92°F
weather icon Clear

Coach plans to protect Raiders’ culture: ‘I’m the guardian at the gate’

ORLANDO. Fla. — Part of Antonio Pierce knowing what he wants in a player also means knowing what he doesn’t.

The list is short, but it focuses on certain attributes the Raiders coach will not tolerate.

“I don’t want anybody that’s entitled,” Pierce said.

Pierce has made it clear he will shield the Raiders’ locker room from selfishness nine games into his tenure. He doesn’t want energy vampires walking into the team’s facility.

“I’m the guardian at the gate,” Pierce said. “Not letting any evil come through that building. Not happening.”

Pierce’s top priority was improving the Raiders’ culture when he replaced the fired Josh McDaniels on Oct. 31. There was a drastic change in the locker room overnight. It felt more encouraging and positive than it did in the weeks leading up to McDaniels’ firing.

Multiple players talked about how things had improved. That showed up on the field, as the team won five of its final nine games under Pierce.

One example of the difference Pierce made came with the addition of cornerback Jack Jones. The 26-year-old was released by New England after multiple off-field incidents.

Pierce, who coached Jones in high school and college, gathered some of the Raiders players together after Jones was added on waivers to give them insight into their new teammate. The meeting created a more understanding environment for Jones, who shined with his new team.

“I said the first thing we need to do, we’ve got to put our arms around him, love him up,” Pierce said. “But also hold him accountable so that when he screws up, we’re going to check him. And we did just that.”

The Raiders’ vibes remain strong this offseason.

A high number of players have showed up to the team’s practice facility to work out voluntarily. Pierce wants to maintain that momentum by making sure the right kind of people are brought in.

Free-agent signing Christian Wilkins met the criteria.

“The energy, personality, love for the game. And now we got somebody on the front with Maxx Crosby, full-blown effort for 60 minutes, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Pierce said. “And I think for us to get a player of his caliber, the way he’s played over his entire career, it’s going to be a blessing for Raider Nation.”

Pierce doesn’t plan to alter his expectations moving forward. He has a high bar potential additions need to clear.

“We want that fit to be perfect,” Pierce said. “Is there going to be some ups and downs? Yeah. Are we going to have some disagreements? Yeah. But if we can’t sit at this table and talk it out, then that’s a problem and I made a poor judgment when I brought them in the building.”

Pierce is taking advantage of his deeper involvement in draft and free agency decisions as a first-time coach. He’s traveled across the country to attend various college pro days and meet prospects in person. He said it’s an essential part of the evaluation process to get to know the people the Raiders could end up picking.

“We’ve got to be around each other. I’ve got to hear you talk,” Pierce said. “I’ve got to look in your eyes. That’s the culture we’re setting.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore atvbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

Like and follow Vegas Nation
THE LATEST