Updated November 18, 2022 - 8:58 am
Darren Waller’s best efforts to ignore comments about him were not enough to shield him from a report this week that there was frustration from teammates about the pace of his recovery from a hamstring injury.
The Raiders star tight end said he was texted the story and discussed it with quarterback Derek Carr, who gave an impassioned speech after Sunday’s loss to the Colts and questioned the commitment of some teammates. Carr said Wednesday he wasn’t referring to Waller.
“Me and Derek talked about it,” Waller said after Thursday’s practice. “We know each other. We know how we’ve shown up, and we’ve been teammates for four years, so those kinds of things don’t affect our relationship. We just know that’s the way things go sometimes and nobody’s trying to take those things personal.”
Waller has played just eight snaps in the past five games and was placed on injured reserve last week as he continues to rehabilitate a hamstring injury he suffered Oct. 10 against the Chiefs. He missed much of training camp with a hamstring injury on his other leg and has been a frequent target for fans frustrated by an underachieving team, particularly because he signed a lucrative contract extension in September.
“I get it,” said Waller, who has 16 catches for 175 yards this season. “When it comes down to a season where you’re not meeting expectations, and a dude has signed a shiny new contract and there’s big expectations for him, it’s frustrating. People can throw me under the bus and blame me. It is what it is and how it’s going to be. I know how it goes, and I’m tough enough to handle it.”
That might not have always been the case. Waller admits there was a time that he allowed social media to play too big of a role in his life. He would constantly refresh his apps, looking at comments and seeing what anonymous users had to say about him.
“I’d be on Instagram and not even wanting to be on it,” he said. “I realized I was just on it to impress people.”
A book by Christian pastor John Mark Comer called “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” changed his thinking. After reading it, Waller turned his social media accounts over to his marketing people and began to take stock of what really mattered to him. Even the positive comments would have a negative impact because they created a sense of complacency.
“I don’t have access to that noise anymore, and I don’t allow it to have access to me,” Waller said. “I don’t have the ESPN app on my phone. I don’t have notifications set up. … I know I’m somebody who compares myself to other people. I’m going to worry and get into fear and questioning if I’m good enough. I know how my brain works, so I set things up for me to stay as even keel as possible.
“It really worked for me. It has made me more present and more in the moment.”
But ignoring the outside world completely is impossible, so certain things eventually reach him. That was the case with this week’s report. Waller couldn’t ignore the existence of it, but he could control his reaction.
“I don’t really use those things as fuel because at the end of the day the fuel and the fire have to be inside of me,” he said. “Things like that, you just take them in and wish they wouldn’t be painted that way, but you let it pass and keep it moving. I know who I am and the effort I give to the team. Stuff gets put out there like that. I’m just in the mindset of not taking things personal whether they are good or bad.”
Waller said he was quickly able to channel his attention back to his primary task as it relates to his professional life. He believes going on injured reserve will give him time to get fully healthy for the final five games.
“Just because things may not look great and I may not be in a place where I want to be healthwise, it doesn’t mean there’s not things to be learned,” he said.
Who: Raiders at Broncos
When: 1:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver
Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3)
Line: Broncos -2½; total 41½