It would appear that despite GM Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders front office still celebrating the good fortune that allowed the team to haul in LB Khalil Mack with the fifth pick in the draft, there is at least one person apparently not very thrilled with the rookie’s presence on the team – LB Kevin Burnett.
A 16-game starter for the Raiders last season, Burnett compiled 105 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He was a productive member of Oakland’s linebacking corps – really, one of the few bright spots on the entire squad, and had likely expected to be the starter coming into this season as well. Fortune bounced a different way however, in allowing McKenzie to pick up a potential game changer on defense in Mack – a player nobody had expected to be available at five.
With Mack in the fold, Burnett can likely see the writing on the wall and knows that his role with the defense is going to change, and probably change significantly. Possibly not happy with the coming changes, and a potential reduction in his playing time, Burnett has elected to stay away from the team’s early OTAs. His absence has been duly noted by many, but when questioned about it, head coach Dennis Allen didn’t seem all too concerned about it. When asked why Burnett was absent from Oakland’s OTAs by SI.com, Allen said, “Because it’s voluntary.” Going on to say that Burnett is healthy but that “he’s just not here.”
When pressed about it, Allen responded to questions about Burnett.
“I’ve had communication with Kevin this whole time. This is a voluntary camp. Players can make their own decisions and they have families and things in their personal lives that they have to make sure they take care of. I’m not concerned about that at all.”
When contacted by CSN Bay Area’s Scott Bair, Burnett’s agent, Ricky Lefft said that his client was simply, “working out from home.”
While many questions linger about Burnett’s absence, one thing is for certain – he’s not doing himself any favors by avoiding team activities and workouts. An already strong linebacking corps got even stronger with the addition of Khalil Mack. Paired with second-year man Sio Moore on the other side gives Oakland a fierce combination. And with veterans Nick Roach, Miles Burris, Kaluka Maiava, and his own brother Kaelin Burnett returning, and already in camp, by staying away from OTAs, Burnett is running the risk of alienating himself from the team and of seeing his probably already reduced playing time vanish entirely. Burnett was good, and productive last season, a valued member of the defense – but he’s not irreplaceable.
Whatever the situation is with Burnett – whether he’s unhappy with the selection of Mack and the inevitable impact the rookie will have on his playing time, or whether there is something else, he’d do well to resolve it and get into camp, to be with his team. As the only no-show to the team’s OTAs, Burnett is turning himself into a story, and the longer he stays away, the bigger the story will become.
If he continues to avoid the squad and “work out from home,” he will eventually force McKenzie and/or Allen to do something about him and the situation he’s creating. Given the fact that he’s under contract, they could bury him on the bench, or limit him to special teams duties. Or they could possibly release him — which might be something Burnett is angling for.
But given the fact that he is under contract, Burnett should act like a professional, rather than a spoiled child, and get with his team. The Raiders will move on and be fine without him if he chooses to continue down the road he’s currently traveling, and he’s only hurting himself by letting things play out as they are.