By Steve Corkran
Saturday, July 30th, 2011 at 7:19 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Day 3 brought about the first padded practice, with coach Hue Jackson keeping up the intensity that was missing at the start of the past two camps under Tom Cable.
“Phenomenal,” linebacker Kamerion Wimbley said. “It was great. It was a lot of intensity in the beginning. Guys finished up great for their first day being back in pads.”
Early on in practice, Jackson busted out the famed Oklahoma Drill, where players square off against each other and see who prevails.
There were plenty of heated battles. As usual, the drill failed to live up to the hype, with few exceptions.
On one play middle linebacker Rolando McClain laid a pretty good hit on rookie running back Taiwan Jones. A short time later, Jones returned to the field in shorts an baseball cap.
Jackson said Jones suffered a “nick.” Get used to hearing that word quite a bit. It’s a catchphrase that Jackson uses for most injuries. He later said it’s either a groin or hamstring strain.
Jackson said he is encouraged by what he saw from his players.
“I love that,” Jackson said. “That’s the name of the game. If we’re going to be a team that’s building a bully, I can’t all of a sudden walk out there on Sunday, Monday or Thursday and say we are. We’ve got to become one, and our guys understand it’s a contact sport, and we’ve got to line up every now and then and run into each other.”
Rookie cornerback Chimdi Chekwa’s left shoulder popped out of its socket during one-on-one cover drills amongst defensive backs.
“Trainer!” Chekwa hollered a split second after he suffered the injury. Two trainers rushed to Chekwa’s aid and escorted him off the field. Again, Jackson referred to the injury as a “nick.”
Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey missed practice for the third straight day. He spent his time watching and offering tips to the younger receivers.
When asked the reason for his absence, Heyward-Bey refused to give any specifics.
“I can’t really say,” Heyward-Bey said. “Just trying to get back, trying to get ready. I am in meetings and everything, staying on top of everything and being a coach on the sidelines.”
He said he is receiving treatment for his undisclosed injury. When pressed, he said: “It might be a toothache.”
Fellow receiver Chaz Schilens made a nice adjustment on an underthrown pass, with cornerback Walter McFadden in tight coverage. Schilens made a sliding catch, while shielding McFadden from the ball.
Schilens said it’s a “blessing” being back healthy and not rehabilitating from foot and knee injuries the past two seasons.
“There’s always pressure,” Schilens said. “Even the rookies we had last year. Jacoby (Ford), there was pressure on him. He knew he had to make plays. Louis (Murphy) knew he had to make plays. It just is what it is, man. We know we have to win. We know we have to go out there and make plays. The quarterbacks are depending on us, the offense is depending on us. Just the offense as a whole, everyone has pressure.”
Offensive lineman Bruce Campbell actually is on the Non-Football Injury List and not the Physically-Unable-to-Perform List. He had ice on his right knee and missed his third straight practice.
Undrafted rookie tackle Alan Pelc had a day to remember. Wimbley worked him over pretty good on a one-on-one pass-protection drill, with Pelc winding up on the ground. Later, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly slapped Pelc upside the head a few times during a brief skirmish.
For the record, second-year linebacker Travis Goethel gets credit for partaking in the first dustup during camp. He brawled briefly with an offensive lineman before teammates intervened.
Jackson confirmed that the Raiders re-signed offensive lineman Khalif Barnes. He said Barnes will get some work at right offensive tackle but not be limited to that spot for the time being. The Raiders are in need of a replacement for Langston Walker.
Rookie Joseph Barksdale worked at right tackle with the first-team offense. He was joined by Jared Veldheer, Daniel Loper, Stefen Wisniewski and Cooper Carlisle, from left to right, on the line.
Defensively, there doesn’t appear to be much room for long-shots or hopefuls to crack the starting lineup. Once again, the defensive line featured Kelly, Richard Seymour, Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy, the linebackers were Wimbley, McClain and Quentin Groves and the defensive backs Tyvon Branch, Mike Mitchell, Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson.
Walter McFadden jumped a route by Schilens early in practice, stepped in front of Jason Campbell’s pass but dropped the sure interception. Rookie cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke also whiffed on a Campbell pass for Murphy that landed in Van Dyke’s hands at the goal line. Van Dyke dropped down and did some push-ups as punishment for his gaffe.
Jackson raved about the way McClain looks in his second year as the Raiders starting middle linebacker.
“Wow. Wow,” Jackson said. “What an improvement. What a different guy. Last year, obviously, I wasn’t as involved with him that way but I see a guy with a lot more confidence, really taking command of our defense, is the leader of our defense, wants that responsibility, understands that it’s time for him to play like he can play. Not that he didn’t a year ago but he knows that I expect for him to play like they play. The guys play every day so he comes to practice with that attitude. He brings it. He demands it from the rest of the defense, him and Richard and Tommy. Those guys are doing a good job.”
McClain declined to be interviewed. He rarely speaks with the media. However, he said he intends to speak Sunday.
The Raiders welcomed back linebacker Sam Williams and fullback Marcel Reece. Williams signed on for his ninth year, making him the longest-tenured position player on the Raiders roster. Punter Shane Lechler and kicker Sebastian Janikowski have more time here.
Reece is like the handful of other free agents who aren’t allowed to practice until Aug. 4.
“It’s hard, man,” Reece said of watching. “You don’t realize how hard it is until you get out here and watch them practice. You just want to get out there and get out with the fellas and work around a little bit.”
Reece got a chance to watch the proceedings from a different viewpoint. He said he likes what he saw from his teammates.
“Oh, we looked good, you know?” Reece said. ”You love the fast tempo, you love the hard hitting and you just want to get physical and get back with the team.”
Quarterback Trent Edwards also showed up to watch practice, only hours after signing a contract. He picked the Raiders on the recommendation of former Raiders passing game coordinator Ted Tollner.
Coincidentally, the Raiders coveted Edwards in 2007 out of Stanford. Instead, the Raiders used the No. 1 pick on quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Edwards was drafted by the Buffalo Bills.
“I just remember visiting with coach Knapp (Greg, offensive coordinator) when he was here, and they were interested,” Edwards said. “I felt like I had a good chance coming here and now I didn’t, obviously, and now I’m back and excited to be here.”