Linebacker Miles Burris was one of the good stories in a bad season.
The rookie from San Diego State was a fourth-round draft selection by the Raiders in 2012, then won a starting job at outside linebacker in summer training camp.
He played all 16 games and had 62 tackles, one interception and 1½ sacks, and had an attitude and energy his teammates and coaches admired.
But things change quickly in the NFL, and as the Raiders opened a mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday, Burris for now is out of the picture as a starter.
Following knee surgery in January, Burris is still recovering and unable to participate. He’s expected to be ready by the start of training camp in July, but when he comes back, it appears Oakland has three starters already in place.
According to Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group, former Chicago Bear Nick Roach is at middle linebacker and rookie Sio Moore and free-agent pickup Kevin Burnett are on the outside.
That doesn’t mean that Burris has no chance to win back his job by opening day. But the competition will be much stiffer than it was last season when Burris essentially won the position when Aaron Curry missed training camp.
This offseason, the Raiders signed three free-agent linebackers: Roach, Burnett and Kaluka Maiava and drafted Moore from Connecticut, a player they are very high on.
Raiders head coach Dennis Allen says that doesn’t mean Burris isn’t in their plans. The team just wanted to bring in more talent at the position.
“We just went out and signed three new linebackers, but we have Miles Burris, who we think is a starting-caliber linebacker,” Allen said before the team added Moore in April. “So now we feel like we have four starting-caliber linebackers. That, one, makes us better from a competition standpoint. All of those guys are going to compete for an opportunity to play. And it makes us better from a depth standpoint and it makes us better from a standpoint of, if we’re only counting on three linebackers all the time, somebody has to have a greater role on special teams.
“The more competition there is, the better we’re going to be.”
The extent of Burris’ surgery and rehab isn’t certain. The team has been quiet about it. But the Raiders very much liked what they saw of Burris’ play in 2012. When he comes back, he’s likely to be in the mix, challenging Burnett or Moore for playing time.
Allen, in fact, spoke highly of Burris last season.
“In terms of his energy, it’s been there the whole time,” Allen said at the end of the season. “He’s the type of player that we’re looking for. He loves football, he’s willing to work and he’s got a team attitude. Those are the characteristics of the guys that we’re really looking for, and he fits that mold to a ‘T.’ ”
Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, too, loved the fact that Burris showed football smarts as a rookie. He was a quick study and Tarver said Burris is the type of player the Raiders want “to build around.”
“Miles loves contact and loves football, like we’ve said from day one,” Tarver told reporters. “The guys respond to him because when he makes a mistake, he really wants to know how to get it right and rarely does he repeat the mistake.”