ALAMEDA, Calif.—The Raiders have searched far and wide for explosive pass rushers.
It turns out they may have found one right across the Bay in San Francisco, though Dion Jordan’s journey to the organization was much more complicated than just a drive across the bridge.
Jordan’s elite raw ability and measurables led to his being selected No. 3 overall by the Miami Dolphins in 2013. His struggles with drugs and alcohol contributed to the many detours his career path has taken to this point.
The defensive end has missed far more games due to league suspensions for violations of the drug policy than he has sacks (8.5) in his six-year career.
The 29-year-old says he’s clean and sober now, hoping to finally start to live up to his vast potential.
“I’m just worried about today,” he said after his first practice with the Raiders on Wednesday. “That’s the only thing that matters to me. It’s been a great opportunity over these last two days to just be around all these fellas and just get back to football. That’s the only thing that matters to me is the opportunity to play ball and just get to Sunday.”
Coach Jon Gruden doesn’t believe Jordan will be ready to play against the Bengals, but he didn’t rule it out. The questions about Jordan have never been about his ability.
After appearing in all 16 games in his rookie season, Jordan was suspended the first four games of 2014. Two additional games were tacked on for another violation of the drug policy. Jordan played 10 games that year, including his first career start.
Then things deteriorated. Jordan was suspended the entire 2015 season. He was reinstated in 2016, but didn’t play in a game as the Dolphins devoted resources to trying to help him get back on track.
He eventually got there, though not without several rough patches in his recovery. Jordan showed a great deal of promise with the Seahawks in 2017, recording four sacks in five games despite missing the start of the season with a knee injury.
Jordan was productive for Seattle in 12 games last season and had several teams interested in signing him before he was suspended again in May. This time, he failed three tests for the use of Adderall. Jordan acknowledged using it despite knowing he had allowed his therapeutic-use exemption to expire and was forced to miss the first 10 games of this season.
He signed over the weekend with the ban ending on Tuesday and hopes to get back on the field as soon as possible.
“I have that opportunity,” he said. “I’m ready to go. I’m just going to do whatever I have to do mentally and physically, and it’s up to (the team when) to pull the trigger. I’m just going to prove on the field and in the film room that I’m doing my best. The rest will fall into place.”
Jordan said he had several offers, but knew he wanted to be in Oakland as soon as the Raiders reached out. One of the biggest factors is the proximity to the support system he has in his hometown of San Francisco.
“I turned down everything else,” Jordan said. “I had a chance to speak to (general manager Mike) Mayock on the phone. I kind of slept on it and just decided I wasn’t even going to waste my time. I wanted to stay here and do what I can to help this team. It all just fell in place. I feel like it was destiny.”
The presence of offensive line coach Tom Cable was also a major reason. Cable’s family is active in the recovery community, and the coach has a relationship with Jordan from Seattle.
“Plus, my mentor is coach Cable’s mentor,” Jordan said. “It played a huge role. He’s a great individual, and he kind of just gave me the nod and said it would be a great place to come ball.”
Coach Jon Gruden said he talked to Cable about Jordan.
“You know it’s good to have some background on him,” he said. “Most important is that he takes advantage of this opportunity and we help him realize his potential. But we have some good intelligence on him and, most importantly, we’re happy to have him.”
He’ll be even happier if Jordan is able to play a significant role in a playoff push down the stretch.