Hunter Renfrow says he let down Raiders teammates in 2022, determined for bounce-back season

FILE - Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) runs the ball against the Kansas...
FILE - Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) runs the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of an NFL football game Jan. 7, 2023, in Las Vegas. Since being drafted in the fifth round in 2019, Renfrow has asserted himself as one of the NFL's top receivers, but played in only 10 games last season because of injuries and posted career-low numbers. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)(Rick Scuteri | AP)
Published: Aug. 4, 2023 at 8:34 AM EDT
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HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow spent the two previous offseasons in Las Vegas. However after last season he decided he needed to take a trip to clear his mind.

He drove his truck cross country back to his home state of South Carolina, determined to come back strong after his most difficult season since being selected in the fifth round of the 2019 draft.

“I’ve always gone by two things of the way I measure my success in the season — not letting my teammates down and being the reason why we win games,” Renfrow said. “I feel like I didn’t do a very good job with either one of those last year, and that’s why I didn’t have the most fun.”

There were a number of factors of why Renfrow went from catching 103 passes for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns in 2021 to finishing last season with 36 catches for 330 yards and two touchdowns. A concussion early in the season and an oblique injury later in the season were among them.

Renfrow didn’t appear to be a fit in then-first year coach Josh McDaniels’ system, going from nine starts the year before to just one last season. That prompted speculation about whether the Raiders, who have a crowded and talented wide receivers room, would be willing to trade Renfrow.

They didn’t — at least not yet — but the trade talk was difficult to ignore.

“I didn’t necessarily have a lot of fun last year,” Renfrow said. “So that’s my big thing for this year, is to find ways to have fun and not really care about the outside noise.”

That work began in South Carolina, and Renfrow said he got “back to the basics, back to why you love the game.”

He also decided not to be concerned about what was out of his control. That’s the mindset Renfrow took with him when he returned to Las Vegas.

“Hunter is healthy, ready to roll, and came back this spring and had a great mindset, great attitude, great approach,” McDaniels said. “It’s just been exciting to see him.”

Renfrow appears much more comfortable in McDaniels’ system so far in training camp, but it’s early. The Raiders’ coaches have a lot of tough decisions to make when it comes to deciding on their wide receivers and the roles they will play.

There also is the matter of playing with a new quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo. Getting that timing down is still a work in progress, though there have been promising moments in practice.

“Man, he’s crafty, not even just physically but mentally, too,” said wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who was signed by the Raiders in the offseason after he spent four seasons in New England. “The way he puts routes together or thinks about routes before he even runs them, it’s a unique skill set.”

If Renfrow can find his place in the scheme and return to the 1,000-yard form of two seasons ago, that would be a big boost to him and the Raiders offense.

“I’m practicing hard to try,” Renfrow said. “I think all of us are. I think everyone out there that practices is doing what they can because they owe it not only to themselves, but they owe it to their teammates.

“I felt like I let a lot of my teammates down last year. That’s something that left a bad taste in my mouth and something that I want to get over and prove to them through the spring and also going into the season that I’m a guy that they can count on and that’s going to be consistent this season.”