Oakland Raiders A Haven For Troubled, Criminal, And Shady Players

Oct 1, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver Ishmael Zamora (8) stiff arms Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Evrett Edwards (4) at Jack Trice Stadium. The Bears beat the Cyclones 45-42. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver Ishmael Zamora (8) stiff arms Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Evrett Edwards (4) at Jack Trice Stadium. The Bears beat the Cyclones 45-42. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders have signed a number of undrafted free agents to fill spaces on their 90-man roster, leading some to kvetch about the criminal element invading the team.

The Oakland Raiders might just be on to something. That’s the only way to explain it, given the absolute kvetching by fans and writers of their division foes. The fans and writers see the way the winds are blowing and realize their window of opportunity is closing. And so, apparently, to make themselves feel better, they go full primate in a zoo and just start flinging their own – well – you know what they fling.

First, there was the piece about why the Raiders would fail this year – written by a Broncos blogger with an obvious axe to grind. A quick read shows that it’s little more than a hope and wish list, rather than a piece with actual, coherent football-centered fact supporting the blogger’s position. It truly was, little more than somebody trying to make a point, but doing little more than flinging their own mess.

This time, it’s a writer for a Chiefs-centric site who is throwing shade – or is at least, trying to. In this piece, the writer is sounding the alarm about the number of “shady rookies” are in Oakland’s minicamp. It’s almost as if this writers is – concerned – about the culture HC Jack Del Rio and GM Reggie McKenzie are building.

The first piece of his own mess this writer flings at the wall, is of course, first round pick Gareon Conley and the accusation of rape hanging over his head. While it is a cause for concern moving forward, it would behoove this particular writer to remember that Conley has simply been accused of the assault. He has not been charged with anything at this point.

It’s a huge distinction one that it’s utterly irresponsible of this writer to not make.

While there are certainly reasons for concern about the case itself, the fact of the matter is, Conley has been charged with zero criminal wrongdoing at this point. Anybody can make allegations – even baseless ones – and law enforcement is obligated to investigate. Which, they are doing at this point.

Oakland Raiders
Apr 30, 2016; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks tight end Pharaoh Brown runs a pass route at the Oregon spring game Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports /

But until the case is resolved one way or the other, labeling Conley a “shady” person is wholly out of bounds and utterly irresponsible.

Two others currently in Oakland’s rookie camp though, are less defensible. Former Baylor wide receiver Ishmael Zamora and former Oregon tight end Pharaoh Brown. Both do indeed have backgrounds that raise red flags. Or at least, they should.

Zamora, while at Baylor, was caught on video beating a dog with a belt. He was disciplined by the school, being suspended for three games, and by the courts. As part of his sentence, he was required to perform community service and attend therapy.

No, Zamora is not comparable to Mike Vick, as some have done. But the fact that he would so willingly beat an animal is disturbing in its own right. If it had been in defense of his own life, or to rescue another from an attack, it would be one thing. But it wasn’t. Zamora simply decided this dog was a lesser being who deserved to be beaten.

Which does in fact, raise plenty of concerns about his character.

Brown, the talented tight end, has a well documented history of violence. And one that very likely caused him to go undrafted altogether. In 2014, he got into a physical altercation with a teammate – an altercation that left his teammate, Matt Wogan, with a concussion. In 2016, he had another altercation with teammate, Paris Bostick.

And in 2015, Brown had a violent incident with a girlfriend in which he was accused of strangling her. In that particular case, the police noted that his girlfriend at the time, was the primary aggressor and Brown acted in self-defense. Though the incident did take place, neither were charged with anything over the incident.

The University of Oregon, in all three cases of Brown’s troubles, declined to punish him in any way.Which is understandable given the lack of arrest or charges in connection with his girlfriend. But fighting two teammates on two separate occasions?

The undeniable fact is that Brown has a history of violence – which should also raise plenty of concerns not just about his character, but what sort of teammate he would be.

Given the culture that Del Rio and McKenzie are doing their best to create – the good locker room, high character, glue guys – neither Brown, nor Zamora fit that profile. They both have the potential to be disruptive and divisive in the locker room.

The writer of the original piece is right to wave a few red flags about those two prospects. Both have “shady” backgrounds, no doubt. His concern is definitely noted, but it’s also misplaced. Perhaps, this writer should look to his own team and some of the “shady” characters on the Chiefs roster.

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Should we talk about Tyreek Hill and his well documented record of violence – against his then-pregnant girlfriend? Or how about Marcus Peters who has a resume that reads much like Brown’s – not a very good teammate while at the University of Washington?

All of that being said, it would have been preferable to many if Zamora and Brown weren’t invited to camp. If McKenzie had stuck to his stated goal of winning the right way, with high character guys. Neither Brown, nor Zamora would seem to fall into that category.

But the reality is, both face a tremendous uphill battle to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, and neither will likely be in a Silver and Black jersey when the season opens. So, at least there’s that.

The fact of the matter though – and one this writer, as well as countless others – tend to overlook is that the Raiders are the only team in the entire league to not have a player arrested over the last three years. Let’s repeat that, since it seems relevant and a fact many are having a hard time grasping: The Oakland Raiders are the only team in the entire league to not have a player arrested over the last three years.

So, given that indisputable fact, it doesn’t really seem to mesh well with the writer’s original narrative – which was that the Raiders are becoming a “haven” for players with questionable backgrounds. It’s actually the exact opposite of that.

Unless you consider two players out of 90, a “haven.” In which case, it would likely be advisable to break out a dictionary and look up the meaning of the word.

The concern for Oakland’s locker room culture – expressed by a Chief’s fan – is sweet. But the fact that the division rivals would spend that amount of time trying to tear down what the Raiders are building says a lot about which way the winds seem to be blowing in the AFC West.