Darren Waller did not miss a recreation throughout his first two seasons as a starter for the Raiders. That modified in 2021 when he missed 5 video games with a knee damage, again damage and a quick stint on the COVID listing.

Lacking time is not simple for any NFL participant, however it proved particularly tough for Waller. Because the Raiders put together for his or her Wild Card recreation vs. the Bengals, the 29-year-old tight finish opened up about his battles with substance abuse and dependancy have been examined whereas he was out of the lineup.

“Due to my illness of dependancy, that may have me considering every kind of loopy issues,” Waller mentioned, per ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez. “So, I’ve acquired to make it possible for I am speaking about these issues when I’ve all that idle time. I’ve acquired my therapist. Keep going to [A.A.] conferences. Stayed within the playbook. Engaged on music. Simply staying strong, retaining my head out of that idle time and simply into issues that I take pleasure in. And keep into the sport of soccer as a lot as I can.”

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Waller has been open about his struggles within the past– they practically derailed his NFL profession. He failed a number of drug assessments throughout his time with the Ravens and was suspended twice, lacking 4 video games in 2016 and serving a season-long suspension in 2017.

“I sabotaged that complete factor myself,” Waller mentioned of the failed assessments in a Sept. 2020 interview with Steve Serby of The New York Publish. “I willingly failed my assessments to be put out of the league as a result of in my thoughts I’d moderately have them put me out of my distress, so I actually orchestrated that to occur ’trigger that’s how a lot I needed to get away and simply be on my own.”

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Nonetheless, Waller’s 2017 suspension served as one thing of a wake-up name. He has been sober for greater than 4 years now and has labored onerous to keep up his sobriety. That features the interior battles he fought throughout his current stint out of motion.

“It is robust, truthfully, as a result of I am a human being on the finish of the day and I am nonetheless attempting to shed my previous considering patterns,” Waller informed ESPN. “So, after I’m not on the market [playing], I can suppose these ideas of, ‘The group is balling with out me being in there. Am I ineffective?’ These irrational ideas.

“I needed to be prepared to remain within the practices that I’ve that carry me again down from that place — ‘Woah, woah, woah, it isn’t even that anymore.’ I am not on the market performing, per se, however I nonetheless have a task on this group. However generally my thoughts can inform me, ‘Ah, man, you ain’t actually doing nothing. You out.’

“So it is simply staying locked in. I’ve to do this as a result of my thoughts can take me to these locations. And I do not wish to be there anymore.”

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Waller returned to the sector for the Raiders in Week 18 and he logged two catches for 22 yards. Now, he’ll have an opportunity to play in his first profession playoff recreation on Saturday when the Raiders journey to Cincinnati to tackle the Bengals.

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