ALAMEDA -- Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer have not only the same birthday but also a shared experience.
The training camp roommates and new starting cornerbacks for the Raiders became fast friends, occasionally comparing notes about their parallel existence of being on the outside looking in during the 2011 season.
"We're both very grateful for the opportunity to be here and at the same time excited to be playing the game of football," Spencer said.
As part of general manager Reggie McKenzie's plan to put the club's financial house in order, the Raiders brought in Bartell and Spencer for less than $4 million this season ($3 million for Bartell, $825,000 for Spencer) a little more than a month after releasing Stanford Routt to avoid paying $20 million in guaranteed money.
The 30-year-old cornerbacks (both born on Feb. 22, 1982) paid off handsomely in a 31-20 exhibition win over the Detroit Lions. Both saw duty against Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Bartell in particular, and held "Megatron" to one catch for 7 yards.
In last season's regular-season game against the Raiders, Johnson had nine catches for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
Other than the first few days of training camp, when Bartell worked through a hamstring strain, neither has missed a practice. Their professionalism during film study and in the meeting room, an area of huge importance to McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen, has been exemplary.
Bartell's season with the St. Louis Rams was over after he suffered a broken neck in the season opener. He spent the season rehabbing on injured reserve and getting cleared medically to continue his career.
Three seasons into a five-year contract, St. Louis released Bartell on March 12. He signed with the Raiders four days later.
"I honestly feel like I'm a better player than I ever was before," Bartell said. "The rust is gone. There's no hesitation as far as coming in, sticking my head in there, making tackles. From a coverage aspect I feel a lot better. I feel this scheme suits me perfectly, and with the front four we have, those guys will make it a lot easier on us; we don't have to cover as long."
Spencer's season with the 49ers was even more frustrating in that he got buried on the depth chart after a preseason hamstring injury. After 32 starts in 2009 and 2010, Spencer was active for just nine games and inactive for the playoffs in Jim Harbaugh's first year as head coach.
The 49ers released Spencer on March 15, and four days
Spencer and Bartell have experience in defenses that play in multiple schemes rather than the standard four-man line with a single deep safety and man-to-man coverage the Raiders have been known for in the Al Davis years.
"Now it's multiple looks, personnel groupings and things that give you an opportunity to make plays by showing one thing and then executing another to the quarterback," Spencer said. "Just hearing the guys who have been here talk, it's very exciting."
Allen said the fact that both players were non-factors last season plays a role in their preparation.
"There's a hunger there to go out and reprove themselves, that they belong in the league," Allen said.