Raiders’ Osemele feels slighted by ex-team

For guard, play­ing Ravens is ‘not just an­other game’

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jeff Zre­biec

When Oak­land Raiders left guard Kelechi Osemele ar­rives in Bal­ti­more on Satur­day, he plans to have din­ner with Ravens cen­ter Jeremy Zut­tah. His agenda for the rest of his trip seems to re­volve around mak­ing the Ravens re­gret not be­ing more ag­gres­sive in try­ing to re-sign him this past off­sea­son.

Osemele, who signed a five-year, $58.5 mil­lion deal with the Raiders in March af­ter spend­ing four sea­sons and win­ning a Su­per Bowl with the Ravens, didn’t mince words in a con­fer­ence call with Bal­ti­more- area me­dia Wednes­day.

He ac­knowl­edged that he was hurt by what he per­ceived as the Ravens’ low-ball of­fers to re­tain him. He men­tioned an uniden­ti­fied Ravens coach with whom he didn’t see eye to eye, and he spoke ex­cit­edly about fin­ish­ing blocks on a cou­ple of his for­mer team­mates. He didn’t men­tion any of them by name but said, “You’ll see Sun­day.”

“It’s not just an­other game,” Osemele said. “You’re go­ing back to your old team and the place that you spent the last four years, and you end up mov­ing across the coun­try some­where else. You kind of do Sun­day, 1 p.m. TV: Ch. 13 Ra­dio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM Line: Ravens by 3

take it a lit­tle per­son­ally. It’s go­ing to be an emo­tional game.”

Osemele, 27, has fit in well with the Raiders, who bring a 2-1 record into Sun­day’s game against the Ravens (3-0) at M&T Bank Sta­dium. The Raiders are sec­ond in the league in rush­ing yards per game, and Osemele’s ath­letic, maul­ing, playthrough-the-whis­tle style has been a wel­come ad­di­tion. Young quar­ter­back Derek Carr has been sacked only twice in three games.

“The Raiders were very up­front about how badly they wanted me and what they felt I can bring to the of­fen­sive line,” Osemele said. “We’re re­ally try­ing to do some­thing with our of­fen­sive line.”

The Ravens miss Osemele, who started 51 games for the team from 2012 to 2015, play­ing three po­si­tions along the of­fen­sive line. The Ravens’ ini­tial plan was to re­place Osemele with John Urschel, but a sum­mer shoul­der in­jury to the third-year of­fen­sive line­man and the emer­gence of rookie fourth-round pick Alex Lewis changed the team’s plans.

Lewis, who started the first three games, is in the con­cus­sion pro­to­col, and rookie start­ing left tackle Ron­nie Stan­ley was seen in the locker room Wednes­day with a walk­ing boot. Their sta­tuses — and the strug­gles of the Ravens run game — will surely spur some sec­ond-guess­ing that the Ravens would have been bet­ter off pay­ing Osemele this off­sea­son.

But the Ravens had al­ready signed their other start­ing guard, Mar­shal Yanda, to a lu­cra­tive con­tract ex­ten­sion dur­ing last sea­son. In Urschel and Ryan Jensen, they had two young of­fen­sive line­men with start­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. With a rel­a­tively tight salary cap sit­u­a­tion and needs else­where, they weren’t in po­si­tion to get into a bid­ding war.

Osemele was es­sen­tially able to name his price on a free-agent mar­ket sat­u­rated with teams that had money to spend. Osemele’s $11.7 mil­lion av­er­age salary is the high­est for any guard in the NFL. Yanda, a five-time Pro Bowl se­lec­tion, av­er­ages $7.9 mil­lion.

“I have a lot of re­spect for ‘K.O.’ He was one of my fa­vorite play­ers in the [2012] draft, I can tell you that,” Ravens coach John Har­baugh said. “When he came out, I re­ally wanted him here, and he did not dis­ap­point. He brought to the ta­ble all of the things that we like to see in our play­ers and in our of­fen­sive line­men.”

How­ever, there seems to be a dif­fer­ence of opin­ion be­tween the sides re­gard­ing how badly the Ravens wanted to keep Osemele. Har­baugh said at the NFL scout­ing com­bine in Fe­bru­ary that the team made a “re­ally ag­gres­sive” con­tract of­fer to keep Osemele, and the of­fer “shows a lot of re­spect for K.O.” Osemele doesn’t see it that way.

“We didn’t get close at all,” Osemele said. “I wasn’t re­ally of­fered much at all. I pretty much knew right away I was go­ing some­where else. Some of the things that were be­ing brought back to me, bor­der­line, they can hurt your feel­ings some­times.”

Osemele took it even fur­ther, say­ing he knew be­fore the 2015 sea­son that he was likely en­ter­ing his fi­nal year with the or­ga­ni­za­tion that took him in the sec­ond round out of Iowa State in 2012.

“I talked to Tor­rey Smith about it and some other guys that ended up leav­ing and they kind of told me that it might be a sit­u­a­tion where Bal­ti­more won’t pay me enough for me to stay, and it’s some­thing that does hap­pen with that or­ga­ni­za­tion be­cause they’re able to find so many young play­ers,” Osemele said. “I was pre­pared for it. There were even some peo­ple in the or­ga­ni­za­tion that ap­proached me about it and told me about it prior to the year.”

Af­ter he signed with the Raiders, Osemele thanked the Ravens and their fans on so­cial me­dia. But, in his in­tro­duc­tory con­fer­ence calls with Raiders re­porters, hes­eem­ingly took a shot at his for­mer or­ga­ni­za­tion, say­ing it didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate build­ing an of­fen­sive line. He ex­plained Wednes­day that the com­ment was di­rected at one coach with whom he had dis­agree­ments in Bal­ti­more.

He also made it clear that he has tremen­dous re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion for the or­ga­ni­za­tion, and would like to fin­ish his ca­reer in Bal­ti­more.

“I love the city and I love the or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he said. “I be­lieve in what they do for the com­mu­nity and what they rep­re­sent. But I’m some­where else now. I’m100 per­cent all-in with the Raiders or­ga­ni­za­tion. We’re go­ing to go in there on Sun­day and put on a good per­for­mance.”

As for his Ravens team­mates, Osemele said he’ll have some­thing in store for them, too.

“There’s a few guys, ob­vi­ously, that it’s go­ing to be fun to fin­ish through [blocks] and play against them in a game,” Osemele said. “You couldn’t re­ally fin­ish through and pan­cake your own team­mates” in prac­tice.

Ravens de­fen­sive end Lawrence Guy, who will un­doubt­edly be lined up across from Osemele at var­i­ous times Sun­day, said he ex­pects no sur­prises.

“It’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘Hey, I know what I’m go­ing to get,’ ” Guy said. “We’ve prac­ticed against him, we played against him. He’s prac­ticed with us. We know his phys­i­cal­ity and he knows our phys­i­cal­ity. We’re both go­ing to come out there and we’re go­ing to see who is go­ing to be vic­to­ri­ous.”

DANIEL GLUSKOTER/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele, left, con­grat­u­lates run­ning back Latavius Mur­ray for his touch­down run in the sec­ond quar­ter against the Fal­cons.

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