Darren Waller Opens Up On Las Vegas Raiders Quarterback Situation

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller was asked the question that is on the mind of everyone in Raiders Nation: Who’s going to quarterback the team in 2023?

“I have no idea,” Waller exclusively shared. “I have no input. So I’m waiting to see what happens just like everyone else.”

The current rumor swirling is that four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers could be traded to the Raiders. It’s an acquisition that Waller would wholeheartedly welcome.

“Anybody who’s ever played football would be on board with Aaron Rodgers coming to the team,” Waller said. “If he comes to the team, I will not be disappointed.”

Another juicy rumor has circulated that recently-retired Tom Brady was headed to the Raiders for his post-New England Patriots years — instead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — until Jon Gruden prevented the acquisition at the last minute.

“I’ve heard it from multiple sources that I respect and I’ve been close to,” Waller said. “They’re like, ‘Yeah, Brady to the Raiders was a lock.’”

Instead the Raiders stuck with Derek Carr, who they ultimately benched with just two games left in the 2022 season before releasing him on Feb. 14, 2023.

Following a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Carr was sent home, and Waller never got a chance to wish him well in person.

So he called him on the phone to express his gratitude and has talked to him a few times since.

“He’s done a tremendous amount for my career,” Waller said. “I’ll always appreciate him.”

Before becoming one of Carr’s go-to targets, Waller grew up playing quarterback in greater Atlanta and idolizing Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

“He was just a superstar and electric,” he said. “Vick was one of the first Black quarterbacks that I’d ever seen.”

Super Bowl LVII featured two Black starting quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts) for the first time in NFL history.

Two days before that game, Waller spoke on behalf of USAA, an official NFL Salute to Service partner.

The tight end was on hand to present Super Bowl tickets to Barron Mills, a 20-year infantry officer in the Marines, and speak to veterans.

Salute to Service is a cause near and dear to Waller’s heart. His cousin, Mary Griffin, spent 25 years in the Army.

“I spent a lot of time around her when I was younger,” Waller said. “She was always laughing, always joking, always bringing just a bright energy.”

His new way of living — Waller has been sober five-plus years after saying his previous substance-abusing years were all about himself — has made him realize the importance of helping others.

“One of the biggest things in my life now is service. Any example of service is inspirational,” Waller said. “There is no much greater cause of service than people in the military.”

He even chose to support the Wounded Warrior Project as part of his My Cause My Cleats campaign for the 2022 season.

The 2022 season, however, was a forgettable one for Waller. His numbers dipped from 55 catches for 665 yards in 2021 to 28 and 388 in 2022, and the Raiders followed their playoff season by going 6-11.

Injuries to both hamstrings, which he suffered during training camp and then during Week Five against the Kansas City Chiefs, slowed him.

“It was the reason for there not being as much production,” he said. “It’s really just the availability part.”

It is especially crucial for Waller to remain healthy this year. The tight end, who praised the tax advantages after the Raiders moved from California to Nevada, is at a pivotal point in his contract.

He signed a three-year, $51 million contract just before the 2022 season that extends him into 2026, but there’s a potential out after the 2023 season when the Raiders would endure just a $495,000 dead cap hit.

As he heads into this critical year, he wants to create a good base by implementing Pilates, boxing and cardio.

During Super Bowl week, he also hiked Camelback Mountain in Arizona.

“I enjoy time away because football is important,” Waller said. “But taking time as human beings to rest, to process things, to relax and do things I enjoy (is too).”

The last two years he’s had to cope with the franchise’s constant turbulence, including three head coaches and Henry Ruggs’ tragic car crash.

Waller reflected on that in an introspective manner.

“There’s been a lot of change, a lot of uncertainty,” Waller said. “It’s just staying poised and realizing there’s a lot of things you can’t control. If you spend a lot of time stressing over things you can’t control, you’re going to be miserable, you’re going to be frustrated.”

Whether it was blowing big leagues at the end of games or Chandler Jones’ game-winning pick-six on a failed hook-and-ladder attempt, Raiders games in 2022 were always dramatic.

“My heart rate doesn’t rise. I’m always expecting chaos every single game we play,” Waller said. “We’ve had so many roller-coaster games.”

With the chaotic 2022 season officially completed, Waller, who will turn 31 in September, is ready to turn the page to 2023.

“I’m excited to write a new chapter for the Raiders,” Waller said, “and get back to what we thought we were going to be this year.”

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jefffedotin/2023/02/15/darren-waller-opens-up-on-las-vegas-raiders-quarterback-situation/