Today marked the 19th and final practice for the Raiders in the Napa portion of their training camp. With the final horn came players sprinting off the field, players darting for the exit from the field and coach Dennis Allen warning people to be careful of players and coaches making a beeline for Highway 29.
Through it all, Allen and players say, the Raiders leave here a better team than the one that arrived July 28. Yet, everyone admits there’s still plenty of work to do between now and the regular-season opener Sept. 10 against the San Diego Chargers.
“I thought it was good work,” Allen said. “I thought it was good work. I thought we had a chance to get better. Our guys worked extremely hard. We still have a long way to go and a lot of things we have to continue to improve on, but I thought it was a good foundation to build on.”
Veteran safety Mike Mitchell has been a part of four training camps, under three head coaches. He singled out this one as the best of them all.
“It was pretty good,” Mitchell said. “We got a lot of good work done. I like to only talk about defense because that’s what I play. This is the best that we’ve been this early in the year as far as having less confusion, things of that nature. We pretty much got a sound scheme.
“This game will tell us a lot of how we’re going to be because everyone is going to play, we got a real scheme and everything. So, I’m really excited about it. It’s been a really good camp.”
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour knows a thing or two about what makes for a good camp. He calls this one a nice start.
“I’m a firm believer that the cream will always rise to the top,” Seymour said. “It may not start out that way and, also, little things, if you don’t address them, they can become glaring weaknesses for you as well. We’re in a position now to continue what we’ve started to build. We’ve laid the foundation but just because you got a good foundation don’t mean you got a good roof over your head, either.”
— Linebacker Aaron Curry hasn’t practiced in more than two months, and he remains in the physically unable to perform list as a result of sore knees. Even so, Allen isn’t counting out Curry for the regular-season opener.
“No, not to that point,” Allen said, when asked if Curry has missed too much time to be counted upon for the opener. “Now what role he plays, we’ll see. I’m not going to make any decision on him as far as ruling him out or not, at least until we get into game week.”
It’s important to note that Curry still won’t be able to practice at full capacity until three days after he is activated because of the acclimation period set forth in the new collective bargaining agreement.
Therefore, he’s looking at one week’s worth of practice, at best, to prepare for the Chargers game.
The other option for the Raiders is to leave Curry on the P.U.P. list, which would force Curry to miss at least the first six regular-season games. The deadline to make that decision is fast approaching.
— Speaking of Seymour, he missed practice for the fourth straight time since he played Friday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
Seymour confirmed that he isn’t injured, as Allen said, but just taking it easy on his achy knees. Allen said the plan is for Seymour to play.
“I’m not sure,” Seymour said. “It will be a game-time decision. I just want to be smart and, I’m not one to say preseason games don’t matter, I definitely think they matter. They build your foundation in terms of getting ready for the season. They’re definitely important games, but we’ll do what’s best for the team.”
— Backup quarterback Matt Leinart also said he isn’t sure if he’ll play Saturday as a result of the wound he suffered to his right (non-throwing hand) index finger against the Cardinals.
“We’ll see,” Leinart said. “I got a good little gash on there. I’ve been doing as much as I can this week. I just want to get it healthy as quick as possible, so I’m ready for Week 1.”
Leinart practiced in a limited capacity all week, while being mindful of his injury.
“I didn’t take really any snaps this week,” Leinart said. “We’ll probably see how it’s feeling on Saturday, taking a few snaps. My main goal is just to get it healthy before the season and be able to go by the time the regular season’s here.”
— The Raiders entered camp with pretty much the same players they still have on their roster as they pulled out of Napa.
Defensive tackle Travis Ivey was cut early in camp and linebacker Mario Kurn and wide receiver Duke Calhoun suffered season-ending injuries. Linebacker Korey Bosworth is the only new face in camp.
Allen said there might come a time soon when the Raiders add some players.
“There’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Allen said. “We’ve got our cap situation is where it is from a financial standpoint. We feel good about the players that we have and then we’ll look to add to the roster as we get through probably the 75-man cut and the 53-man cut.”
— Another constant has been the projected starters. The players that lined up during offseason workouts are the same ones slated to start the opener.
Naturally, that might change if Curry and/or wide receiver Denarius Moore is/are unable to play. However, the point is made.
“There’s been some good competition throughout camp at different positions,” Allen said. “Some of it because of an injury standpoint a guy hasn’t moved up like you thought he would or a guy has moved up because of an injury. There’s been competition, but the guys who are listed number one on the depth chart, right now we feel like those are the guys that give us the best chance of winning.”
— Refreshing to hear a coach admit something that few others are confident enough to do. Allen said he isn’t beyond sitting on a player in exhibition games as a means of preventing that player from performing well enough to catch the attention of other teams.
The benefit, of course, is that it would be easier for the Raiders to bring back a player that gets cut next week to either the practice squad or even the 53-man roster.
“We’re going to try to do everything we can to keep the guys we feel like will be good football players,” Allen said. “We’ll decide those as we go along. We certainly don’t want to make available a guy we think might be a good player.”
So, would that entail not playing a guy as much, coach?
“Potentially, if we feel like we have guys who will fit that category,” Allen said.
— Tight ends Richard Gordon (ribs) and Tory Humphrey (hamstring) were among those who missed practice. Allen said both will be game-time decisions Saturday night.
— Now that the players are out of the confines of hotel rooms and on their own, so to speak, Allen said it’s imperative that players such as Seymour, quarterback Carson Palmer and guard Cooper Carlisle keep them in line when it comes to spending their free time.
“That’s where our veteran leadership on the team has to take over,” Allens aid. “This is a business. We all got a job to do. We’re all held accountable to a certain standard. We have to make sure everybody is there and available and part of that is your personal business.”
— Wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Ford showed up at practice wearing a walking boot as a means of protecting his injured left foot. Allen said the diagnosis remains the same: a sprain.
“There’s been no change,” Allen said. “It’s the same as what we said before. We’re hopeful that we can get him out of the boot pretty soon and see where he’s at.”
— Sounds as if it’s a safe bet that the Raiders will be returning to Napa in 2013 for an 18th straight year, based on Allen’s endorsement.
“I enjoyed it,” Allen said. “We have a great situation here in Napa. This is, as far as the setup is, the best training camp I’ve ever been a part of from that standpoint. The weather’s been great, the hotel has been outstanding. That’s been good. Our work has been good. I was pleased with what we did here in training camp.”
— The Raiders are off Friday and Sunday, with a game against the Detroit Lions sandwiched in between. They practice next in Alameda on Monday.
— Reminder: There is a live chat Friday at noon. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/SZF3ii