HENDERSON, Nevada – His voice broke first. Then his eyes reddened and moistened.
Maxx Crosby, hours after learning he was nominated for his first career Pro Bowl, was overcome with emotion and, finally, memories as recent as they were painful.
“I was in rehab almost two years ago, and now I’m in the Pro Bowl,” said Crosby, the popular and effective Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Monday night after his team survived a battles with COVID-ravaged Cleveland Browns.
“It’s just a blessing, man. I introduce myself and try to be the best teammate …”
“I try to be the best teammate every day and show my guys that I care,” he continued. “It just got home, man. It’s special. It makes my family proud, my girlfriend. Everyone around me is calling and blowing up my phone.”
“I’m crying like a baby because I know I’ve worked so hard,” he added, “and it’s starting to pay off.”
Crosby, the 2019 Raiders Whirling Dervish fourth-round pick in eastern Michigan, who reminded owner Mark Davis and Raiders Hall of Fame general manager Mike Mayock Ted Hendricks, has found clarity after his rookie season. As he told ESPN in August, that’s when he went to rehab for a month-long stay, claiming that “alcoholism is present in my family and I am an alcoholic “.
March will mark two years of sobriety for him and the irony, he said, is that his best sack season was his rookie season, when he racked up 10 sacks.
But he was also racking up mileage on his body off the pitch. Hence the need for change.
And when the Raiders moved from Oakland to Las Vegas last year, he contracted COVID-19 and was quarantined at his desert home during camp, practicing pass-rush moves on a lonely palm tree in his backyard and picking out shards after his sessions.
This camp, he was named team captain by his colleagues, another step in his march towards sobriety and clarity. And as interim coach Rich Bisaccia noted, while saying he didn’t want to get emotional talking about it, it was “monumental” in Crosby’s journey.
“It certainly showed that he had the power to set an example that others wanted to follow,” Bisaccia said, before moving on to Crosby’s football production. Because, as Crosby himself put it, he alone has five sacks this season.
“What [he’s] teaching people to do is looking beyond the numbers, “Bisaccia added.” Look at the relentless effort the guy plays in every game and watch the relentless effort he puts into practice. Thus, he has become the power of example in many ways. The other thing he’s done a great job at while he’s been here is because of the things he’s been through, and [tight end] Darren Waller did it too, they speak out. They feel like if they can help a person, if they can just reach someone, not only on our team, but on the outside, they’ve both done both, with our team and with people outside. “
There is no doubt that life is more important than the distinctions on the court. But putting some order in his life allowed him to obtain these distinctions. Because, as Crosby pointed out, his five sacks only rank 50th in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus, meanwhile, offers Crosby an All-Pro season with his analyzes.
Entering Monday’s game in Cleveland, Crosby led all peak rushers in pressure (78) and tied for first in pass winning percentage (25.8%) and was second in the PFF score (90.9) and the pass rush score (91.8). That pressure has served the Raiders (7-7), who host the Denver Broncos on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS) in a game up for grabs if they hope to stay in the playoff race.
Crosby is one of three Raiders named at the NFL All-Star Game, which will be played in Vegas on February 2, along with Denzel Perryman, the Raiders’ first linebacker since Matt Millen in 1988, and AJ Cole, who joins Shane. Lechler and the Hall of Famer Ray Guy as bettors of the Raiders thus selected.
The last Raiders Pro Bowl edge rusher chosen? A guy by the name of Khalil Mack, and we all know how it ended. With the Raiders having previously given extra time to quarterback Derek Carr, guard Gabe Jackson, defensive tackle Justin Ellis and wide receiver Seth Roberts, Mack – the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year – held off in 2018 rather than to play in his fifth year. option valued at $ 13 million. The Raiders traded him to the Chicago Bears.
Las Vegas could face a similar dilemma this offseason, with Carr having only one year left on the five-year, $ 125 million deal he signed in 2018 and Crosby’s four-year rookie deal. also expiring after the 2022 season.
But with so much uncertainty facing the Raiders this upcoming offseason – New GM? New coach? New QB? – Crosby was a stabilizing influence on the defensive line and gave credit to veteran D line coach Rod Marinelli.
“He pushes me every day,” Crosby said. “He pushes me every day to be the best, the best player I can be. And I want to kill him sometimes. He wants to kill me. He wants to kill me.”
Crosby laughed again.
“But he just wants the best for me,” he said. “He knows what I want; I want to be the best in the league and he pushes me to be that guy every day.”
Marinelli said of Crosby’s growth: “It’s like watching the Grand Canyon grow. It took a million years before it was finished and it’s the same as a player. It evolves slowly, day after day. “Woah, man, he’s grown up. It’s that type of process and he’s been very diligent about it … to watch it grow, he’s driven millions of miles compared to last year. Day after day.”
Which brings us back to where we started – a grateful, stunned Crosby trying to absorb him into the bowels of a stadium on Lake Erie.
“I just put in so much work,” he said. “To have my teammates, my peers, people, coaches in the league, it’s a dream come true. It’s awesome. Individual awards are cool, but something like that, you think of it like a kid… I just want to show the people there, it’s not just about statistics.
“It’s your impact in the locker room, it’s your impact on the pitch. It affects the game, whatever stats I get. I believe I do it every Sunday and that’s what I get. ‘trying to do. Yeah, that was super special, for sure. “