ALAMEDA (AP) — Oakland Raiders safety Reggie Nelson didn’t spend much time celebrating his second straight selection for the Pro Bowl — and for good reason.
Although the Raiders (11-3) have already secured a spot in the playoffs, there is still plenty more up for grabs before the postseason begins in January.
With a one-game lead over Kansas City in the AFC West, Oakland can win the division for the first time since 2002 by sweeping its final two games against Indianapolis and Denver. There’s also the matter of a first-round bye in the playoffs along with homefield advantage, both of which the Raiders are still in contention for.
Nelson would much rather party for all of that than he would for being voted to the Pro Bowl.
“We still have that carrot out there,” Nelson said Thursday. “There are a lot of goals that we still need to achieve. It doesn’t stop right now. Just because you’re in the playoffs doesn’t mean anything. We have a lot of football left, a division game left. There is a lot of stuff going on right now and I just want to make sure all the young guys stay focused.”
One of the top free agent signings this past offseason by Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, the 33-year-old Nelson has settled in as the leader of Oakland’s secondary after a slow start to the season.
A year after tying Kansas City’s Marcus Peters for the NFL lead with eight interceptions, Nelson has four this season to lead the Raiders. He’s also fourth on the team in tackles, second in fumble recoveries and third in passes defensed.
Equally important, according to Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, has been Nelson’s impact in the locker room.
Not that Del Rio was surprised. He was in the midst of a nine-year run as Jacksonville’s coach when the Jaguars made Nelson a first-round pick in 2007.
“He’s matured,” Del Rio said. “I think we all mature. When we got back together he was like, ‘Coach, a lot of those things you were saying were right on the money. I’m actually ready to do them now.’ It was a good thing.
“He’s been a tremendous addition to our football team. He just loves ball. He loves life. He always has a smile. He’s a great teammate. He’s been a good leader for us.”
Three of Nelson’s interceptions have come in the past eight games, including last week against San Diego when he stepped in front of a Philip Rivers pass on the Chargers’ final drive to secure Oakland’s 19-16 win.
“He’s always been a ball hawk,” Del Rio said. “He’s been doing it a long time.”
Nelson is one of the few players on Oakland’s roster with extended postseason experience. He went to the playoffs six times with Jacksonville and Cincinnati, though his teams won just once in that span.
Maybe that explains his nonchalant reaction when asked what his second straight Pro Bowl selection meant. Nelson looked up, smiled then shrugged his shoulders.
“Nothing, to be honest with you,” Nelson said. “It was short-lived. It’s hard to comment on something when you didn’t do it by yourself. It’s a great accomplishment but my focus is worrying about the Colts right now. It’s a good team coming in here fighting for the playoffs, trying to get where we’re at right now.”
Notes: Del Rio declined to say whether or not defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. would be activated off injured reserve this week but hinted it might happen. “We’ll work through that,” Del Rio said. “Obviously you have to make a (roster) move to get him active before we can activate him and play him but I think he’s had a good week.”
. Left guard Kelechi Osemele was limited in practice after sitting out Wednesday with an ankle injury. First-round draft pick Karl Joseph (toe) continues to be sidelined.
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