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Day One: Camp Opens

NFL writer Jerry McDonald

Posted by Jerry McDonald, NFL editor and writer for ANG Newspapers
The buildup was more exciting than the actual event.

The 2005 Oakland Raiders took the field for the first time Friday afternoon behind the Napa Marriott, away from the prying eyes of the general public.

A whirlwind offseason that brought wide receiver Randy Moss and running back LaMont Jordan to the offense and a host of new faces to a beleaguered defense brought with it a level of excitement far exceeding the reality of its importance.

To steal a line from Allen Iverson, “We’re talking about practice.”

And that’s all it was. Just practice. One of 30 practices which will help in molding the 2005 Raiders before camp breaks August 24.

With one-30th of the precincts reporting, we’re ready to project nothing except that the Raiders’ primary colors will still be silver and black when they open Sept. 8 in New England.

Preseason Rules
Rule No. 1 for a successful training camp practice is that nobody of import gets hurt. Rule No. 2 says “refer to Rule No. 1.”

By that standard, Friday’s 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. workout was a rousing debut.

The Raiders went in pads and did some actual hitting, an encouraging sign for a team which has gotten considerably younger and may be intent on being more physical.

Coach Norv Turner said he was pleased to see enthusiasm that was legitimate and not forced. It was, all in all, a fine practice, he said. Which is exactly what he said after virtually every practice last year, when Oakland finished 5-11.

Fireworks, what fireworks?
As for fireworks, there were none.

Moss never got loose deep, catching a few intermediate range passes and spending much of his time encouraging others. He’s not ready to be so giving with the media, however. He turned aside all interview requests.

Moss once lined up opposite cornerback Charles Woodson. Surely, this would be the first great training camp moment. Quarterback Kerry Collins fumbled the snap from center Jake Grove.

If you want to attach significance to one-30th of a training camp, the Raiders will run a predominantly 4-3 defense, starting Bobby Hamilton, Warren Sapp, Ted Washington and Tommy Kelly up front. The three linebackers will be Tyler Brayton, Danny Clark and Sam Williams, with Charles Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha at the corners and Marques Anderson and Stuart Schweigert at safety.

Not that this unit did anything extraordinary. It’s just the way they lined up a good deal of the time on Day 1.

Modesty Makes A Debut
Cornerback Fabian Washington is the anti-Phillip Buchanon. He didn’t pull a hamstring on the first day, as Buchanon did in 2003. He didn’t stride past the media, eyes straight ahead and ignore requests, as Buchanon did.

Washington didn’t proclaim his greatness or give himself a nickname, which is what Buchanon did when he wasn’t ignoring people.

Instead, Washington vowed to get better.

“I’ve got to learn everything. Everything,” Washington said. “I’ve learned a great deal since I’ve been working with the coaches, but there is still so much more I can learn.”

Washington was fielding punts along with Chris Carr, a free agent rookie out of Boise State.

High Roller On Tap
The Raiders and Charles Woodson are proclaiming a happy marriage, and there’s no question Woodson is delighted to be collecting a $10.5 million salary, as he pointed out to reporters.

But whether they say it or not, the Raiders had no intention of getting stuck with that salary. They’ve had to renegotiate the contracts of just about every key veteran to accommodate it, and they’ll have difficulty filling a void with a high-salaried player if they’re struck by injury.

Woodson and his agent Carl Poston clearly out-maneuvered the Raiders in their postseason franchise free agent dance.

If the NFL won’t let him wear No. 2, the number Woodson wore while winning the Heisman Trophy at Michigan, they ought to let him wear his new favorite number – 10.5.

Light On The VIPs
It was a pretty low-key day all in all. Not many invited guests were on the agenda, and Al Davis didn’t make a public appearance. A few renegades attempting to talk on cell phones were successfully stopped by security before they relayed secrets to Mike Shanahan and Dick Vermeil.

Hiding Something
Travian Smith was released because of what was described as a “pre-existing” knee injury.

Pre-existing what? He’s been a Raider for seven years, totaling 84 games. It’s doubtful he had the injury in college at Oklahoma.

Kicking Back
Being a kicker remains the best gig going. Practice began at 4 p.m., and Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski were on their way to the showers at 4:35 p.m.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer