HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller is ready for the start of the season — contract extension, or not.
Waller spoke to the media Tuesday, the first time since announcing last week he was switching agents, from Klutch Sports to Drew Rosenhaus and Robert Bailey.
When asked to confirm if he’ll be on the field for Sunday’s opener at the Los Angeles Chargers, Waller kept it simple and replied with his trademark grin: “Yeah.”
“It’s great to be here, it’s a blessing to have a game coming up,” Waller said. “I don’t think there’s nothing else I can be more excited about than this (game).”
Waller, whose average annual salary ranks 17th among all tight ends in the NFL, according to the website Over The Cap, has two years remaining on the contract he signed during the 2019 season.
Through a text message to The Associated Press on Tuesday morning, Rosenhaus replied, “Working hard on this right now. Doing our best to get something done.”
Waller, who is owed just less than $14 million in those years with no guaranteed money, ranks second in the NFL among all tight ends with 252 catches for 3,006 yards since becoming a starter in 2019, trailing only Kansas City’s Travis Kelce in both categories. He is also tied for fifth with 14 TD receptions the past three seasons.
And while he said a new deal that reflects his production would be nice, his focus has been on rejoining his teammates after his significant absence during training camp after practicing just one time since July 30 due to an undisclosed injury. He returned to the field last week.
“It’s tough man because I did want to be out there, but I was a little banged up,” he said. “It’s a lot to process mentally, but it be like that sometimes, it’s a whole bunch of ebbs and flows in this league.”
Waller, who turns 30 on Sept. 13, said as a recovering addict and overcoming demons during the early stages of his career has made the negotiation process much easier for him.
“It puts things into perspective cause you really focus on what matters the most in life — and to me, it’s not necessarily money,” Waller said. “To have that contract would be an amazing blessing, but I don’t need that contract to be at peace or to enjoy my life. Events like (recovery), going through things like that, really puts things into perspective as far as what really matters.
“Things may not go exactly how you want them to go, but that shouldn’t affect commitment that you have to show up somewhere and give your best. So I try to honor that and not just talk about it but actually be a part of my character.”
Aligning himself with Rosenhaus, one of the most powerful agents in sports, has also eased Waller’s mind.
“I’ve been at peace with my decision, I feel like it was something that I wanted to do and what’s best for me,” he said. “It’s been allowing me to just focus on getting my body back to being effective and being out here ready to serve these guys and being the best teammate I could be.”
Waller also confirmed there’s always been an understanding a deal would get done, and the Raiders have been up front with their intentions of taking care of him long-term.
“Communication has been there with my previous representation and now,” Waller said. “I’m cool with that, and yeah it takes time, maybe a little longer than expected. But I trust them, they’ve been open with me. I really respect (Raiders GM) Dave (Ziegler) and how he’s gone about the process. I believe in this organization, I believe in my representation, so yeah, I feel like it will get done.
“I can attack the season now. We’re at Week 1, so nothing that happened before matters.”
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL