NAPA — Several key players went down with injuries Friday that turned out to be of the season-ending variety. The news came one day before the Raiders throw on pads for the first time and ratchet up the intensity.
Don’t expect coach Dennis Allen to change his philosophy in light of the serious injuries. It’s full go Sunday when the Raiders hit the field for the third time.
“We want to be a tough physical team,” Allen said. “To do that, you have to be able to practice that way. We’re going to practice tough, we’re going to practice physical and guys are embracing that.”
That doesn’t mean that Allen won’t keep tabs on his players. In fact, he said he monitors his players on a daily basis and when they’re beaten down, it’s time to back off.
Still, the game is football is a rough sport, and Allen doesn’t subscribe to coaching in fear of losing a player to injury.
“This is a tough game,” Allen said. “Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game and they occur. At the end of the day, you have to have a next-man-up philosophy and you have to deal with those hurdles when they come up.”
Center Stefen Wisniewski is among those itching for Sunday, when the players finally get to throw on full pads and start banging into each other.
“It’s all good working on your feet and hands and stuff with no pads but, really, no good O-line, you can’t tell until you put pads on,” Wisniewski said.
— Andre Gurode might be 34 years old, but he said he feels as good as he has in three years and he isn’t here just to collect a paycheck.
Actually, Gurode sounds like a man that expects to be in the starting lineup for the regular-season opener, though he stopped short of making such a bold prediction.
“I’m not a guy that just wants to come and occupy a spot,” Gurode said after his first practice with the Raiders. I want to come in and compete and make my presence known. Whatever way they need me, I’m here.”
Gurode was with the Chicago Bears last season, but he didn’t appear in any regular-season games. He last played in a regular-season game in 2011, when he was with the Baltimore Ravens.
Gurode played mostly center for the Dallas Cowboys from 2002-10. He played both guard spots and center for the Ravens. Coincidentally, he played all three interior spots in practice today.
Don’t even think of questioning whether Gurode is on his final legs.
“Oh, no, I’m not a guy that just signs on to just to do it; I got plenty left in the tank,” Gurode said. “I actually feel better now than I felt three years ago, which is crazy.”
Allen seemed pleased with Gurode’s performance Saturday.
“He’s a big, powerful guy,” Allen said. “We signed him to have an opportunity to come in and compete and have a chance to make this football team. I see him playing inside center-guard combination type of player. For the first day, I’ll look at the tape, but I thought he was OK.”
— Signing Gurode is a luxury the Raiders had because they had an open roster spot and Gurode was on the open market. By and large, don’t expect many more players walking through the gates at training camp that can make a huge impact on this year’s team.
“There are no saviors coming,” Allen said. “I feel very confident in the guys we have, and they all understand the type of football team we’re going to be and how we’re going to be.”
In other words, Allen said, most of the guys that will comprise the 53-man, opening-day roster are on the 90-man roster right now.
— Cornerback D.J. Hayden sported a red, non-contact jersey for a second straight day. Based on his play, he doesn’t seem overly concerned about protecting himself from injury.
On one play, Hayden closed on wide receiver Rod Streater on a deep pass from Matt Flynn and broke up the pass as he ran into Streater.
Hayden, of course, just returned to practice after missing the tail end of the offseason workouts because of a surgery in late May to remove scar tissue in his abdomen, something that resulted from the aftermath of a surgery six months earlier.
There is no timetable for Hayden’s return to full action. For now, he is participating in every drill and trying to avoid contact whenever possible.
— Flynn spent time backing up JaMarcus Russell at Louisiana State. No telling how much, if any, he learned from Russell. However, it’s clear that Russell could learn plenty from Flynn.
For instance, Flynn spent more time signing autographs, posing for pictures and putting smiles on fans’ faces than any other Raiders player after practice Saturday.
During Russell’s three-plus seasons with the Raiders, he routinely put a phone up to his ear — who knows if anyone was on the other end of the line most times — or threw on headphones so that he could blow past fans who waited in the sun just for an autograph, a picture, a fist bump, something.
Flynn then spoke with the local media for about 10 minutes and a national reporter for 15 minutes or so before he disappeared into the locker room.
By then, some of his teammates already were gone from the field.
— Linebacker Miles Burris, defensive tackle Pat Sims and offensive tackle Menelik Watson still haven’t been cleared to practice. Allen didn’t have an update for any of the three players.
— Owner Mark Davis watched the entire practice for the second straight day. He checked out the proceedings from the open area between the two fields. Afterward he chatted with a couple of players.
— The highlight of the day came during one-on-one passing drills, with tight ends and running backs squaring off against linebackers and defensive backs.
Early on, the defense set the tone, with middle linebacker Nick Roach running stride for stride with speedy running back Darren McFadden and knocking down the ball at the goal line.
Soon thereafter, the quarterbacks and receivers seemingly had their way with the defenders almost every time. The fans roared their approval time and again.
— Tony Bergstrom worked with the first-team offense at left guard today, one day after Lucas Nix got the first shot.
Left guard isn’t the only spot on the offensive line up for grabs, it appears. Once again, Alex Barron got some snaps with the first-team, with incumbent starter Khalif Barnes getting the rest.
— Allen said he and the Raiders were aware of the possibility of wide receiver Andre Holmes getting suspended by the league for violating its performance-enhancing substances.
“It’s a league matter, not a suspension handed down by the team,” Allen said. “We’ll just leave it at that.”
Holmes said he preferred to let stand a statement he made earlier today that was obtained by NFL.com. Here it is in its entirety. You be the judge:
“When I received a letter from the NFL stating that I tested positive for amphetamine, which is banned under the NFL performance enhancing substances policy during an off-season test in April, I was very surprised as I know that I did not take any banned substances,” Holmes said. “I know that I had been quite ill when I was tested in early April, as I reported to the sample collector at the time my sample was given, so I thought one of the medications I was taking was responsible.
“However, to this day, even after further testing, I do not know how the substance got into my system. The drug policy rules are very strict with a zero tolerance, so after consulting with the NFLPA (NFL Players Association) and reviewing the medical documentation, I will not appeal the discipline. During training camp and preseason I will work extremely hard, and I will continue to work intensely so that I’m ready to contribute the minute I am back. I sincerely apologize to my teammates, coaches and Raiders fans for this situation.”