ALAMEDA — Marquette King has temporarily lost his normally sunny demeanor, looking as if he caught a punt off the side of his foot and watched it sail out of bounds at the 35-yard line.
It’s a day after coach Jack Del Rio said King had his best performance in the 20 games they’ve been together. King earned a game ball following a 28-27 win over the Ravens.
So naturally, reporters have questions. Except the King who is usually open, friendly and full of nonsense in casual conversation has been replaced by a reticent interview subject who would rather not talk on the record.
King begins to walk away, but is too good natured to leave without comment.
“I don’t know. I don’t feel like I played my best,” King said.
The exaggerations continue when he later says, “Bro, I’m one of the worst punters in the league. I’m not good.”
OK, so perhaps King doesn’t like to call attention to himself.
Except, of course, when he’s flexing his biceps in a salute to muscular referee Ed Hochuli. Or doing a Ray Lewis dance in Baltimore. Or wearing a green Power Rangers mask to the first day of training camp.
A check of King’s Instagram account finds him wearing a horse head mask in the days after he was fined $18,000 for a horse collar tackle, imitating a hummingbird near a back-yard feeder and also playing the piano, a hobby he picked up a year ago.
King said he’s never had a lesson, taking lessons on YouTube.
“I don’t know, man. I just do whatever I want to do,” King said. “I just like to have fun and I’m going to always try and bring the party with me. Turn up, man.”
Del Rio chalked up the Lewis dance to a generation gap, and said he was fine with King expressing himself as long as opponents keep ending up with their backs to end zone.
The Raiders host San Diego on Sunday, with quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Michael Crabtree and defensive end Khalil Mack among the headline grabbers.
Carr, however, mentioned “punter” as one of the Raiders biggest weapons.
“We’ve been in some backed up situations where he’s completely flipped the field,” Carr said. “He’s a different cat, Marquette. I tell him that all the time. But I love him.”
An organization that produced a Hall of Fame punter in Ray Guy and the NFL’s all-time leader in gross punting in Shane Lechler has a third punter performing at an elite level. King is tied for third with a 50.0 average and is second in the NFL with 11 punts inside the 20, with just three touchbacks.
Since the start of the 2014 season, King has placed 71 punts inside the 20 with just seven touchbacks.
“He has the ability to be like those guys, it’s just whether or not he can do it over that kind of time,” Raiders special teams coordinator Brad Seely said.
King is in such good condition the Raiders never brought a second leg to training camp.
“I’ve got to try and hold him back because he wants to take all the reps,” Seely said. “He’s still at the age where he can handle it physically.”
Long-snapper Jon Condo said, “Nobody will outwork him.”
Raiders rookie Jalen Richard feels comfortable returning punts in large part because he gets to practice with King.
“He punts this crazy knuckleball and when it drops, it goes like this,” Richard said with a zig-zag motion. “I’ve seen some dead balls, but nothing like what he does.”
But King is devout in his belief in both work and play, something Seely had to get adjusted to when he arrived with Del Rio’s staff.
“When I got here, it was like, ‘Do you think you need to do all that stuff?’ ” Seely said. “But I think that’s just him. It’s just his personality. He’s full of life, and he’s got a lot of questions about stuff — not just football. He’s got this wide-eyed view of the world that makes him fun to be around.”
Richard also finds King’s free-spirited attitude to be refreshing.
“He came in wearing Ninja Turtle slippers one day,” Richard said. ” I don’t know of too many punters who have personality like he does. When you’re around guys like that you can relax and know you can have fun out there.”
Condo and place kicker Sebastian Janikowski aren’t always sure what to make of King.
“Being older guys, married and having kids, he doesn’t relate to us in that aspect, There’s a lot of things he doesn’t think about,” Condo said. “But his personality, it forces Seabass and I to think in a younger mindset.”
Condo sees it as away for King to be at his best on game day.
“The things he does, it’s to keep him calm out there,” Condo said. “It keeps him loose and relaxed. He doesn’t want to be uptight.”