By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 at 2:35 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Training camp means different things to different players. For instance, quarterback Carson Palmer is using the time to better learn the offense and get in synch with his receiving corps. A rookie such as defensive end Jack Crawford is just trying to find a way to make the 53-man roster.
Crawford took a huge step toward doing just that Wednesday by spending a great deal of time in the backfield, frustrating offensive linemen and harassing the quarterback.
Defensive players are prohibited from touching quarterbacks in practice. However, it’s safe to say that Crawford would have sacked Matt Leinart three times in a game setting.
“I’m pleased with Jack,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “Jack, obviously, he’s a young player, so he’s still learning the game, but he’s a big guy that’s got athleticism, and he wants to be good. And if you have athleticism and some football instincts and you’re willing to work to get there, then he’ll, at some point, be a player for us.”
Crawford is bright enough to realize that one good practice does not a successful NFL player make. Yet, it’s a nice start to a fledgling career and a great way to stand out among 89 players.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Crawford said. “Coming in as a rookie, nothing’s safe; that’s how I feel. There’s nothing guaranteed in this league, so you really have to go and play every single play like it’s your last. At the end of the day, you don’t know how many plays you’re going to have left.”
One of the things that stands out about Crawford, Allen said, is that he takes care of business all the time. He isn’t content just being a part of an NFL camp.
“He’s willing to do the things that are necessary to be good,” Allen said. “And in my experiences, some guys are willing to go that extra to really be good and some guys are looking for some shortcuts to take. They want to be good but they’re not willing to pay the price to be good. And he’s one of those that’s willing to pay the price to be good.”
– Suffice, it’s going to take more than showing cut-ups of practice, lectures and lip service for the Raiders to shed their penchant for committing penalties.
On Wednesday, several players jumped offsides, especially in one-on-one pass-protection drills. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly jumped offsides twice without the ball being snapped. Defensive end Lamarr Houston jumped three times in a span of a few snaps in the same drill.
Worse, two players jumped offsides on a punt, with one player being way offsides when the ball was snapped.
“It’s part of the process,” Allen said. “That’s what happens when guys begin to get tired. They lose their focus a little bit, and that’s the thing that we’ve got to continue to push through. I’ve been pleased with the penalty situation overall, but we still got to keep working on it.”
The Raiders set league records for penalties and yards penalized last season. Allen has said all along that remedying that situation is a huge priority. Then again, so did Hue Jackson, Tom Cable, Lane Kiffin, Art Shell, Norv Turner and Bill Callahan.
Time will tell.
– The play might have gone unnoticed on a day that featured a countless number of plays. Yet, to those who have watched wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey throughout his NFL career, it passes as a glaring sign of just how far he has come since he arrived as the No. 7 pick of the 2009 NFL draft.
The play came late in practice, when quarterback Carson Palmer spotted Heyward-Bey in single coverage against second-year cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke. Palmer is famous for exploiting such matchups.
Sure enough, Palmer threw up the ball for Heyward-Bey to make a play on. As it turned out, the pass was underthrown by a bit.
In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for Heyward-Bey to stick to the route, regardless the location of the ball. This time, Heyward-Bey broke off his route, positioned himself well and leaped for the ball.
Never mind that the ball fell incomplete. It’s another sure sign that Heyward-Bey is maturing as a receiver and becoming a more well-rounded player.
“He’s improved as a receiver, as a total receiver,” Allen said. “His route running’s better, he’s catching the ball cleaner. His blocking has been good. We’re going to ask our receivers to do a lot of things. He’s really our most veteran receiver, so we’re expecting him to stand up and be a leader for us.”
– Allen talked about players taking short-cuts in discussing Crawford. A follow-up question along those lines elicited a rather pointed response that every player on the roster should digest.
“Doesn’t take long,” Allen said, when asked how long it takes to spot players taking short-cuts. “It doesn’t take long. It sticks out like a sore thumb, and those are usually the guys that don’t last very long. And if they do make it for a little while, you’re always looking to replace them.”
– Wide receiver Denarius Moore was held out of practice as a “precautionary” measure, Allen said, because of lingering effects from a hamstring injury Moore suffered in June.
It was believed that Moore would be at or near 100 percent when training camp rolled around. If so, he reinjured his hamstring Tuesday, when he looked limited.
Fortunately for the Raiders, Moore has plenty of time to recover. Also, it now gives younger receivers such as Rod Streater, Juron Criner and Duke Calhoun more opportunities to shine.
– Punter Shane Lechler (knee), cornerback Ron Bartell (hamstring), linebacker Aaron Curry (knee) and defensive tackle Travis Ivey (conditioning) missed practice for a third straight day. Tight end Richard Gordon (hip) also sat out. Allen said all are making progress. Running back Mike Goodson (hamstring) returned to practice after getting hurt Tuesday.
– Through three days, the same five guys have worked with the first-team offensive line: Jared Veldheer, Cooper Carlisle, Stefen Wisniewski, Mike Brisiel and Khalif Barnes.
Joseph Barksdale and Tony Bergstrom worked with the second-team line once again, with Barksdale mostly at right tackle and Bergstrom at left guard.
Allen said both players are being asked to practice on both sides of the line so that they become more versatile and, by extension, more valuable as backups.
– Today’s practicde was pretty fast-paced, with very little wasted time between plays and the quarterbacks not using all the time on the play clock.
– Every player has his welcome-to-the-NFL moment. For rookie linebacker Miles Burris, it came on a play in which veteran running back Darren McFadden bolted around right end and toward the sideline.
Burris moved in, laid a hit on McFadden and watched as McFadden bounced off and continued around the corner.
“I was a little tentative on, ‘Do I hit 20 or not? How does this go?’ ” Burris said.
Burris is pretty certain that he would have made the play in a game.
“Yeah, I would like to think that anybody with a ball in their hands, I would get him down,” Burris said.
– Terrelle Pryor, no doubt, is Oakland’s most-athletic quarterback. Evidene of that came on a play in which Pryor was pressured up the middle.
Pryor sensed the rush, rolled out left and delivered a strike to Calhoun. The pass was dropped. However, it served notice that Pryor can do things that not all quarterbacks are capable of doing.
Overall, Pryor looked sharp in his limited snaps. On another play, he noticed rookie Criner streaking across the middle and placed the ball right on line.
– Let the record show that the first training camp scuffle occurred on the third day, with strong safety Tyvon Branch and rookie Thomas Mayo exchanging blows, while Branch was atop Mayo.
No one got hurt after the brief skirmish, with players stepping in and breaking up things before they got out of hand.
“It was nothing like that,” Branch said, when asked if he was setting the tone for the defense. “It was out of character for me. It’s just camp. The first day of pads, everybody’s amped up. Just a little camp squabble. Nothing major. We just got into it.”
– Curry said he suffered his knee injury during an offseason workout and that he exacerbated the injury by trying to be a “tough guy” and play through the pain.
Now, he is heeding the advice of team athletic trainers and waiting until his knee is sound enough to resume practicing. In the interim, he is spending his time walking around the field, mentoring younger players and assuming a coaching role.
“I’m the best coach on the field,” Curry said. “Guys can feel comfortable to come to me to ask questions, which requires me to do all my homework on the defense, especially at my position. I can coach everything about linebackers in this defense.
“So, I’m just taking pride right now. I’m trying to outcoach coach (Jason) Tarver, I’m trying to outcoach coach (Johnnie)Holland on our position. Being a player, players will be more comfortable approaching another player with questions because they don’t have to worry about being evaluated.”
Give Curry an A for finding a way to contribute, even though he isn’t able to suit up and play right now. It’s not uncommon for injured players to shut it down and show up again when they’re healthy.
– Quote of the day
“They can’t talk or bark yet. Their opinions don’t count yet.” — Kelly on calling rookies pups