Coach Dennis Allen has firsthand knowledge of what challenges Marcel Reece can give opposing defenses because he has the speed and hands of a receiver while playing fullback for the Oakland Raiders.
That’s why Allen is so happy to have Reece back under contract to start learning the team’s new offense.
Reece spent the first part of the offseason away from the Raiders as he chose not to sign a $540,000 exclusive rights tender the team gave him in March while hoping to get a long-term deal. He ended his holdout on Monday and is now trying to get up to speed after missing a voluntary minicamp and two weeks of organized team activities.
“He’s behind a little bit but he’s working hard to get caught up in what we’re doing offensively,” Allen said Wednesday. “So, it’s nice to have him back. He’s got a skill set that can be beneficial to us.”
Reece said he’s a quick learner and that it shouldn’t take him long to get up to speed. He has worked previously with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, who also had that role in Reece’s first year with the Raiders in 2008, as well as returning running backs coach Kelly Skipper.
“Some of the terminology is different,” he said. “Just getting back into playing football. It takes a couple of days to get your feet back under you but football is football.”
As an exclusive rights player, Reece was not even allowed to talk to other teams before signing his tender with the Raiders, giving him little leverage at all. He will be eligible to be a restricted free agent after next season and an unrestricted free agent in 2014, but said he wants to be a Raider for life.
Reece did not say whether he talked to the team about signing a long-term deal and said after talking constantly this offseason with running back Darren McFadden and quarterback Carson Palmer that it was time to come back.
“You’re just ready to be back out here,” he said. “You miss the camaraderie with the guys and you get tired of working out by yourself. More or less you just want to be back out here. Like I said, it’s home.”
Reece had 27 catches for 301 yards and two touchdowns last season as well as 17 carries for 112 yards. While most fullbacks are used as dumpoff options in the passing game, Reece has the ability to stretch the field having been a wide receiver in college at Washington.
In his two seasons as a regular player, Reece leads all running backs with 12.2 yards per reception, is tied for second with seven pass plays of at least 25 yards, and is tied for second with five touchdown catches.
He caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Palmer last November against Denver and had a 73-yard reception against the Broncos the previous season.
“He’s an athletic type of fullback,” Allen said. “Where he really excels is in the passing game and the different mismatches that he can create. From our standpoint, as far as being the lead blocker in our scheme, that’s where he’s got the most work that he’s got to work on. But his mismatches in the passing game will be something that we could use.”
With physical back Michael Bush having left for Chicago in free agency, Reece could become an option for short-yardage carries this season for the Raiders. Bush had 19 of Oakland’s 28 carries last season on third or fourth-and-1.
Allen said Reece had that potential but he wanted to see more of Reece before making any decisions.
“Every person that is on offense wants to contribute the best way possible,” Reece said. “Everyone knows I love the ball in my hands. If the opportunity comes about, I will definitely relish that opportunity and make the best out of it.”