NAPA -- Terdell Sands was signed to a four-year, $17 million deal be the Raiders big run stuffer last year.
Unfortunately, the only part of the equation that proved to be true was Sands was big.
He struggled to play well while not just carrying extra weight, but also the burden of having lost his mother in February of last year.
Football took a backseat to grieving.
"I wasn't doing cardio like I should and conditioning, so I kind of got behind in my workouts and stuff," Sands said. "So it was a big part of last year."
Sands wasn't the player the Raiders saw in 2006 when he emerged as a player that could stop the run.
The Raiders finished 31st against the run last season and Sands sees it as his job to fix that. In retrospect, Sands knows he didn't give his best effort in 2007.
"I take (responsibility for) it all, because they look for me to be a big part of it," Sands said. "And like I say, I wasn't mentally in it, so I did some gap responsibility and all my true effort wasn't out there. I thought I was. But when I watch film, it really wasn't like I was the year before. So I take responsibility and put it on myself."
Sands (who is listed at 6-7, 335 but probably heavier) is in better shape this year. He won't discuss how much weight he lost except to say "a bunch of it."
What a lighter Sands means he can fight off blocks and play longer.
Sands being able to do that will be key. If he and Tommy Kelly command more than one blocker, the Raiders' athletic linebackers will be free to run to the ball.
Sands sees the difference in himself already.
"I see more getting off the ball," he said. "I see myself in shape, I'm running to the ball more, and I look good. I'm slimmer, so I feel real good."