When Oakland Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt signed a three-year, $31.5 million extension on Feb. 24, it was the end of a long journey on the way to leaguewide respect. Selected in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft by the Raiders after posting the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.27) of any defensive back in the new millennium, Routt took his lumps early on as he struggled (as most new NFL players do) to the speed and complexity of the game.
But in 2009, the team saw enough of what it liked to put a first- and third-round tender on the restricted free agent. And in 2010, Routt beat out fellow cornerback Chris Johnson for the starting job opposite the great Nnamdi Asomugha. According to STATS, Inc.'s final 2010 numbers, Routt finished second among top cornerbacks in completed passes allowed (behind only Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets), and placed among the league leaders in yards per attempt and completion percentage allowed. He gave up just four touchdown passes in 2010, which amounted to just under 5 percent of all passes thrown his way.
Very impressive numbers given Oakland's aggressive press coverage scheme and the fact that so many quarterbacks refused to throw in Asomugha's area. And with Asomugha's free agency most likely taking him somewhere else whenever the labor mess gets cleaned up, Routt is being paid to be "The Man" in that secondary in every way.
It was my pleasure to talk with Stanford earlier this month for this half-hour podcast covering a wide range of subjects — from his own scouting combine experiences, to his rise in the NFL ranks, to the truth about Al Davis, and to the perception of players in the CBA battles. It's well worth a listen.