NAPA — Two years ago, Marshall Newhouse was ready to put his NFL career behind him and move on to the next chapter of his life.
Now he’s a part of an Oakland Raiders team that many expect to push New England for the top spot in the AFC — at a position he wasn’t even signed to play.
Life certainly has changed for the 28-year-old, from his outlook on life and football to the way he views his role with the Raiders.
Signed as a free agent to play right tackle in Oakland, Newhouse has been working exclusively at left tackle in training camp in place of holdout Donald Penn. That’s not the way Newhouse or coach Jack Del Rio envisioned things but it’s the way the situation has played out.
“It’s not ideal and it’s not perfectly seamless but I don’t think anything in football is,” Newhouse said Tuesday following the Raiders’ midmorning workout. “Unless you’re a top superstar player, you’ve got to find a role and be a piece that fits. Right now, for me, that piece is left tackle.”
Newhouse’s first 10 career starts came at left tackle while he was in Green Bay, but he’s worked almost exclusively at right tackle since then.
That’s where the Raiders penciled him in during the offseason and where they expected him to be at the start of training camp after not getting much out of the position a year ago. Menelik Watson was allowed to walk away as a free agent and Austin Howard was released in the days leading up to camp.
Newhouse, who had spent all offseason working on the right side, was moved when Penn decided to hold out in a contract dispute. The two-time Pro Bowl left tackle is in the final year of a contract and is scheduled to earn $5.8 million in base salary in 2017.
Vadal Alexander is working at right tackle.
“The shuffle that takes place whenever somebody’s down, whether it be from injury or whether it be from contract squabbles, I think those are just realities of football,” Del Rio said. “Guys that are capable of swinging, like Marshall, will be asked to swing. Then working other guys as well, you know, that will be cross-trained to make sure that we can take full advantage of the versatility.
“That’s part of the benefit, that’s part of the positive spin there if you look at it that way — when one guy’s had something happen that’s misfortune — another guy gets an opportunity that might not have been there.”
Newhouse wouldn’t have even been in the picture had he followed through on his plans to retire following the 2014 season. He had spent his first four years in Green Bay, then signed with Cincinnati, where his personal and professional lives began to suffer.
After that one disappointing season with the Bengals, Newhouse signed with the New York Giants and spent two years there before joining the Raiders. Each time, the change of scenery helped.
“Just had to reinvent my approach and reinvent my emotional and mental makeup,” Newhouse said. “We lift weights in here. I had to lift weights emotionally and mentally.”
The Raiders like what they’ve seen from Newhouse so far.
During a team scrimmage portion of practice Tuesday, running back Marshawn Lynch powered his way through a pack of defenders near the line of scrimmage and into the open field for what would have been a touchdown. Newhouse was not far behind Lynch, sprinting as fast as he could.
Newhouse also gives the Raiders something they’ve been lacking: playoff experience. He has made it to the playoffs five times and won a Super Bowl ring with the Packers in 2011.