New Raiders middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has had a solid NFL career since being drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Falcons in 2008 out of Oklahoma.
In fact, solid is the perfect word for him. He’s started every game since coming into the league, a streak of 112 games – the longest current streak by a linebacker. Plus, he has been a tackling machine, first for the Falcons and then the Saints. Last season, the 6-foot-2, 238-pounder was in on 145 tackles – the sixth straight season his tackles and assists totals have gone over 100. His high was 2011 for the Falcons, when he had 155.
But the Raiders are getting more than a durable player and accomplished performer at the middle linebacker position.
Since signing Lofton, the Raiders have seen him quickly become a defensive leader.
Now, after watching him work during organized team activities (OTAs), the coaching staff loves what it sees in Lofton’s intangible value.
“He’s a veteran linebacker, understands what it takes to perform in this league,” said new head coach Jack Del Rio, a former NFL linebacker himself. “He’s doing a good job of providing some of the leadership in the meeting rooms and out on the field.”
Lofton, who is penciled in as the middle linebacker between young outside players Khalil Mack and Sio Moore, says he’s trying to be a leader and role model for his teammates.
“How you earn everyone’s respect is by coming in, studying, knowing the defense and helping guys get lined up and just working,” he told a writer for the team’s website. “The work is going to speak for itself.”
Added Lofton: “I lead by example, but at the same time, if something needs to be said, I don’t have a problem saying it.”
Lofton has plenty of experience, but he told Raiders.com that one of the reasons he was interested in joining the Raiders as a free agent was because of Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. Both were good, durable, long-term linebackers in the NFL and he believes he can learn from them.
“I can pick their brains and they can take my game to the next level,” he said.