Mike Peterson 2.0?
Kirk Morrison said he knew a change was coming when the Oakland Raiders drafted Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain with their first pick in last week's draft. Morrison had played that position for the Raiders the last five years and even though he started 79 of 80 games, he knew his days were numbered with the club.
"I felt like when they drafted McClain that there wasn't room for the two of us," the former San Diego State standout said. "When you draft a guy number eight overall, regardless of how long I have been there or not, you pretty much give him the keys to the car. You give him the reigns to the football team to be the starting linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.
"I kind of felt like my time had come. I spent five years in Oakland and I had a great time there. We didn't win as many football games that I felt like we should have, but I knew the opportunity would come somewhere else for me."
And so it did when the Jaguars gave the Raiders their fourth-round draft pick in exchange for Morrison and the Raiders pick in the fifth round. It was a "no-brainer" deal for Jacksonville. They essentially received a proven linebacker in the middle where their defense had a glaring void to fill. It meant that Daryl Smith, who filled in at the middle spot last year, could return to his more natural spot as an outside backer.
"He will be a starting linebacker for us, a good player," said director of player personnel Terry McDonough.
Morrison, who described himself as "a hard-nose linebacker -- downhill, gritty and tough", led the Raiders in tackles four consecutive seasons. Despite such a feat, he said he felt he was underrated because he played on losing teams for five years in Oakland following his third-round selection in the 2005 draft.
"You perform at a high level, but it feels like it goes unnoticed on some days," he said. "This has been a situation for me that I felt like it's something I am looking forward to (coming to Jacksonville) because I'm going to a place where I know a lot of the people. I am excited for it, to be put in a situation where I can reach my potential as a football player.
"I feel there is so much more to me that people have not seen. I'm coming to a new system, new scheme, new organization and new fan base. It's a new beginning. I feel like I am drafted all over again."
Morrison will see some familiar faces when he arrives in Jacksonville in time for this weekend's team minicamp. Jacksonville assistant defensive backs coach Thom Kaumeyer was the defensive coordinator at San Diego State when Morrison was there. Current Jaguars player Kassim Osgood was a teammate on his college team. He knows Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew as both played high school ball in the Bay Area.
Morrison also said he wants to come in and be more than just a starter at the middle backer spot.
"I want to step in and be a leader. I know there are already leaders in place, but coming from where I am from in Oakland, if you don't know the organization, I don't want to have the stigma of being an Oakland Raider and part of a losing franchise," he said.
"What I bring to the team is my hard work and my dedication. I have never missed a football game in my five years. Even last year, I played with a dislocated elbow, but I didn't miss a game."
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