HENDERSON, Nev. (AP)Jakobi Meyers knew the question was coming at some point in his introductory news conference Thursday, and finally 14 queries in, a Las Vegas TV sports reporter asked it.
“I was waiting on it,” Meyers said, pounding his right fist on the podium. “Thank you. I appreciate you, man.”
The question Meyers knew was coming concerned his lateral on the last play of the Dec. 18 game between the Raiders and New England Patriots.
He inexplicably tossed the ball backward in a tie game that seemed destined for overtime, and Las Vegas defensive end Chandler Jones snagged the lateral out of the air and scored on a 48-yard touchdown to beat the Patriots 30-24.
Now Meyers will play in that same Allegiant Stadium as a member of the home team after signing a three-year, $33 million contract with the Raiders, of which $21 million is guaranteed.
Meyers said he is determined to use his gaffe, which handed the Patriots a crucial late-season loss as they chased a playoff spot, to help other teammates if they’re in similar situations.
“I knew what it meant to the team that I was on at the time, so it really hurt me,” Meyers said. “When I went through it in the moment, my heart was broken, but days after just seeing how guys kind of rallied around me, it built me up as a person.”
Meyers joins a Raiders team with receivers Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow as well as newly acquired speedster Phillip Dorsett, who last season played for the Houston Texans.
Jimmy Garoppolo will be the new quarterback after signing a three-year deal Friday.
“They’ve got some real dogs on the offensive side,” Meyers said. “I feel like they can really play football, and I’ll just be another piece of the puzzle just trying to do my role and do my job and hopefully keep this machine rolling smoothly.”
The Raiders get a player coming off two strong seasons. Meyers caught a career-high six touchdown passes last season to go with 67 receptions for 804 yards. The year before, he set career highs with 83 receptions and 866 yards receiving.
Not bad for a player who signed as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina State four years ago.
“That’s something I won’t ever probably let myself forget,” Meyers said. “I remind myself every day, ‘Just don’t get too big-headed. At the end of the day you’re still that undrafted kid from Georgia.’”
The Patriots’ decision to let Meyers go in free agency was reportedly criticized in the locker room. New England essentially replaced him with free agent JuJu Smith-Schuster, who like Meyers signed a three-year, $33 million deal.
“Cold world lol,” Meyers tweeted at the time. He said Thursday he was just having fun with the tweet and that he appreciated his time in New England.
Until now, Meyers has played his entire four-year NFL career there, but there are familiar faces in Las Vegas.
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels was his offensive coordinator three of those seasons, and Las Vegas has in many ways become “Patriots West.” Those former Patriots players understand McDaniels’ system and expectations.
Meyers learned early that it wasn’t always easy playing for McDaniels, saying, “I wasn’t his biggest fan,” but has since seen the rewards through his play.
“His thing is just ironing out all the details,” Meyers said. “I feel like if you take care of the little things with Josh, it’ll make sure all the big things are erased. He definitely drilled home focusing on every single detail if that’s route depth, step count, inside leverage, winning outside. And if you didn’t do it the way he liked it, you repeated it.”
Now that Meyers is in Las Vegas, the one thing he doesn’t want to repeat is what happened last December.
He’s here to create new memories, ones that he won’t want to forget.
“That’s probably one of the most exciting opportunities for me, just to learn what it’s like living out here and meeting people and what it’s like as far as support,” Meyers said. “I’m excited to get to meet everybody. I mean I’m not turning down any conversation. I really am excited to just embrace the community and embrace everybody.”
NOTES: The Raiders signed safety Jaquan Johnson, who played for the Buffalo Bills the past four seasons. He has four starts in 60 games, with 39 tackles and two interceptions. He started three games last season, and made a career-high 25 tackles. They also added wide receiver Cam Sims, who played for Washington the past five seasons. He caught eight passes for 89 yards last season, and for his career has 57 receptions for 804 and three touchdowns.
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