Miles Burris went from being a promising rookie to an injured afterthought in less than a year with the Oakland Raiders.
Now that his injured knee is completely healthy, Burris is making a run to regain the starting linebacker job he lost when he got hurt a year ago.
Burris has been lining up as the first-team weakside linebacker at this week’s mandatory minicamp that serve as the Raiders’ final practices before they start training camp late next month.
Burris started 15 games as a rookie in 2012 before playing just sparingly last season when he most of the year recovering from knee surgery before playing six games as a reserve and special teamer. It was the first time he ever missed a game at any level due to injury.
“Mentally that was one of the toughest things that I’ve been through,” he said. “One of the darkest years of my life but that’s where my faith came through so greatly.”
When the Raiders drafted outside linebacker Khalil Mack last month, it appeared as if there would be no starting spot for Burris this season as Sio Moore was expected to move to weakside linebacker after a strong rookie campaign on the strong side. Oakland also had returning starter Kevin Burnett at the position, leaving little opportunity for Burris.
But with Burnett nursing an ankle injury and missing some of the voluntary offseason workouts and Burris stepping up his game, he is getting a chance to show what he can do with the first team.
“Everything we’ve seen so far out of Miles this offseason has indicated that he’s healthy and ready to go,” coach Dennis Allen said. “He had a really good year for us two years ago. Unfortunately, last year he was injured most of the season and we really didn’t have the Miles Burris we think he’s capable of being. He’s had a good offseason and he’s put himself in the mix.”
Allen said it was too early to read anything into possible starters for the regular season but added that there is more competition at all positions this offseason as the Raiders have added needed depth to the roster.
That is especially true at linebacker where there is a fierce competition to get the spot alongside Mack and middle linebacker Nick Roach.
Moore was expected to take that spot after starting 11 games and recording 4 1/2 sacks and nine quarterback hurries last season. But he has taken a bit of time to adjust to the move to the weakside.
“Right now, my goal is not to be just a linebacker, it’s to be the best linebacker there is,” Moore said. “The more that I can do, the more that I can learn and the faster that I can learn it and the faster that I can produce and be a part of something, then we have a situation.”
Burris has gotten time this spring at all three linebacker spots in case he’s needed as a reserve instead of a starter. The coaching staff places a premium on versatility and Burris is happy to do that, saying he has no preference for where he plays.
“I feel most comfortable playing football on the field,” he said.
That attitude and Burris’ ability not to make the same mistakes over and over again have made him a favorite of the coaching staff.
“Miles tries to be exactly right and Miles tries to be physical, and he is both of those things,” defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “He played well as a rookie and we would have loved to obviously have him last year, but we’re excited about where he is and where he’s going.”
NOTES: OL Austin Howard missed practice with an injured finger. He will undergo X-rays but is expected to be fine for training camp. … OL Lucas Nix (knee) is the only player right now whose health status for camp is in doubt.
Updated June 19, 2014