NAPA Marcel Reece still doesn't feel quite like himself after an offseason in which his mixed martial arts training took up time spent away from football.
"I'm still knocking the dust off a little bit. I don't feel quite as fluid as I want to be or as fast or as quick as I want to be, but it'll come," Reece said. "It just feels good being on the same page with (quarterback) Carson (Palmer). It's always good to be friends with guys that are your teammates because the chemistry just picks up right where it left off."
Reece missed most of the offseason program waiting for a contract offer he never received. Reece, a restricted rights free agent, eventually signed his one-year tender worth $540,000.
Despite the late start, Reece has been making impressive catches since joining his teammates in early June.
"I've been impressed with Marcel," coach Dennis Allen said this week. "I think he's an exceptional athlete as a fullback. I think Marcel, his role will be defined as we get the pads on and see where he's at from that standpoint."
While away from the team, Reece kept tabs on the new offense by staying in touch with teammates. It also helped that Greg Knapp has returned to Oakland. Knapp was the Raiders' offensive coordinator when Reece joined the team as an undrafted rookie in 2008 after playing wide receiver in college.
Reece said he had never been away that long from his teammates as a football player.
"Even during the lockout, I was around the team more than I was this year," Reece said. "To be honest, that was the hardest part for me. And also I never want to give a bad impression of myself on a new coach and a new GM.
"I was always in constant communication with everyone, but, yeah, this is the longest ever, and hopefully it never has to happen again."
Depending on how Reece plays, the Raiders might not have a choice but to reward him with a long-term deal, even though he will be a restricted free agent.
Even though an ankle injury cost Reece four games last season, he was a Pro Bowl alternate with 112 rushing yards and 301 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
There aren't many 6-foot-1, 255-pound players that played wide receiver in college like Reece, so he gives the Raiders unique options on offense.
"He's not really a fullback, he's not a tight end, he's not a receiver," Palmer said. "We're going to split him out and have him run routes. We're going to have him run screens. He might even run the ball like he did at times last year. He's going to have to block if he's going to play fullback every once in a while, but that's not what he specializes in. He specializes in (getting) opportunities to get the ball in his hands and (doing) his thing."
The running role is something that could expand for Reece. With Michael Bush leaving as a free agent, the Raiders lack the powerful complement to tailback Darren McFadden that Bush was in recent seasons.
Fellow fullback Owen Schmitt wouldn't mind that scenario.
"I think one element that would be nice if it worked out that way, on the goal line, big backs, that's a lot of poundage, for third downs, you know," Schmitt said. "That's just in my mind, I don't know if that's what we're going to do."
Reece isn't sure if he'll run the ball more. He'd provide size without sacrificing much in speed compared to many players with his size.
But Reece isn't campaigning to take over Bush's role.
"You know what, I'm just gonna do whatever they ask me to do, and if that comes then, of course, I'm gonna be happy and willing to take those carries and perform my best at it," Reece said. "And if it doesn't, it doesn't. I'm gonna do whatever they ask me to do, and I'm gonna do my best at it."