The block Gerald McCoy’s been around during his long NFL career could probably encircle all of Oklahoma City, the hometown that produced one of the best defensive tackles of his generation.
That it recently led him to Las Vegas seems far more his doing than destiny.
After making 139 starts over his previous 10 NFL seasons, a ruptured quadriceps injury cut short his 2020 season with the Cowboys before it began.
Between his advanced age of 33 years old, the physical demands of the position he plays and the nature of his injury, it was easy to assume his career was finished.
But McCoy wasn’t about to let an injury be his football epitaph. He certainly wasn’t going to let someone else write the end of his career.
No matter how much doubt he encountered, or how steep a climb he faced to get back his strength and agility, or how many favors he might need to call in to get one more shot, McCoy was prepared to do whatever it took to get back on the field.
“I love when people count me out,” McCoy said. “I’m from the south side of Oklahoma City. The 405. It’s not very many people that do what I’ve done. I’m not talking about the success of football. I’m talking about just lasting this long in the NFL. I’ve been a fighter my whole life. So it was nothing but another fight to me.”
The determination to control his own finish was the fuel that pulled him through a trying rehabilitation process. The shape he willed himself into helped him ace a recent tryout with the Raiders, who were so impressed they quickly signed him to a contract.
“The guy looks in incredible shape,” said Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib, who played with McCoy in Tampa Bay. “The guy takes up a lot of attention. He looks great. Really excited to have him here, get him back on the field. He’s a great guy, great player, too.”
McCoy isn’t taking the lifeline the Raiders tossed him for granted.
“Because you never know. As much as you want to fight to get back, somebody has to give you an opportunity,” McCoy said. “The Raiders did that, and it’s such a blessing. It’s a privilege to be here.”
McCoy has been limited to individual reps through his first week with the Raiders, although that figures to change as he continues to get acclimated. In the meantime, he has spent a significant amount of time coaching up his new teammates, many of whom have already caught his eye.
“I believe this team is going to catch a lot of people off guard,” he said.“There’s a lot of talent in this locker room.”
In particular, talent on the Raiders’ rebuilt defensive line.
“So much want-to, very explosive players,” McCoy said. “Guys who just need to fine-tune some things.”
McCoy’s role is still being determined, but at some point, he will settle into as a three-technique interior lineman and lend a hand both in run defense and as a pass rusher. McCoy has 59.5 career sacks and was coming off three seasons in which he notched a total of 17 sacks before the injury last year.
“I will be on the field at some point,” he said. “And whatever reps they give me, I’m going to give this team everything I have.”
The tutoring he is providing already seems to be paying dividends.
“Very little things I’ve seen since I’ve been here, that I’ve pointed out, guys are saying, ‘Wow, I never thought about it like that,’” McCoy said. “If you saw how the d-line was rushing today, how they were getting after the offense, it’s very little things.
” I’m not saying I had something to do with that. But what I am saying is when you get a vet that knows the little nuances and gives little keys and tips … the little things. It’s the difference between being a pro and a professional.”
GERALD McCOY FILE
Ht., Wt: 6-4, 300
Pro Bowls: 6
First-Team All-Pro: 2013