JOSH DUBOW, AP Sports Writer
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Raiders released Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece on Monday after his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs was completed.
Reece was suspended late last season and missed the final game of 2015 and the first three this season.
With the Raiders’ running game thriving so far, the team decided it was time to cut ties with its longest-tenured position player.
“I don’t know that the suspension played a big part in the decision,” coach Jack Del Rio said.
“Other than to allow the guys that played, the backfield that we have, we’re using all those guys and they’re all doing a nice job in the roles that they have. We feel like it’s a good group and we don’t want to disrupt it.”
Jamize Olawale has filled Reece’s role as the fullback and is better suited as a lead blocker than the more versatile Reece.
With the additions of rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard for depth behind starter Latavius Murray, there were few available opportunities for another back.
Oakland (2-1) is averaging 148.3 yards rushing for the second-best mark in the NFL and a league-leading 5.9 yards per carry through three games.
Despite that production, Del Rio said it was a difficult decision to let Reece go.
“We have a lot of admiration for the young man and a lot respect for what he brought to this organization for a number of years,” Del Rio said. “We feel like we have a really good group there so we’re making this decision.”
Reece was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl last season before the suspension came down.
In eight seasons, he had 205 receptions for 2,015 yards with 12 touchdowns. He also ran for 844 yards on 183 carries with three touchdowns.
“What he has meant to the organization and to me over the past few years is hard to put into words, but his actions, both on and off the field, speak louder than any words can,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “This was a tough decision. Not enough can be said about Marcel’s commitment to his teammates and his pride in the Raiders, and we wish him and his family nothing but the best.”
The former college wide receiver who made himself into a successful NFL fullback often was a difficult matchup for opponents and was at times one of the few bright spots on some ineffective Oakland offenses.
With his release, there are only three players on the Raiders roster who were brought into the organization by late owner Al Davis, who died in 2011.
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski and long snapper Jon Condo pre-dated Reece’s arrival in Oakland and special teams standout Taiwan Jones was part of Davis’ last draft class.
Reece usually wore a T-shirt honoring Davis during pregame warmups.
Owner Mark Davis, who took over the team after his father’s death, called this a sad day for the Raiders. He also said there will be a place in the organization for Reece after he retires.
“My father once said that I would have a tough time running this organization because I was too close to the players, and that rings true today,” Mark Davis said. “Marcel Reece has been a pillar of the organization for nine years and was the glue that held us together during a tough transition after my father’s passing. He helped put us on the upward path we are on today and his leadership will be sorely missed. The motto, ‘Once a Raider, Always a Raider,’ has never been more appropriate.”
NOTES: The Raiders still have one open roster spot since they haven’t filled the 53rd spot created when DL Mario Edwards Jr. was placed on IR three weeks ago. … Del Rio had no update on the status of RT Menelik Watson, who left Sunday’s game with a strained calf.
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