Seymour says more with leadership

Seymour says more with leadership

Nate Solder. Remember that name. He's the left tackle drafted by the New England Patriots with the 17th overall pick in April's NFL draft. It's the pick the Pats obtained from the Raiders two years ago when Al Davis willingly traded it for Richard Seymour.

Davis chuckled at the pundits and naysayers then who questioned the move. These days he's laughing even harder, as Seymour has personally taken this once proud franchise on his back and is carrying it back to respectability.

In the last decade, no individual player has had more of an impact on the Raiders — on and off the field — than the 31-year-old veteran defensive lineman. That's including cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who may or may not be coming back (hint: bet heavy on not).

At a time in his career when most players are casting an eye toward retirement, Seymour was busy earning his sixth trip to the Pro Bowl with a stellar season. He brought an attitude back to the defense that had long been missing, and made it clear to opponents the Raiders were done being pushed around.

Intimidation plays a big role in the NFL, but the Raiders haven't been intimidating on defense for several years. At least not until Seymour arrived.

When Seymour decked Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after Big Ben popped off during their Week 11 matchup, it was worth noting that no Steelers came rushing to Roethlisberger's aid. Part of it was because Roethlisberger isn't exactly the most popular player in the Steel City, but a bigger factor was that few people are willing to get into a confrontation with Seymour, and for good reason.

Though the team missed out on the playoffs for an eighth consecutive year, the perception around the NFL is that Oakland is definitely a team on the rise. Seymour's presence is a large reason why.

Yet Seymour's biggest impact hasn't been on the field. Over the past two seasons, the 2010 campaign in particular, Seymour has become even more of a force inside the Raiders locker room, where Oakland has been sorely lacking a leader for the past decade or so.

His decision to hold an offseason workout in Atlanta for his fellow teammates during the lockout demonstrates just how far Seymour has come since coming over from New England. The man who was once perceived as not wanting to come to Oakland opened his wallet and paid for the entire affair, from the accommodations to food, and he also footed the bill for Competitive Edge Sports, the training company who put the players through the rigors and essentially ran the workout.

Normally that's something you'd expect from a quarterback or someone on the offensive side of things. Coming from Seymour, though, it seemed to carry more weight within Oakland's locker room.

While there were some notable absentees — Asomugha, safety Michael Huff, tight end Zach Miller (all potential free agents) — those that did attend did so partially out of respect for Seymour. That and it probably isn't a good idea to turn down an offer from any 6-foot-6, 310-pound man.

Oakland's defense hasn't had much success, let alone an identity of any sort, since Charles Woodson left for Green Bay in 2006. Even then, the Raiders had issues stopping the run and were only marginally effective against the pass. Woodson and his Heisman Trophy gave the defense instant name recognition, and for most of his time in Oakland, he ranked among the NFL's elite defensive backs – when he could stay healthy, that is. But for all his success in Oakland, Woodson was not much of a leader. That part of his game didn't really develop until after he signed with the Packers.

A few other players have tried to fill the void — or have had it thrust on them. The truth is the Raiders haven't had someone like Seymour since Rich Gannon suited up for the silver and black. Gannon is now a co-host on Sirius NFL Radio as well as a part-time color analyst for CBS. He recently interviewed Seymour on Sirius, and in ironic twist, used the platform to tell Gannon how he believes coming to the Raiders was almost destiny.

"Sometimes I think to myself … I was born to be a Raider," Seymour said. "Just the attitude and mentality of the silver and black, the fans. There's just no other uniform I would want to put on … no other team I'd want to play for than the Oakland Raiders."

Granted, that's what you'd expect to hear from a player who signed a two-year, $30 million deal, which Seymour wisely did just before the lockout began. Yet with Seymour, you get the indication it isn't just lip service. The man truly has found happiness in Northern California. For that, he can thank Davis.

Even when those around him cautioned Davis against trading away a first-round pick for a player who was deemed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick to be on the downside of his career. Yet Davis never wavered and pulled the trigger to make the deal happen.

It raised some eyebrows, for sure. Many saw it as another of Davis' foolish personnel moves, coming so shortly after such deals like signing Javon Walker, DeAngelo Hall and the like. Yet Davis kept smiling and laughing. He made sure that members of the Raiders PR department were to remind the media that the team didn't lose it's first-round pick in this year's draft, that they had their first-rounder in Seymour. Solder? He is considered a top-tier prospect at left tackle and a guy who could end up having a long and storied career in the NFL. If he lives up to expectations, he will almost assuredly play past the time when Seymour retires.

But Davis isn't looking down the road. Nor can he afford to wait 2-3 years for his first-round pick to develop. The soon-to-be 82-year-old wants to win and he wants to win now.

Seymour, as Davis will quickly tell you, gives him and the Raiders the best shot to do that.

Who's laughing now?

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