By Steve Corkran
Thursday, July 28th, 2011 at 7:19 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Sixty five players participated in the Raiders first training camp practice in Napa on Thursday. That number will increase Friday and over the next week, as free agents are signed and those who have signed but aren’t allowed to practice join the fray.
Teams are allowed to have as many as 90 players in camp and through most of August. Four players who were eligible to practice, failed to take part, for one reason or other.
Rookie offensive tackle Joseph Barksdale signed his contract Thursday morning and didn’t make it to the field in time. Second-year offensive lineman, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and defensive end Trevor Scott are nicked up, according to coach Hue Jackson.
Jackson refused to decline the nature of their injuries. Scott, obviously, still is recovering from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered late last season. He was spotted working out on his own, away from the full-team activities. Campbell and Heyward-Bey arrived early on in practice and watched the proceedings.
Jackson said Scott is on the physically-unable-to-perform list and that Campbell might be, too.
The players absent include restricted free agent Michael Bush, exclusive rights free agents Marcel Reece, Desmond Bryant and Bruce Davis. They can sign their one-year tenders Friday and practice for the first time Aug. 4. Also missing were long-snapper Jon Condo and defensive end Jarvis Moss, who have agreed to contracts.
Free agents signed since the lockout can make their deals official as of 3 p.m. on Friday, but they can’t practice until Aug. 4, either.
So much for all the reports that guard Cooper Carlisle and cornerback Chris Johnson got cut by the Raiders on Thursday. Both participated in practice. It’s conceivable that one or both players restructured his/their contract(s), but we don’t have a definitive answer just yet.
Jackson confirmed that the Raiders expressed interest in acquiring wide receiver Chad Ochocinco before he was traded by the Cincinnati Bengals to the New England Patriots on Thursday,
“Like I said, we looked around at every guy. Yeah, we looked around at every guy that’s been out there. We didn’t just target one guy or another, we just looked for everybody. And, obviously, he was a guy that Cincinnati maybe made some decisions that they wanted to see if they could move him around. But we look at everybody.”
Those curious as to how the Raiders defense might look, consider this alignment for numerous plays during practice:
Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson at cornerback.
Tyvon Branch at free safety, Mike Mitchell at strong safety.
Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves at outside linebacker, with Rolando McClain in the middle.
Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston at defensive end, Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour at defensive tackle.
Branch at free safety, that’s corrrect. Jackson said there’s a real possibility that Branch will play the spot manned by Michael Huff the past five years.
“ Those guys are kind of interchangeable,” Jackson said. “We play those guys all over the place. I know everybody is like, strong safety, free safety. For us, for the Raiders, those guys are safeties, and they can play either one. Both of those guys back there, him and Mitchell, they both have done it, they know how to do it, they’re getting very well coached. Kevin Ross does a great job. We just got to continue to keep seeing different looks, different situations that happen in practice to keep getting better.”
The clear-cut standout on offense Thursday was second-year receiver Jacoby Ford. Twice he caught deep throws from Jason Campbell that turned into long touchdowns. He beat Stevie Brown on the first one. Routt and Branch fell prey the second time around.
Receiver Louis Murphy also made a nice over-the-shoulder catch from Campbell, with Routt and Mitchell unable to get there in time.
Receiver Chaz Schilens laid out head first for an overthrown pass that hit the ground before Schilens could reach it. No worries about injury. Schilens jumped to his feet in about one second and ran back to the huddle. Afterward, he said that if he is seen on the field, that means all is well with his foot and knee.
“You know what’s coming. Now get it stopped. get it stopped.” That’s one sampling of the fiery personality Jackson displays throughout practice. And don’t expect him to change now that he is the coach.
“I’m not going to change,” Jackson said. “I know one way. I go full speed, I go hard and I expect our players to go full speed and go hard. I don’t know anything else. And I’m not going to change as long as I’m here as the head coach. That’s all I know. I don’t know how to do it any other way, and it’s the best way for our football team.”
Seymour made his presence felt on one play when he arrived in the backfield just as running back Michael Bennett received the hand-off. Seymour flattened Bennett with a firm left shoulder before Bennett could react. There were high-fives and slaps all around for Seymour.
Jackson said that rookie David Ausberry has been converted to tight end. Ausberry played mostly wide receiver at Southern Cal. At 6-feet-4 and 245 pounds, he likely is better suited to play tight end in the NFL.
Carlisle lined up at right guard with the first team on most downs, especially in full-team drills. Jared Veldheer played left tackle, Daniel Loper left guard, rookie Stefen Wisniewski center and undrafted rookie Alan Pelc right tackle.
Campbell said he feels more at ease this year, in part because he isn’t the new guy on the block, with all the spotlights trained upon him, but also because he feels as if he doesn’t have to worry about losing his job on short notice.
“It makes you feel like you earned something,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t nothing given to you. I remember when I got traded here, it wasn’t automatic. You’ve got to go out and earn it, and guys want to see you earn it. If something is given to you and you feel like you didn’t work for it, they’re not going to respect you as much. But if they see you go out and try to earn it and respect it and to earn it the right way, it means much more, then you get more respected. This is what you expect as a player.”
Wisniewski received high praise from Jackson, especially for the way he held up against veteran tackles Seymour and Kelly breathing down his neck most snaps.
“That was definitely a great welcome to NFL, blocking Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly, two of the best in the league,” Wisniewski said. “I am excited about the challenge. They are going to kick my butt some time, but that’s fine. It’s going to make me better. To be honest, you want to be practicing against the best because when you get in the games it’s like, ‘Oh, these guys are good, too, but they’re no Richard Seymour.’ ”