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Raiders QB ready to fight for starting role: ‘I’m used to competing’

Raiders quarterback Aidan O’Connell knows he’s in for a fight to keep his starting job.

The rookie said he expects the team to bring in another player at his position through the draft or free agency to create competition for the role.

“It would be right to have competition in this league. It’s the NFL, it’s the best of the best,” O’Connell said. “It’s my job to try and keep my job and it’s the people around (me’s) decision to try and get the best person for that job. At the end of the day, it is a business and I understand that.”

O’Connell, 25, threw for 2,218 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. He ended the campaign on a high note with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions his final four games. The Raiders were 3-1 in that span.

“I don’t think that it’s any secret that the more you play, the more reps you get, the more comfortable you’re going to feel,” O’Connell said. “Great support from my teammates and coaches sticking with me. Obviously, I didn’t play as well as I wanted to this year, but like I said a lot of teammates supported me and a lot of coaches did the same.”

O’Connell will spend the majority of the offseason in Las Vegas preparing for next season. The 2023 fourth-round pick took some time off after the Raiders’ final game Jan. 7, but said he’s already back in the weight room with the the team’s strength coaches.

The former Purdue standout is focused on building off his success from the end of last season. Not on whether he’ll stick as the Raiders’ starter.

“There hasn’t really been a lot of years where I’ve been the unquestioned starter going in. I’m used to competing,” O’Connell said. “I had to compete to get to the spot that I’m in.”

O’Connell was grateful for the chance to start in the first place.

He was elevated over veteran Jimmy Garoppolo when interim coach Antonio Pierce and interim general manager Champ Kelly took control of the team Oct. 31.

“I think AP, him and Champ both, for them to do what they did to give me the opportunity is pretty unheard of for a fourth-round pick to get thrown in there, not just for one game, but for the whole season,” O’Connell said. “For them to do that for me was a huge confidence builder for me. There were some learning curves and there still are. It’s not easy to be a rookie. But the confidence they instilled in me was great.”

Pierce was named the Raiders full-time head coach Jan. 17.

O’Connell said Pierce earned the job after leading the team to a 5-4 record its last nine games. Three of those losses were by a touchdown or less.

“AP, he deserved it, he did a great job in the position he got put in this year,” O’Connell said. “Obviously the support has been pretty well-received from everybody… Hopefully (that leads to) a lot more wins for the Raiders.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on X.

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