Raiders first-year head coach Dennis Allen emerged from his initial training camp practice in good spirits after what he termed a “pretty good” first practice.
His demeanor no doubt would have been quite different if the left knee injury suffered by wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Ford midway through practice turned out to be as bad as it looked at first.
Ford turned upfield on one play, made one cut and slipped to the turf, while grabbing his hurt knee. A team athletic trainer immediately came to Ford’s aid and worked on Ford off to the side.
A short time later, Ford appeared headed to the training room. Again, the trainer worked on Ford’s knee as Ford lay on the ground. Then, as if nothing happened, Ford got to his feet, placed on his helmet and jogged downfield to field punts.
“I was scared more than anything,” Ford said, “but I finished practice fine.”
Ford wasn’t the only one concerned, naturally. Several players came over to check on Ford and numerous others watched from afar.
“He’s a good player, and we want to make sure we can keep all our good players healthy,” Allen said. “It was a close call, but he’s fine. It kind of scared him more than it did anything else.”
The rest of the practice went according to plan, with few exceptions.
“We had a pretty good first day of practice,” Allen said. “We’ve still got a lot of things we’ve got to get better at, but I thought for the first day in training camp, it was pretty good.”
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said he noticed a change in the ways practices are conducted, if for no other reason than the number of reps taken by the first-team offense and defense.
“It’s definitely different how things are run,” Kelly said. “With the old man (late owner Al Davis), he had been in place for so long, he had stuff just how he wanted. With the new GM and coach Allen, they’re going in a different direction. Just get in line and do what they ask you to do.”
— The Raiders placed linebacker Aaron Curry on the physically unable to perform list because of an ailing knee. He is eligible to be activated at any time during camp.
Curry missed some time during the offseason workouts with what was described as a soft-tissue injury. He spent the early part of practice walking around the practice field.
Punter Shane Lechler (knee), cornerback Ron Bartell (hamstring) and defensive tackle Travis Ivey (conditioning) also missed practice.
Allen said those players are day-to-day. Marquette King filled in for Lechler and DeMarcus Van Dyke replaced Bartell opposite Shawntate Spencer.
— Beat writer Jerry McDonald checked into the rumor about the Raiders and Washington Redskins talking about a possible trade. In short, McDonald learned that it’s “not going to happen.”
— Speaking of Van Dyke, he turned in two impressive plays on passes from Carson Palmer. Both times, he broke on the ball in prompt fashion and broke up the passes.
“He’s a guy that we’re counting on to improve to be a player for us,” Allen said. “Just like I’ve talked to everybody, we’re going to expect him to get a little bit better every day. and if he’ll worry about that, at the end of the day he’ll like the end results.”
So far, so good.
— Wide receivers Rod Streater and Eddie McGee caught the coaches’ attention by hauling in long passes down the sideline. Streater beat Brandon Underwood and Terrail Lambert on his reception. McGee got behind Spencer on his long reception.
— As promised, most of the players that missed some time during the offseason workouts were on the practice field Monday.
Among those were: center Stefen Wisniewski, safety Mike Mitchell, defensive end Matt Shaughnessy and wide receiver Denarius Moore.
In Wisniewski’s case, he returned after missing all the offseason workouts because of a shoulder surgery.
“I was standing around doing nothing for a while and I didn’t like that,” Wisniewski said. “It’s been seven months since I’ve played football, and it feels great to be back.”
Wisniewski’s return gave Allen his first look at the projected starting offensive line, with Jared Veldheer at left tackle, Cooper Carlisle at left guard, Wisniewski in the middle, Mike Brisiel at right guard and Khalif Barnes at right tackle.
Second-year player Joseph Barksdale spent his time at left tackle and rookie Tony Bergstrom at left guart with the second-team.
— Not a great start for backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor. On one play, he fumbled the exchange from center. Later, he stumbled on his drop-back and then made an ill-advised pass that rookie defensive lineman Christo Bilukidi intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
Bilukidi said he read the play well and just jumped it when he saw Pryor look his way on a screen pass.
“Yeah, I just read it,” Bilukidi said. “It seemed like everything that coach was teaching us, how to read plays, how to read the offense (paid off). I saw it was a screen, I just backed up and then just had to make a play.”
As for Pryor, Allen said he remains confident in Pryor’s abilities.
“I have expectations of him to develop as a quarterback on a daily basis,” Allen said. “I’m not setting anything as far as where I want to see him on the depth chart or how many passes or anything like that. I just want to see him get better every day. That’s what he’s come out here and tried to do, and if he continues to do that, at the end of the day he’s going to be all right.”
— Ford and Moore split time returning punts. It’s likely that other players will be tried in that role later in camp. However, Moore and Ford are getting the first crack.
“We’ll continue to evaluate guys as we go throughout training camp,” Allen said, “but right now those are kind of the top two guys that we’re looking at.”
Ford said he is excited about the prospect of adding punt returns to his long list of duties. He also plays receiver and return kicks.
“It’s definitely something that is going to help us out a lot, having either both of us back there or alternating it, in case he wants to go and then if I want to go,” Ford said. “It gives us two explosive options back there. We’re definitely both excited about it looking to whenever we have a chance to go out and prove ourselves.”
— Those concerned about running back Darren McFadden can rest easy. He looks every bit as sharp now as he did during the offseason workouts.
McFadden copped to being a little sore afterward. However, he said he is looking forward to the process.
“It does feel good out there, being back out there on the field, being out there with the guys running around,” McFadden said. “I feel like we did a lot of good things out there today. Some things we still got to improve on. It’s like, coming out there on the first day, it’s nothing you can do to prepare for it all summer. You get out there the first day, you get a little winded. Guys are going to come along it’s time to go.”
Allen liked what he saw from McFadden.
“Fast; he looked good,” Allen said. “We all understand that he’s an explosive playmaker for us and we need him to be healthy for the entire season.”
— Wisniewski spoke for the first time about the recent resignation of his uncle Steve as the Raiders assistant offensive line coach.
“Yeah, it’s weird,” Stefen Wisniewski said. “I definitely miss him. I definitely miss him a lot.”
Understandably, but there’s a strong likelihood that Steve Wisniewski will make his presence felt this season.
“He’s told me he’s going to be around game days and he’ll be around a little bit here at practice,” Stefen said. “So we’ll still see him.”
Stefen Wisniewski also weighed in on the scandal that rocked his alma mater, Penn State.
“It’s been really tough,” Wisniewski said. “It makes me really sad and a little bit angry, too, with some of the things. But like we said, Penn State sticks together. I’m really impressed with the way the players have been handling themselves. They look like they’re going to stick together and fight through that with most of the guys staying there. I’m really proud of that.
“The NCAA, they can’t kill Penn State. Penn State is going to be a great place. They might wound us for a little while, but Penn State is still going to be a great university and football program.”