Punter Marquette King is entering his seventh NFL season. He has seen players come and go. He knows the NFL is a business as well as a game. But if he needed a reminder at how quickly life can come at you, he got it a day or two before his March 30 release from the Oakland Raiders, while binge-watching the final episodes of "Narcos," a Netflix drama chronicling the rise and fall of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.
"It's crazy how you can have something one day and it's taken from you the next," King said on Sunday, recalling what was on his mind when he was watching the show.
Less than 24 hours later, after King coated his breakfast French toast with butter and maple syrup, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie called to say the team would be releasing him that afternoon. The news stunned King, who had stopped by the training facility earlier that morning to visit the new coaching staff. He didn't want to show up empty-handed, so he brought a box of Snickers for head coach Jon Gruden and a bottle of limoncello for special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.
"They always say Gruden gets intense, and Bisaccia is Italian, so I just tried to find things that would be perfect for them," he said.
The coaching staff was out that day, so King headed to a friend's place before going out for a late breakfast. He was stopped on the way inside the restaurant by a fan, who praised him and expressed pride that King was representing Oakland. One of his first thoughts after receiving the call from McKenzie: "Oh, snap. My boy's about to delete the picture we just took."
King laughed after telling the story. He has a new team and a new city to call home after signing with the rival Denver Broncos last week. The shock is subsiding. But the disconnect was real in the moment.
"It was like you've been punched in that MMA game and you're in a daze, and if you get hit one more time, you'll get knocked out," King said. "That's what it felt like. I finished the meal, but everything was surreal. It's one of those things where, God forbid, but if somebody calls and says somebody has died that you're close to, there's nothing you can do in that moment. It's going to hit you a little later. But it definitely felt unreal."
King, who earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2016, was coming off a season in which he ranked fourth in the league with a net average of 42.7 yards per punt. The $2.4 million salary King was due for 2018 factored into the Raiders' decision to cut ties, but so did the organization's belief that the punter needed to show greater maturity on and off the field by eliminating unsportsmanlike penalties, post-kick celebrations and social media postings that might be considered harmless to most but are viewed as unnecessary by teams.
"You can't judge me by what you see on TV or social media, and sadly, a lot of people do that," King said. "If those things were an issue, just sit down and tell me. I can be a zombie if you want me to. But everybody knows what they sign up for when they get into professional sports. You know there are going to be ups and downs, and you've got to be able to handle them regardless of the situation, with professionalism and a positive attitude.
"That's why I thanked Reggie McKenzie for the opportunity he gave me. I know I played well, so I wasn't stressing about what was to come. It would have been different if I had a bad year, but I had a good year and I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't break the law or do any domestic violence or hurt people or disrespect people. I'm looking forward to helping Denver, but I do have a huge chip on my shoulder. It's going to be fun to play the Raiders twice a year."