ALAMEDA — Donald Penn had just put pen to paper in the Raiders’ headquarters when he strutted into the locker room with a new two-year, $21 million contract extension.
“Now I can focus on football,” the Raiders’ left tackle said. “I can just enjoy my teammates, enjoy everything, enjoy the process and just focus on football because it was a lot of doubt and I didn’t want to hit free agency again. That was the one thing I tried to make sure.”
Penn missed all of training camp holding out for 26 days, seeking a new contract while set to make $5.8 million this season before hitting free agency. He’s still scheduled to make that this year but has added incentives for 2017 that could result in guarantees into 2019, per NFL Network. The entire Raiders’ starting offensive line is now set for at least the next two seasons.
Penn on returning w/o new contract: “Even if I don’t do this & this doesn’t happen, I’m not gonna miss out on a chance to get a Super Bowl.” pic.twitter.com/0JHZH2AJVf
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) September 15, 2017
As recently as Sunday, though, Penn had no assurance a new deal would get done. He had “serious doubts” about a deal reaching completion and didn’t see an agreement in sight. He described contract talks as “dull” and “quiet” until talking with Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie after the Raiders’ 26-16 win over Tennessee.
Before that game, he later confessed, he was worried about his fitness despite training with ProActive in Los Angeles during his holdout. Penn surprised himself with his performance last Sunday, playing all 66 offensive snaps.
“Yeah, that was a question mark,” Raiders’ coach Jack Del Rio said Friday of Penn’s fitness. We were prepared to adjust if we needed to. Obviously, we went through the whole preseason without him, or most of it, so we had an idea of what we needed to do in the case that he did struggle. He did not. His conditioning really held up. He really did a nice job making his way through that game and playing well for us.”
Penn’s 157 consecutive regular-season starts rank second among active offensive linemen. He was named to the Pro Bowl last season and the desire to go further than the first round of the playoffs drew him back to Oakland. Now, the 34-year-old will likely be able to retire as he pleases, with the Raiders.
“When I came here, if you guys ever listened to my first interview when I got here, I said my mission is to return us to greatness,” Penn said.” Mission ain’t complete. I’ve taken steps forward on the mission, but the mission isn’t complete yet. We got a good thing here. I didn’t wanna leave.
“That’s the reason why I came in early on the holdout because if this contract didn’t happen, a Super Bowl championship is priceless. And that’s what I was looking at when I came here early. Sucked up my pride and said, ‘We got a bigger mission here. Even if I don’t do this and this doesn’t happen, I’m not gonna miss out on a chance to get a Super Bowl.’”
Penn said he didn’t want to hold out, and that miscommunication between his camp and the organization stalled contract talks. He eventually returned to the team on Aug. 23 but wouldn’t delve into any details regarding his holdout. Friday he admitted there were times he returned home with his morale shot after working out because talks weren’t advancing, but his wife and kids provided support.
In the end, Penn’s faith in the organization was reciprocated. Both sides have what they want and Penn will be on the field Sunday for his 158th start, new extension and all.
“Once we finally got that communication right and everybody’s on the same page, it happened,” Penn said. ” … I’m very blessed and honored that Mr. Davis and the organization has that love for me and I’m gonna be able to live out my childhood dream and retire a Raider.”
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