Higher Elevations

Friday November 11th, 2016

Raiders running back Latavius Murray ran rampant over the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos in Week 9, racking up 114 yards and three touchdowns. Just like its lead back, Oakland has its stride, taking an 8-2 record into a Week 10 bye. We caught up with Murray after a recent practice to talk about the team's road trip to Mexico in Week 11, what it’s like sitting atop AFC West standings, and his plans for a free weekend.

KAHLER: You have a bye week this week. How will you spend your weekend? Any fun plans?

MURRAY: My high school team is in the state playoffs, so I am going to go home and see them play. I went to Onondaga Central High School in Syracuse, N.Y. They have to win this and another game to get to the state championship. I have a good relationship with pretty much everybody who was there when I was there. The head coach, Steve Louis, was there when I was there.  

KAHLER: Your next game is in Mexico City against the Texans. Have you ever been to Mexico?

MURRAY: I’ve been twice now and that was because I was there to promote the game coming up. We did a few things, did some sightseeing downtown, went to a Formula E racing event. It was a lot of fun, and there were a lot of Raiders fans at the events that we had, so I expect the same thing for our game.

KAHLER: How does a Mexico game change your weekly routine?

MURRAY: We go down there the day before. Due to the altitude, we treat it just like a Denver game. We will leave the night before and play the game and come on back. It’s actually higher than Denver’s altitude.

KAHLER: Do you know any Spanish?

MURRAY: I know a little bit, the basics. I tried to pick up on some stuff when I have been down there. But I just know the basics to get me through.

KAHLER: It’ll be fun to listen to the Spanish touchdown calls.

MURRAY: Yeah, I’m hoping to hear my name in a lot of those.

KAHLER: You spent your rookie season on IR, so your first season of action was 2014, which was quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack’s rookie years. That year the Raiders had an 0-10 start, lost by 52 to the Rams and got swept by a combined 57 points in two losses to Denver. Do you remember how you felt after that season?

MURRAY: I think we always believed in each other. That year we just weren’t finding ways to win and weren’t making it happen. Now we are. Your attitude, win or lose, has to be the same. You have to have the same attitude of coming out and getting better and improving, whether you won or not. I think now that is the difference, we are winning, but we still have to improve and have to get better because we know how close and how easy it can be to go the other way. I think that has been the main thing, not getting too high and not getting too low.

KAHLER: What is it like to be where you are now, on top of the AFC West, just two years later? Do you guys talk about how far you’ve come?

MURRAY: We really don’t even speak about it. It is just something that we let that be the past. I think it is one of those things where you obviously remember last year and the year before last, but you can’t really think about anything that you have done before, you just have to keep moving forward and do the things you need to do now to continue to win. It’s nothing that we look back on, obviously we know where we came from and this is a completely different team. We are definitely happy with the way things are now.

Derek Carr and Latavius Murray celebrate after a touchdown against Denver.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty

KAHLER: Derek Carr told Peter King that he remembers it was hard just to throw for 130 yards his rookie year. And then in Week 8 this year, he throws for more than 500 yards. How have you seen your quarterback grow? How has he improved?

MURRAY: We’re more comfortable in the same system and able to be more confident. I think he has shown a tremendous confidence. Last year he had it and this year even more. It helps to be under the same system with all those receivers and the O-line. It just really allows him to be confident and do what he does.  

KAHLER: You guys dominated the Super Bowl champions on Sunday, and ran for 218 yards to Denver's 33. You personally had three touchdowns and 114 yards. Denver’s defense has been struggling against the run this season. How did you exploit that?

MURRAY: We knew that they had given up some rushing yards and that was something that we wanted to take advantage of. They are still a great defense, but again, just like any other defense, we want to attack their weakness and do things that they are not able to do well. Running the ball is one of those things we knew we needed to add to the game. And we were able to do that successfully and it definitely helped us.

KAHLER: Who is the biggest trash-talker on Denver’s defense?

MURRAY: T.J. Ward, definitely. I don’t remember a specific thing he said, he just runs his mouth throughout the game. That’s not the way we play, we don’t take anything from anybody, but we aren’t going to get caught up in any of that.

KAHLER: After your third touchdown on Sunday, you handed the ball to right tackle Austin Howard and let him spike it. Was that a tribute to the line that blocks for you?

MURRAY: He had asked me for the ball if I score again, and I told him I had no problem at all giving it to him so he could celebrate. It’s about those guys up front and they are the reason I am able to do what I am doing. If I can let them have a little fun, I will do that anytime I can.

KAHLER: Several NFL teams have done the latest social media craze, the Mannequin Challenge. When can we expect the Raiders to release a video?

MURRAY: We were trying to get something together today. But hopefully soon we can get one out there. Now that there have been so many, if we do one, we have to do one that is unique, one that people will remember. We have to step it up if we’re going to do it.

KAHLER: How did you get the nickname Tay Train?

MURRAY: In high school, a teacher of mine, he announced our football games and it was something he just started saying and as I was starting to have a little success there. He started that, and it stuck with me, and was something I always remembered. Once I got into the NFL, I said man, why don’t I bring it back to life and maybe get a logo going and some t shirts, which I did. It’s just something I can have fun with and give credit to the guy who started it back home in everything I do, and representing where I came from.

KAHLER: Following the election, you posted a picture and a message of peace on social media. Why is that message so important right now?

MURRAY: The young lady who did the piece, Baker Teitsch, she actually went to high school with me. And that’s another thing about me, anybody who knows me know that I am huge on staying connected and never forgetting where I come from. It’s a part of who I am. So I noticed in the past few weeks, she is an artist, but started her own Instagram page for her art. And that day she posted that piece and it was my favorite one she had done, because it was a powerful message. When you get caught up into the politics and obviously it was election day, we have to remember, yes we want someone to win, there are people who are pulling for certain candidates that they want to win, but it is not going to go that way for everyone. There has to be a winner and there has to be a loser. We have to remember that, at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We all need to come together and there needs to be peace throughout the world and peace within politics. I think that was a powerful drawing that she did and I wanted to repost to show people that regardless of the outcome of the election that day that’s what it is all about.   

KAHLER: Have you thought about the team’s potential move to Vegas? What it might be like to play in Vegas?

MURRAY: No, I haven’t really thought about it much. It is out of our hands, we know everything going on around us we are not ignorant to that fact at all. We just are focusing on playing football, and who knows what can happen when we leave that up to the people that have to make those decisions. We are in Oakland and we have to play here right now and control what we can control.

KAHLER: Last year, you had a heavy workload in your first Pro Bowl season. This year, you’re seeing fewer touches with rookie backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington in the rotation. What is your relationship like with those guys, are you a mentor to them?

MURRAY: Definitely. I was in their shoes once, young and hungry and with an older back, a guy that had been there before. I know what it is like, but all three of us bring something different to the table and I think that is why we’ve been able to be so successful. We are different in our own ways and effective and when you have different guys like that coming at you, when you are on the other side on defense, it is very hard to stop. And I think that is why we have been so successful.

KAHLER: When you were in their shoes, it was Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew who were the older backs on the team. What did you learn from them?

MURRAY: It was never about who is in the game and who is not. Something I will always remember is that for us to be successful, you have to be a team player. That’s something from them that I will pass down to these guys.

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