of a mindset that we’re trying to … not force, but just have moving forward to be as positive as possible. There is a definitive shift now where we can say things are different and we have an opportunity to change it. Our mindset is to have fun and enjoy our time in this building. It’s been feeling like work too much.”
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 1, 2023
Defensive end Maxx Crosby, Adams and running back Josh Jacobs all talked to Davis separately after a team meeting with McDaniels last Thursday where players aired grievances.
Crosby thought it was funny when Pierce said at his introductory news conference that he was going to try and match Crosby’s energy.
“AP and I have had a great relationship ever since I’ve been here,” Crosby said. “I have the ultimate respect for him and the guys do as well. That’s all you can ask for, he is a leader of men and the guys are really responding well to the message that he is pushing.
“I just want to win, and that’s all that matters. I want to be in a great environment, and I want to show up for work every day and feel great energy. That’s more important than anything. You have to enjoy this — if you don’t, you are not going to have much success. It’s already hard enough to go out there and do what we do, so if you’re walking into the building not enjoying it, it’s going to be even harder.”
Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow signed a contract extension with Ziegler last season before the brass soured on him and hasn’t used him much this season. That was, until Monday night, when he played 60 percent of the snaps in what was a showcase for a trade at the deadline on Tuesday. But McDaniels and Ziegler were fired and Renfrow is still here.
He was smiling just as big as everybody else in the happiest locker room ever.
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“There is a different energy,” Renfrow said. “I think AP alluded to it, it’s fun when you have nothing to lose. Let’s go out there and have a great time and play hard and play fast.
“We’re not walking on eggshells everywhere.”
Right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor is one of the eight former New England Patriots players on the roster built by McDaniels and Ziegler after all their years in Foxboro. And yeah, the Patriot Way fell flat in Las Vegas.
“It wasn’t a good vibe,” Eluemunor said. “A lot of us were trying to create energy on the sideline, and I’m sure fans could see it.”
Losing to the Detroit Lions on Monday gave Eluemunor a fresh example of what a team should look like.
“Dan Campbell brings that type of energy that everyone can get around,” he said. “The biggest thing about being a good head coach is the type of energy they have and how they lead men. I get the same vibe from AP. He is from an era when you work for everything you get, you put your hand in the dirt and beat guys up and take their will. And that’s what he wants this team to be about.”
The 3-5 Raiders host the New York Giants on Sunday with something to play for this season.
“I have to take advantage of the opportunity,” Renfrow said. “You only get one mulligan. I am excited to go out there and be myself again.”
Tight end Austin Hooper said it’s on the players now.
“The energy is good and I appreciate AP’s straight-forward type of leadership,” Hooper said. “All we can do now is be professionals and follow him and take advantage of the opportunity. This is a different business than most. Everything happens, and you feel for Josh and Dave and their families, but we don’t have time to sit back and think about what went wrong and what could have been. This is a week-to-week business and we have the Giants on Sunday.”
Adams did thank McDaniels and Ziegler for bringing him to Las Vegas.
“If they didn’t fight as hard as they did to make this happen, who knows how it would have panned out?” Adams said. “It didn’t end up being the storybook finish that we all hoped that it would be … but you make decisions and you live with them and you get better. I want to be a Raider so I want to try make this work.”
A win over Pierce’s old Giants team would be a good start.
“You feel for Josh and Dave and their families,” Eluemunor said. “But we have nine games left and you have no choice but to be excited about the type of energy that AP brings. It makes you practice hard and do everything you can to win games for a guy like that.”
It seems like the Raiders are set to run through a wall for their new coach rather than banging their heads against one.
“You want everybody to be as close as we possibly can, and that’s something that AP brings,” Crosby said. “The guy is a natural leader, he was a captain and won Super Bowls and guys react to him really well. It’s exciting to see.”
— Staff writer Tashan Reed contributed to this report
(Top photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)
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