Kirk Morrison's consistent production at middle linebacker has been a given for the Raiders the past five seasons, but his future with the only NFL team he has played for is anything but certain.
Morrison is in the final season of a five-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2005, so Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens could be his last in a Raiders uniform.
"My main focus right now is just finishing up the season strong," Morrison said. "All the other stuff is for me to think about in the offseason. You don't let that get in your mind."
The Bishop O'Dowd High product has enough years to become an unrestricted free agent and field offers from any of the league's 32 teams, including the Raiders. However, it's possible Morrison won't get that chance if the players and owners can't agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Such a scenario would lead to an uncapped season and mean players would need six seasons — the current requirement is four seasons — to become an unrestricted free agent.
In that case, the Raiders could tender Morrison a one-year offer as a restricted free agent. Morrison still would be free to negotiate with other teams, but the Raiders would have the right to match an offer sheet from another team and keep him.
If the Raiders refused to match an offer from another team, they would be eligible for compensation in the form a draft pick depending upon the amount of their one-year tender.
It would appear the Raiders have no interest in letting Morrison get away. He is eighth in the league with 123 tackles through 15 games.
But his ability as a long-term answer in the middle was called into question by coach Tom Cable during the offseason, when the starting job was put up for grabs between Morrison and Ricky Brown.
Morrison prevailed with a strong showing during training camp and in Oakland's four exhibition games. At the same time, it opened his eyes to the tenuous nature of the NFL.
Sunday's game also gives Morrison another opportunity to play in a game that features his idol, Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
They met a few years ago and keep in contact on a regular basis through text messages and phone calls, Lewis said. Morrison also receives advice from Lewis on how to improve his play.
"He tells me all the time, 'I'm chasing what you've done,' " Lewis said of Morrison in a conference call with Bay Area media Wednesday. "I told him, 'That takes just total sacrifice of whatever you want to do. Go create you own legacy, do what you do, but you've got to be outworking everybody else.' "
Morrison said he has taken Lewis' advice to heart and is confident the work in progress will be evident Sunday.
"I am looking forward to playing against someone that I have admired in this league for a long time," Morrison said. "So, for me, it is big stage and a big game (Sunday). You want to go out there and prove you belong."
Morrison is one of numerous players who seek out Lewis for guidance and advice. Lewis said Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour has been in the loop since he joined the NFL in 2001.
"Me and these players have great conversations as men," Lewis said. "How to be a better man, how to prepare better, how to be a better businessman, all these different things. What mistakes not to make in business and football. My arms are always open, my brain is always open, my phone is always on for any of these guys."