ALAMEDA – Dion Jordan has to work on Thanksgiving. He couldn't be happier about it.
He was hoping for the opportunity while serving a 10-game suspension for taking Adderall, the NFL's fourth punitive action made against him. This latest ban didn't accurately reflect the positive strides made in his personal life. He's more than three years clean and sober and devoted to making the choices required to get his career back on track.
That is happening as we speak. The former No. 3 overall pick and immensely talented defensive lineman trained insatiably in San Francisco while waiting for his suspension to end and an opportunity to arise. The Raiders gave him one close to his support system, where he has a chance to make a significant impact.
He's doing that right now, jumping right in as an interior pass rusher on obvious passing downs. He already has a sack – he could've had another – and has created quarterback pressure on 17 percent of his pass-rush snaps.
That's a good start, but it's secondary to a larger point. Jordan is having a blast, and not taking a single second for granted.
"I love what I'm doing and where I'm at," Jordan said after Thursday's practice. "This time of year is football season for players and fans. To be in this locker room and experience it from the inside, to be a part of a team again is so special. I am more than grateful. I am more than thankful. I appreciate this opportunity and the teammates around me who have made this such a positive experience."
Jordan has made a positive first impression his fellow defensive linemen, who say his size and freak athleticism changes the way they are blocked. He has made a positive impression on Raiders coaches, who can see a bright him sticking around beyond this season.
"He's a guy that can play the run," defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. "He can rush the passer. He can move inside, outside. The more he learns what we're doing here, he's going to be a really big part of our future if he continues on this level."
Jordan would love to find a more permanent home with the Raiders, but he doesn't think that far ahead.
"I'm a one-day-at-a-time type of individual," Jordan said. "Today is what matters. It's about maximizing every day until Sunday, and then taking advantage of that opportunity."
Jordan should have more opportunities on Sunday in Kansas City, a clash Guenther called a "nickel game." The Chiefs employ three-plus receiver sets and will throw on any down or distance, making it likely the Raiders sub-package will be on the field a ton. That includes Jordan, who needs to be impactful from the inside or wherever he lines up.
Jordan admits excitement about that chance and those that come after but understands that a focus-on-the-present mentality and daily work habits that got him to this point and will guide him moving forward.
"Every day when I wake up in the morning, I think about what I have to do that day to get where I want to go," Jordan said. "That's the path that lead me to this point. I get my ass up and I work and I give the day everything I have. I give full effort in everything. That's all people can ask for and all I can do. My mindset is this: if you do that day after day after day, good things will happen."