By Steve Corkran
Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 at 6:45 pm in Oakland Raiders.
NAPA – When Rashad Jennings entered the league, he did what most rookies do when they get their first chunk of money. He indulged in a big-ticket purchase.
Instead of a house for his mother or a fancy car for himself, though, Jennings bought a hyperbaric chamber as a means of helping his body recover quicker and better from the rigors of football.
“I bought one in my rookie year instead of buying a car because I knew this was going to prolong my career,” Jennings said.
Sure enough, the day Jennings arrived here for his first training camp with the Raiders, Jennings unloaded the hyperbaric chamber from his car and hauled it up to his hotel room.
The device allows Jennings to sleep in an oxygen-rich environment, which promotes healing of his body. He also is on a gluten-free diet, eats organic foods, stretches every night and delves in yoga, Pilates, acupuncture, whatever has the ability to give him an edge.
The 4-foot-by-9-foot sleeping chamber also tends to make a ton of noise. Hence, Jennings is going solo this year, whereas his teammates share a room with one other player.
In Jennings, the Raiders are confident that they found a back that can make some noise as a replacement for departed veteran Mike Goodson, who served as Darren McFadden’s primary backup last season.
The jury is out, for Jennings averaged only 2.8 yards per carry for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season in becoming one of 10 backs since 2000 to average fewer than 3 yards per carry with at least 100 rushes.
Goodson averaged 6.3 last season, though on only 35 carries. He bolted for the New York Jets in free agency. Soon thereafter, the Raiders pounced on Jennings.
Jennings, 6-foot-1 and 231 pounds, views himself as a lead back, though he has spent his entire NFL career backing up Maurice Jones-Drew. He is competing for the backup spot in Oakland against the likes of Jeremy Stewart and rookie Latavius Murray.
“I see myself just as a complete back, day-in, day-out, getting better,” Jennings said. “Never making the same mistakes twice. I’ll let the geniuses figure out where to put me on the field.”
In a recent practice, Jennings was on the field as a short-yardage back. He showed little difficulty in converting third-and-one plays during the drill.
“He’s done some good things for us,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “One of the challenges you have for Rashad is … Rashad’s a big back, we want Rashad to play like a big back. That will be something we’re going to look at as we go into the preseason is him being that big physical presence that we expect him to be.”
So far, Jennings is looking more like the back that averaged 5.2 yards and 5.5 his first two seasons, respectively.
In a strange way, Jennings and the Raiders are alike in that they can’t wait to put last year behind them and recapture past glory.
“These fans don’t deserve that,” Jennings said of the team’s negative perception. “This organization doesn’t deserve it. The city doesn’t deserve it. Nobody on this team thinks that’s going to happen this year, and we’re going out every single day, erasing what happened from yesterday and preparing and focusing on” turning things around.”