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Darren Waller says he’s ready for Raiders’ season opener

Updated September 6, 2022 - 9:57 pm

Standout tight end Darren Waller is planning to play Sunday when the Raiders open the season at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Waller, who returned to practice last week after dealing with a hamstring injury in training camp or perhaps sitting out as a negotiating ploy for a new contract, made that clear Tuesday.

Standing by his locker, Waller gave a checklist detailing where his mind will be for the next five days: “Focus on Sunday, man. Focus on the game plan. Focus on what they ask me to do.”

And with that, any lingering worry that Waller wouldn’t play vanished. As did the low-key drama surrounding his contract situation.

As Waller explained, the physical issues weren’t just real, they were the result of bad luck early in camp.

“Sometimes you just can’t catch a break,” he said. “Football is rough; it demands a lot on your body. I wish I could have been out there in the time that I missed, but at the same time, yeah, is it time for me to make sure that things are in line as far as my body? Make sure mentally I’m in a place of peace and I can attack the season now.”

There also was concern that his recent split with his agents at Klutch Sports and hiring of longtime NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus meant that Waller was unhappy with negotiations with the Raiders.

Waller obviously had some misgivings or he wouldn’t have made a change. But he said he has moved on.

“I just felt like it was the best decision for me at the time,” he said. “I appreciate Klutch; they did a lot of good things for me. I’m not going to stand up here and act like they didn’t do anything. … I just felt it was time to go in a different direction.”

Waller said he isn’t sure if the change will help expedite a new deal. But he doesn’t sound stressed about it, either.

“There’s not really a lot of things I can control,” he said. “I have faith in my representation.”

That said, it doesn’t sound like anything will impact his availability this season.

“Whether it goes one way or it doesn’t, I’ll be playing football,” Waller said.

The question now is: Will the time Waller missed impact his play to start the season? He practiced just twice from July 30 to Aug. 17, and after a one-day return, he was sidelined again until Aug. 31.

He has been a mainstay at practice since. But between learning a new offense under coach Josh McDaniels and incorporating new wide receiver Davante Adams into the fold, there is concern Waller might not be up to speed in the opener.

Waller contends the work he did every day outside of practices should balance things out.

“I’ve been at every meeting,” he said. “Even with my rehab stuff I’ve been on the field, they had scripts for me. So I’m able to process things in my head, where I’m lining up, where my conversions are. So I’m able to go back on the field and not really feel like I missed a lot of time or have a lot of rust.”

More than anything else, he is eager to start the season with a team that appears every bit as selfless as it is star-studded.

“I don’t think I’ve been around as many star players who are really unselfish, who are really about the team environment,” Waller said. “You look at Chandler Jones, Davante Adams, guys like that, they are really about just enjoying the process, enjoying getting better. Guys wanting to be a part of something big, as opposed to just wanting something for themselves. I believe that’s what takes a team with special talent where they want to go.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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