ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Brandon LaFell hasn’t had much sleep since signing with the Oakland Raiders.
Out of a job for more than a month after being let go in a somewhat surprising move by the Cincinnati Bengals, LaFell has been too busy trying to learn Jon Gruden’s complex and wordy offense in hopes of being ready to play in next week’s season opener.
“It’s a lot going on right now,” LaFell said Wednesday. “Right now for me it’s just leaving everything from Cincinnati out of my head and trying to refresh things with everything I’m learning now. A lot of the terminology is somewhat the same. I’ve grasped some of the same concept so far but it’s a lot right now.”
That LaFell is in Oakland is a little mystifying. He signed a $9 million, two-year extension with the Bengals in 2017 and received a $1.25 million roster bonus in March.
The Raiders didn’t seem to have much need for another receiver either after signing free agent Jordy Nelson and trading a third-round pick to Pittsburgh for Martavis Bryant.
It all changed quickly for both sides.
Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis was quoted as saying LaFell was feeling the heat in training camp from some of the Bengals’ younger receivers. LaFell responded by asking for his release, which the team did on Aug. 2.
Coupled with Oakland’s decision to release Bryant during final roster cutdowns, it created an opening on the Raiders for LaFell.
“He’s a good player,” Gruden said. “He has played multiple roles and played well when he’s played. We think he can come in and get ready quickly to make a contribution. He’s got size that we like, he’s an excellent blocker. He’s going to give us some versatility and depth, which we need.”
The well-traveled LaFell has a resume that was certainly attractive to the Raiders.
A third-round pick by Carolina in 2010, LaFell caught a career-high 74 passes for 953 yards and seven touchdowns and won a Super Bowl with New England following the 2014 season.
Over the past two years in Cincinnati LaFell caught 116 passes for 1,410 yards and nine touchdowns.
“A smart guy, a guy that’s played with Tom Brady when I was in New York,” Raiders safety Marcus Gilchrist said. “Crafty guy, big guy, can run for his size and can go up and get the ball. Can play in the slot, can play outside. You need a guy like that.”
LaFell arrived in Oakland late and spent his first practice on the scout team. He spent Wednesday’s workout backing up Nelson.
“It is crazy right now,” LaFell said. “Luckily my receivers coach (Edgar Bennett) said for the first couple of days just learn the X so I’ll be the outside receiver and rotating with Jordy whenever he gets tired. Hopefully, these first two weeks I can stay at X and just focus on learning that X spot right now and as the season goes on start moving me around.”
Bryant was let go, in part, because of his lack of versatility in Gruden’s offense. That doesn’t appear to be an issue for LaFell.
“I’ve always felt like the more spots I knew, the faster I can play and the more time I can stay on the field,” he said “A lot of guys are going to get tired and need to check out or check in here and there so the more spots I know I don’t have to leave the game. I can just slide over, slide from outside to inside.”
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