ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Raiders left guard Kelechi Osemele has a few physical reminders of his time in Baltimore, most notably the Super Bowl ring he won as a rookie in 2012 that sits in a safe that his mother watches over.
Mentally, the veteran offensive lineman can’t shake the memories of a bitter offseason split after four highly productive years with the Ravens that ultimately led to his arrival in Oakland, where he’s become the anchor of one of the top lines in the NFL.
Heading back to M&T Stadium for the first time since then in a critical game for both teams, Osemele admits it will be an unusual experience.
“It’s definitely going to be an emotional day,” Osemele said. “Guys that were your teammate, you’re going to be competing against for the first time ever. That’s going to be a different twist. It’s definitely going to be a passionate day for me . a lot of mixed feelings going on at that time in that stadium.”
The 60th overall pick in 2012, Osemele started 51 games at three different positions during his four years with the Ravens while earning a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most menacing and tenacious blockers in the league.
Because of his resume and age, Osemele expected to stay a long time in Baltimore before negotiations on a contract extension broke down.
The Ravens reportedly offered Osemele a deal that would have made him the second-highest paid player on the team. According to Osemele, however, the offer wasn’t even close to what the market was for a player of his caliber.
Osemele quickly got over it after signing a five-year, $58.5 million contract with the Raiders. Yet the memory of leaving the only NFL team he had played with still resonates, much like the devastating blocks delivered on opposing linebackers by the 6-foot-5-inch, 330-pound Osemele.
“The numbers just didn’t come anywhere close,” Osemele said. “It hurts your feelings a little bit because you spent the last four years there. There have been a lot of ups and downs, winning the Super Bowl there, and to kind of find out that’s probably not where you’re going to end up can be a little emotional.”
Osemele has resisted the urge to reach out to his friends on the Ravens roster this week as he tries to keep his feelings in check.
“I haven’t really talked individually with those guys about what they’re doing differently, not that they would tell me, but they definitely look like their old selves,” Osemele said. “They’re a physical team. That’s a lot of where my playing demeanor came from, that build-a-bully mentality . so that’s what we’re going to get.”
Oakland’s offensive line has had a definite impact on the team’s early success.
Quarterback Derek Carr has barely been touched so far while directing the NFL’s second-ranked offense. In three games, Carr has been sacked just twice, and one of them came on a scramble out of bounds. The two sacks allowed by Oakland’s offensive line are tied for the fewest in the NFL with San Francisco and the New York Jets.
The Raiders are also moving the ball on the ground effectively with the league’s No. 2 rushing attack while averaging 148.3 yards a game.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Osemele is a reflection of Oakland’s offense line as a whole.
“I don’t think any of our guys are nice,” Musgrave said Thursday. “They may be polite and they’re professional but across the board our guys are physical. They’re like Kelechi. Kelechi fits right in with those guys, nasty.”
That’s something Osemele’s former teammates in Baltimore remember well.
“He’s just one of those nasty offensive linemen,” Ravens running back Justin Forsett said. “He tries to dominate every play. You’re going to see guys getting pancaked and he’s standing over them. He’s kind of that mouthpiece out there, that headhunter that you want on the offensive line.”