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Mastrud understands Freeman’s NFL plight

Mack McClure

By A Contributor

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Oakland Raiders’ tight end Jeron Mastrud understands newly signed Minnesota Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman’s plight.

Not many know Freeman as well as Mastrud. They shared an off-campus apartment in Manhattan during their playing days for the Kansas State Wildcats (2006-08).

Freeman, a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft, 17th overall, was unceremoniously benched and later released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this season. Learning from afar, Mastrud, a first-year player for the Raiders after spending his first three NFL campaigns with the Miami Dolphins, reached out to his college buddy and confidant.

“We lived together at Kansas State,” Mastrud said on Sunday afternoon inside the Raiders’ locker room after they were dealt a 24-7 loss by the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs (6-0) at Arrowhead Stadium. “I don’t know what the situation was (at Tampa Bay) because I wasn’t there.

“Talking to him, as a friend, I want the best for him. It’s the NFL. You get benched. I’ve been benched … another guy coming in to play, it is sometimes hard to deal with, but he’s in a better situation now.”

With the Vikings, Freeman is vying for the QB job in a muddled situation with Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel.

“I talked to him before he went to Minnesota, and he was optimistic where he was going to go … getting another opportunity,” Mastrud said of his conversation with Freeman.

While at Kansas State, Mastrud became the Wildcats’ career leader for receptions for a tight end (106), while finishing with 1,219 career receiving yards, 18th on the KSU career list.

It was a time when Freeman, who amassed a school-record 8,000-plus passing yards in three seasons, shattered many K-State records before leaving early for the NFL.

“I know how he can play and everyone at K-State knows how he can play,” Mastrud said of Freeman, a Grandview, Mo., native. “He’s got a fresh start in Minnesota.

“I wish him the best, hoping he does well.”

Mastrud, a 6-foot-5, 255-pounder from Beaverton, Ore., is also getting a new lease on his football life.

In the starting lineup with Oakland after playing sparingly in Miami during his first three seasons, Mastrud had one reception for 13 yards against the Chiefs. He now has three catches for 62 yards on the season.

“In Miami, I was the second guy or third guy and played on special teams,” said Mastrud, who was a team captain at K-State in 2009.

Mastrud is slowly being worked into the passing game under Raiders head coach Dennis Allen, who was an assistant with the Dolphins before heading to the Golden State.

“It’s the flow of the game,” Mastrud said, “what we feel as a team is best for us to win the game … what matchups we like the most and whatever they’re calling.

“I’m going to give my best effort, regardless if it’s me blocking in the pass game or catching the ball. Whatever I have to do.”

On Sept. 9, during the Raiders’ season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, Mastrud caught a 41-yard pass from quarterback Terrelle Pryor after going in motion and catching the ball downfield. He clutched his right leg below the knee after the play and limped off the field.

“I got left open,” Mastrud said. “My calf just cramped up. I hadn’t cramped up in a game since high school, but it’s probably the most I’ve played in a game (in the NFL). 

“Regardless, I’m not going to break away from (Colts safety LaRon) Landry, who runs a 4.3. He caught me pretty quick.”

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