It was a mid-morning Raiders’ organized team activity practice on the first day of June, a good eight weeks from the start of training camp and 100 days from the Raiders’ season opener against the Broncos.
Yet Maxx Crosby was attacking every individual drill, every rep he took as if he was on the field in front of 70,000 fans in a divisional matchup against a heated rival.
When it comes to Crosby, the Raiders’ fifth-year defensive end, it’s max effort every time, all the time. Not quite 24/7, at least not literally, but pretty damned close.
“I’m on a mission,” Crosby said, almost redundantly relative to everything he’s said and done ever since showing up with the Raiders in 2019 as a fourth-round pick out of Eastern Michigan who some people wrote off as too this or not enough of that.
Only to make them all eat their words by working himself into one of the most feared rush ends in the NFL, a feat that meant making well-chronicled life changes in a 12-round bout with alcoholism and addiction and adhering to an almost maniacal work pace. He’s routinely at the Raiders practice facility at the crack of dawn and doesn’t punch the time clock to leave until well past dinner.
On a mission indeed. Crosby has 37.5 sacks over his first four seasons, including 12.5 last season. His 182 quarterback pressures are the most in the NFL the last two seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. And he is coming off two straight Pro Bowl seasons.
But he wants more.
“I’ve got one goal – I want to be the best at what I do,” Crosby said. “I’ve got many big goals I’m trying to achieve, and it takes more than being 50 percent in. It takes all my attention, all year round.”
He says it without apology and with all due respect to his inner circle, many of whom have been advised by Crosby that the maximization of his talents requires nothing less than full attention.
“Everybody in my circle, which is a very small circle, they know what my mission is, and they understand what I go through,” Crosby said. “But that’s what it takes to be great, and that’s what I’m doing every single day.
Crosby, now 25 years old and the clear leader of the Raiders defense, is determined to do everything he can to get the most out of a football career that has taken him from the plains of Texas to Ypsilanti, Michigan, to the NFL.
Other than his devotion to his daughter and wife, pretty much everything takes a back seat to that pursuit. It won’t always be that way, of course. Which is kind of the whole point. The way Crosby sees it, when it’s time to move on he will do so with complete confidence that he drained everything he could out of himself and his career.
“All the other stuff, I’m going to do my absolute best to be the best version of myself,” Crosby said. “But it’s a constant mission every single day no matter what it takes and what that sacrifice happens to be.”
And for now, that means a singular focus that pushes almost everything else to the side.
“People talk about you need balance in life. I truly just don’t believe in that,” Crosby said. “That’s just not where I’m at in life right now.”
Part of which means being the pied piper of sorts for a defensive line that has completely changed since Crosby entered the league in 2019, and for which the power of potential is evident in a wave of young players that showed up over the last two seasons.
Among them, Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson, the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, third-round defensive tackle Byron Young from Alabama, seventh-rounder Nesta Jade Silvera from Arizona State and Neil Farrell and Matthew Butler, two draft picks from 2022.
Crosby has taken the reigns on making sure the defensive linemen create connection and chemistry, an objective he believes relies just as much on an off-field relationship as it does the on-field.
It’s why he’s organized group meetings and outings, including a recent night out together to watch a Power Slap event in Las Vegas. It’s why he immediately reached out to Wilson upon the Raiders drafting him. And why he was one of the first Raiders veterans to welcome Wilson when he arrived at the team’s facility soon after getting drafted.
A beaming Wilson said the meeting had a message, “Ready to work and feed off each other,” Wilson said.
It’s a big thing with Crosby.
“I think a big part of what we’re doing right now is just becoming closer as a unit, especially D-line wise,” Crosby said. “So, that’s kind of my main focus as a leader, taking that next step and just trying to bring the guys together, not only with the D-line but as a defense as a whole and just as a team as a whole, holding everybody to that standard.”