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Raiders free-agent running back motivated to revive career

He understands the offensive system better than most on the Raiders, having played in a mix of it during his time in Minnesota. It’s just another reason Alexander Mattison can add to the backfield.

Another reason he can make a difference after five seasons at running back with the Vikings.

Mattison, who signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Raiders in March, has a skill set that should fit well in new coordinator Luke Getsy’s scheme. Some of the terminology is different, such as the labeling of certain routes.

But familiarity is just that. A bonus.

“Those (zone run plays) are pretty hard to stop,” Mattison said. “Definitely, as long as the offensive line gets running, we’re on our tracks as running backs to stay true to our aiming points. It’s one of those things that can terrorize a defense, so I’m excited about that part.”

A motivated player

Here’s why he should be as motivated as most: Mattison started just six games in his first four seasons with the Vikings, a backup to Dalvin Cook. But then Cook was gone in the offseason, and Mattison was the lead back in 2023.

He signed a two-year, $7 million extension and rushed for 700 yards last season. But he didn’t reach the end zone on the ground. He did have three receiving touchdowns.

Mattison was then released by the Vikings just weeks before becoming a Raider.

Zamir White is the presumed starter as training camp looms next month, but even general manager Tom Telesco has said he could envision a 1A and 1B and maybe even a 1C for how the position is used.

If anything, White can use Mattison as a sounding board. Going from backup to full-time starter isn’t always the easiest of transitions.

“It’s as difficult as you make it,” Mattison said. “But with the right guys, with the right group, with the right coach, it makes that process a lot easier. So, for us to be able to have a good group of backs, there’s some young guys in the room, but we’re all relative to one another in that sense, and we help one another.

“It’s one of those things where we all help each other out in learning a new system and we’re all in this together. And yeah, so far it’s working out. And so far, we’re taking those steps in the right direction.”

The 5-foot-11-inch, 220-pound Mattison has something to prove given how his tenure with the Vikings ended. To show those skills he believes in are still prominent.

One is definitely an ability to catch the ball and make positive gains out of the backfield. Getsy at earlier stops has been there, done that with players such as Aaron Jones and David Montgomery. It’s a big part of the offense. Besides the other attributes Mattison says he can bring to the huddle.

“Downhill, fast and physical, that’s my mindset,” the 25-year-old said. “I just hope that I can be of value in pass protection, catching the ball out the backfield and definitely in the run game as well. So, yeah, I just like to try and be as versatile as I can. Be a smart player.”

He’s a San Bernardino, California, native who attended Boise State and is happy to be back on the West Coast. Even says — with a large grin — that he’s OK with the Las Vegas heat. That he loves the energy of players such as defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and edge rusher Maxx Crosby. That the energy from the coaching staff is just as infectious.

Quarterback chemistry

Mattison also attended college with coach Antonio Pierce’s son, DeAndre.

“(Antonio) is the same guy that I met back in college,” Mattison said. “Just now in a different position, but the same guy through and through. Nothing but respect and love for him.”

The Raiders will be led at quarterback by Aidan O’Connell or Gardner Minshew. Mattison says the two and the running backs are gaining more and more chemistry each day. They’re on the same page more and more often.

“Those guys are extreme leaders, on and off the field, in the locker room, just chopping it up with those guys and having lunch with those guys, it’s definitely one of those things you just understand where they’re at mentally as far as leading this team,” Mattison said. “You can’t do nothing but respect it and hop on the train.”

He seems to have already climbed aboard and is ready to make a difference.

He’s as motivated as most.

Contact Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @edgraney on X.

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