Raiders coach Dennis Allen had a little extra bounce in his step, seemed a bit more energized and ready for the long grind that is the regular season. It’s amazing what three nights sleeping in your own bed can do for a person, eh, coach?
So it was that the Raiders practiced in Alameda on Monday for the first time since breaking camp in Napa last Thursday. It’s the place they will call home base for the next five months or so, perhaps longer if they make it to the Super Bowl.
“It’s nice to get back home,” Allen said. “I got a chance to sleep in my own bed a couple nights, so that was good. It’s good. I thought we had a good day of work today. It’s good for us to get back in this environment, get our guys used to the locker room here, the practice facility, the weight room, all of that kind of good stuff.”
At the same time, moving to the year-round facility, combined with 12 players being jettisoned in the first round of roster cuts Monday, signals to the players that things are different now than they were the past five months or so.
“Every time you change the surroundings, people realize there’s a little something different,” Allen said. “Getting back here, it’s kind of, we’re getting close. Everybody feels the sense that we’re getting close to the opening day of the season.”
Rookie guard Tony Bergstrom said seeing so many familiar faces gone in a flash is a sobering reminder of how fleeting it can be for an NFL player.
“It’s crazy,” Bergstrom said. “It just makes you want to go that much harder in practice because you never know. It kind of makes you realize that this is a business and it’s not necessarily a nice business all the time, either. So, it makes you really appreciate you being here as long as you have and you just want to hold on that much longer.”
— Defensive lineman Lamarr Houston was asked by coaches to shed 10 pounds from his 305-pound frame during the offseason. In response, Houston lost 20.
Now, the Raiders are reaping the dividends from a player who is lighter, faster and more active on the field.
“He’s actually quicker than he was in OTAs and minicamp,” Allen said. “He’s lost some weight, he’s in good shape. He played outstanding the other night and if he continues to develop the way that he has and work the way he has, I would expect good things out of him.”
Houston said he didn’t want to lose much more than the 20 pounds he did because of the potential of being used inside, when he isn’t playing end.
“I kept in mind I would be playing inside a little bit,” Houston said. “So you can’t be too much smaller than 285, or 295, really. You get a lot of doubles and things like that, block-backs with the center and things like that.”
— Allen said he isn’t sure if defensive tackle Richard Seymour will play Thursday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Seymour still is resting his sore knee in an attempt to get healthy enough for the regular season.
Allen said Seymour is battling through tendinitis. Seymour said it’s more a case of what’s called the effects of playing 12 years in the NFL.
“I don’t think this is a situation where we have to carry somebody extra because of his situation,” Allen said. “It’s just something we’ll have to manage as we go throughout the season. I’ve been through that provess before with Darren Sharper in New Orleans, a guy that was a little bit long in the tooth. So we had to take care of him. We had to manage him. It’s not unlike any other situation I’ve dealt with.”
— When Carson Palmer entered the NFL in 2003, he latched on to veteran Jon Kitna as a way of learning the ropes and expediting his learning curve as a young quarterback.
Like any good veteran, Palmer now is paying back on the advance he received from Kitna by mentoring second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
“I want to because I like Terrelle, but also that’s part of my role,” Palmer said. “That’s my job. When you’re a quarterback as a veteran, like myself, I’ve been trained very well by a guy named Jon Kitna I was fortunate enough to play behind for my first couple years in the NFL.
“He really showed me how to be a pro, how to watch film, how to work out. He showed me all the small things a coach can’t show you, and I’ll never forget that. And that’s now the role I have with Terrelle or with whatever younger quarterback comes around. Just comes with the territory.”
Pryor stays real close to Palmer at all times, soaking up every bit of knowledge he can from Palmer, be it on the practice field, on the sideline, in positional and team meetings, the weight room, you name it.
That process began midway through last season, when Palmer arrived via trade with the Cincinnati Bengals. Almost a year later, Palmer said he has noticed a huge change in Pryor’s performance.
“A ton,” Palmer said, when asked how much change he has noticed. “When I first got here, he wasn’t getting a ton of reps, so for training camp he got 30-40 percent of the reps during camp and he’s improved drastically.”
— Linebacker Aaron Curry still hasn’t been cleared to practice because of balky knees. The Raiders have until Friday to decide what to do with Curry — leave him on the physically unable to perform list, carry him on the 53-man roster, place him on injured-reserve, release him, something.
Allen said he still hasn’t decided how to proceed.
“I’m going to wait until the very last minute to make the decision on what we need to do with him,” Allen said.
Curry has not practiced in more than two months. He spent time in Los Angeles earlier this month seeking a second opinion and receiving treatments.
Curry was unavailable for comment Monday.
— Palmer arrived as the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NFL draft, so he couldn’t be any further removed from the path taken by undrated wide receiver Rod Streater. Yet, Palmer said he has an idea for what Streater is going through.
“When you’re a sixth-, seventh-round draft choice or a free agent, there’s a little bit of doubt,” Palmer said. “Why didn’t I get picked? Why did I get picked so late? Maybe I can’t play in this league. There’s some things that can kind of sink into your head. I haven’t specifically talked to him about that, but I’m sure there’s a little bit of that in there, coming from a Wing-T offense, catching 15, 16 balls his senior year.
“The one thing he’s realized is he can play. He can play with the best, he can win a one-on-one route against any corner, starter or backup corner. And that’s one of the biggest hurdles a young guy has to get over is you really don’t know if you can do it consistently. And he’s consistently done it every single practice, every single day. So confidence-wise, I don’t think he has any issue confidence-wise.”
Streater actually caught 19 passes at Temple last season. The Raiders liked what they saw in Streater and signed him soon after this year’s draft ended.
Through three games, Streater has caught 18 passes for 165 yards and no touchdowns. He has played well enough in training camp and those three games to be considered a lock to make the 53-man roster.
Allen, as usual, has a knack for keeping things in proper perspective.
“I’ve said this before about Rod; he’s done a nice job as a rookie coming in,” Allen said. “He’s an undrafted free agent player that we felt real good about. He’s one of the top guys that we wanted to get when it came to free agency, so he’s done a good job for us. He’s got to continue to develop and get better. I’m not ready to put him in the Hall of Fame. Still got a long way to go but right now he’s made some good progress.”
— Thursday provides the 75 players on the roster one final chance to make a compelling case for why they deserve playing time in the regular season and/or spots on the 53-man roster.
The final roster cuts are less than 24 hours after that game. Naturally, Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie will take into account numerous things when deciding which 22 players to purge from the roster.
Just the same, that final game has the ability to sway opinion one way or the other, Allen said.
“What that exact number is, I don’t know, but there’s still a lot of decisions to be made,” Allen said. “There’s still a lot of decisions to be made as far as who’s on the 53-man roster. And these guys are playing not only to make our roster but they’re playing to make 31 other teams, too. It’s a big game for a lot of people.”
— Starting cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer played in only 10 games combined last season, with Bartell missing all but one game because of a neck injury.
Yet, the Raiders saw something in the 30-year-olds that convinced them that Bartell and Spencer would be an upgrade over canned starters Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson.
Allen said it remains to be seen whether the Raiders made the right call. For now, he is pleased with the way Bartell and Spencer have played.
“There’s a hunger there,” Allen said. “There’s a hunger there to go out and reprove themselves, that they belong in this league. It takes awhile to kind of get the rust knocked off, but I’ve been pleased with the way that both of those guys have played.
“Not just the way they’ve played, but the way they’ve handled themselves in the locker room, the way they’ve handled themselves in the meeting room gives us a chance to have some veteran guys that can teach some of the younger guys really what it means to be a pro.”
— The Raiders might luck out and get back injured wide receivers Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore in time for the regular-season opener. It’s going to take more than luck for those guys and Palmer to get in synch after missing so much time together in camp and games.
“We need a ton of work together,” Palmer said. “You can never get enough work with a guy, even if he’s played every rep and you’ve played every rep, you always need those reps. When they’re back, it’s not easy to get off the couch or get out of a walking boot or off crutches or whatever it may be and just show up and play.
“This league is way too good. These players are too good, these schemes are too good just to jump back in and go. So there’s going to be a little bit of a process of getting their legs back and their conditioning back, but also their minds and bodies to the speed of the game to get caught up with everything.”