The 89-man active roster of the Oakland Raiders have now all reported to the Napa Valley Training Complex. The boys underwent conditioning tests and had a few team meetings yesterday, and finally took to the field for practice this morning at 8:50am PST. They are the final NFL team to check in to camp and will not play with pads until Wednesday.
I will not post this every time, but I wanted to share the Day 1 Camp Notebook that went up this evening on Raiders.com, written by team reporter, Rebecca Corman.
The Oakland Raiders took the field for the first time of Training Camp 2012, powered by Verizon 4G LTE, at their Napa Valley Training Complex. Practicing in “shells,” the players had the opportunity to play with contact and run around at full speed. The guys were excited to get back to football and prepare for the upcoming season.
Head Coach Dennis Allen was pleased with Monday’s practice. “I thought we had a pretty good first day of practice,” said Coach Allen. “We still have a lot of things that we need to get better at, but I thought for a first day of training camp it was pretty good.”
For C Stefen Wisniewski and SS Mike Mitchell, this practice was a chance to get out on the field for the first time since last season after recovering from injuries. “It feels awesome,” said Wisniewski. “I was standing around doing nothing for awhile and I didn’t like that. It’s been seven months since I’ve played football. It feels awesome; it feels great to be back.”
Mitchell could hardly contain his excitement about getting back to football. “It was a blessing,” said Mitchell. “I’m really excited and really grateful. It felt so good. It felt so good just to do something competitive with my teammates. It was awesome. I was super excited.”
The energy during practice was high for the whole team. “It was good energy,” said rookie LB Nathan Stupar. “We’re all excited to be here, what the season has in store for us, so we’re excited and we’re a great team. We’re bonding already and having fun and we’re excited.”
Veteran WR Darrius Heyward-Bey was also impressed with the energy level. “The energy was good,” said Heyward-Bey. “The defense was flying around. The offense, we looked pretty crisp for the first day. A couple of things here and there, but it’s the first day of practice.”
The pace of practice was quick and efficient. “I think that’s a big emphasis on both sides of the ball,” said WR Jacoby Ford. “We definitely want good tempo. We just want to fly around out there and that’s pretty much the main thing so that when it comes to the game, it just can become easy to us.”
Today began the nearly four week opportunity for players to earn their spot on the 53-man roster. “I’m very serious about it,” said Mitchell. “I still got my good buddies, me, Huff, and Ty, we’re still tight, but it’s more of a business thing for me because I have a lot to prove. It’s a new regime, new coaches, they haven’t seen me at all this year. Today, I was really pretty much playing like it was a game. I wasn’t hitting or tackling anybody, but the intensity and everything was there. That’s how it’s got to be, at least coming from me.”
That intensity and competition is what Coach Allen is looking for from his team day in and day out. “Everyone is competing and that’s what Coach Allen is really emphasizing is competing,” explained Stupar. “After the first day we had a great practice of energy and attitude and competition so it’s going to be fun to see when we get the pads on.”
Training camp is a grind, but the players are willing to do what is necessary to be successful. “It definitely was a long one,” Ford said about the first practice. “But that’s what we come in prepared for in camp and we have to come in and get in football shape. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be tough, but that’s the whole beauty of training camp. It’s what you live for so I’m just excited to get out here and have a new era beginning.”
The team was scheduled to participate in an afternoon walk-through and will take the field again tomorrow for the second practice of Training Camp 2012.
This was a positive piece written by Rebecca and I commend her for it; it’s perfect in the sense that my blog is called “The Silver Lining” and showcases the great attitudes of the players and staff.
One of the highlights of the day that I saw was talked about (and was not mentioned in Rebecca’s article) was our prized running back, Darren McFadden. Even though there was no tackling permitted, head coach Dennis Allen said he looked fast and made it clear that a priority for him that McFadden try to stay healthy for the full regular season. This is not a shocker for Raiders fans; we all agree when it comes to McFadden’s health. CSN’s article regarding Darren McFadden and how he looked in camp today can be found here.
However, I didn’t just read all positive reviews this afternoon. Not everything was kittens, lollipops and rainbows, not even in California wine country.
Paul Gutierrez, the go-to Raiders reporter at CSN, gave a short but sweet injury run-down earlier:
Still scary to see “Lechler (knee)” for me (as you will come to learn, I am very protective of our Pro Bowl kicking team), and I’m not at all counting Lechler out since the injury is not major. The upside? Rookie P Marquette King got a chance to take his snaps. As I saw a few people that were in attendance tweet earlier, King had a few great punts and a few way off – not bad for his first day by the sound of it. Note: The rookie has a solid leg. When he was drafted at the end of April, I tweeted him my congratulations and he tweeted me back his thanks with a highlight reel attached (it’s nine minutes of pure punting awesome).
On the defensive side, LB Aaron Curry was placed on the PUP list after today’s practice, still with a nagging knee injury. It’s unfortunate to see both Curry and CB Ron Bartell unable to participate, but this gave rookie LB Miles Burris and second-year CB DeMarcus Van Dyke a chance to play on the first-team defense. This valuable time is always a plus.
Speaking of knee injuries, WR Jacoby Ford decided to give all of Raider Nation a near heart attack this afternoon! Vic Tafur, sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle, was live-tweeting today’s practice and commented on Ford’s bumble (read from bottom up):
Apparently, Ford had cut on a run and went down grabbing his left knee, eventually walking off of the field gingerly under his own weight. A few other fans tweeted that when Ford jogged back onto the field to return a punt, Ford jumped up and down to show everyone he was okay. He also told Tafur later on “I’m fine. Was scared more than anything”. Phew… slow, deep inhales and exhales.
Aside from the injury report and Ford’s knee scare, the low-light of the day seemed to be second-year QB Terrelle Pryor’s performance, playing on third-team O. A lot of the reaction I saw indicated that Pryor looked a little shaky. Paul Gutierrez mentioned that he fumbled a few times, even tripped over his own feet. Also, Paul’s defensive play of the game came from rookie DT Christo Bilukidi, who returned a failed shovel pass from Pryor for touchdown.
Details of this play are described in this article written by Levi Damien, reporter for Silver & Black Pride, who was live-tweeting and wrote about today’s outing:
Practice ended worse than it started for Pryor. On the final play of the day, the team lined up with their backs against their own goal line, he rolled out left on an attempted screen pass. He was in the end zone and stumbled. While stumbling, he attempted a shovel pass to… someone… and it ended up right in the hands of rookie defensive lineman, Christo Bilukidi, who hauled it in and ran in for a touchdown.
Everyone has a bad day here and there, and to Pryor’s credit it was only the first day, but I believe that this year (redundant of a Raiders fan, I’m well aware) we have a head coach in Dennis Allen that will not baby Pryor the way that Hue Jackson did last year. I read that Allen was quoted saying he will be looking for improvement each day throughout camp and beyond, from Pryor and the rest of the team as well.
It sounds to me like, based on everything GM Reggie McKenzie and HC Dennis Allen have said up to this point, we finally have a general manager and a head coach that agree/get along, respect each other’s positions and are striving for the same result: a successful, disciplined Oakland Raiders team. How can you argue with that?
And so, we shall see how it plays out. I mean, it’s only the first day…
(Click here to see the entire photo gallery on the Raiders’ official website from day one at training camp)