NAPA – If wide receiver Brice Butler doesn’t know about Ken-Yon Rambo, it’s worth his time and effort to find out in the coming days so that he can avoid the kind of pitfall that derailed Rambo’s once-promising Raiders career.
Like Butler, Rambo joined the Raiders as a seventh-round draft pick on a team with plenty of receiver depth. Butler also followed the trail blazed by Rambo by turning a late-game catch into a pivotal touchdown in his Raiders debut Friday night.
The key now is for Butler to build upon his fast start and not flame out the way Rambo did in 2001. The Raiders released Rambo at the end of training camp. Butler still has plenty of time to bolster his stock.
“He’s been a nice surprise,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said of Butler.
Yet, what he has done so far is little more than a nice start in the overall scheme of things. It’s imperative Butler not get complacent and make too much of his showing against the Dallas Cowboys, when Butler led all receivers with 70 yards on his two receptions.
“We’ll make sure we keep our thumb on him, make sure he doesn’t read too much of the good stuff (reporters are) going to write about him,” Allen said.
Butler arrived from San Diego State via Southern Cal, the ninth of 10 players selected by the Raiders in the NFL draft in April.
He joined a crowded field of hopefuls that included undrafted rookies Greg Jenkins, Conner Vernon and Sam McGuffie and inexperienced players such as Travionte Session, Isaiah Williams and Juron Criner.
Making the leap from prospect to the opening-game, 53-man roster entails standing out during practice and games.
Denarius Moore did just that in 2011 and went from fifth-round draft pick to starting receiver. Rod Streater followed suit in 2012 in going from undrafted rookie to opening-day starter.
Now it’s Butler who is surging to the head of the class and making a push for not only a roster spot but meaningful playing time.
Streater said he and Butler bonded instantly because of their similar backgrounds, as well as their college stats.
Players in their situation have to be almost “perfect” to overcome the long odds, Streater added. They also have to put behind them stellar plays, solid practices and good games.
“You got to move on,” Streater said. “The coaches want to see improvement every game and the next game is the most important. You can’t live off the past.”
That already seems ingrained in Butler, who tired of all the praise from friends and family after the Cowboys game.
“I honestly don’t think I played that good,” Butler said. “Until those couple of plays on that one drive, I didn’t feel good about my play at all. I definitely have to work on it. Watching tape, there was a lot of stuff I can work on.”
Butler transferred to San Diego State after his junior season at Southern Cal when playing time dwindled. That experience prepared him for the tenuous existence of an NFL player.
“I can’t focus on what the coaches are thinking or what the other players are doing,” Butler said. “I’ve done that in the past, and it didn’t really go well for me. So, I’m really just focusing on what … I can do best for the team.”
Having a father that played in the NFL for 12 seasons gives Butler an edge in that he has someone to speak with about the process.
Bobby Butler played cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons from 1981-92. Brice said his father passes along tips on what to look for from cornerbacks and how to gain an advantage.
— Cornerback Taiwan Jones and linebacker Sio Moore suffered undisclosed injuries, and they weren’t able to finish practice.
They were among 16 players that missed some or all of practice. Allen said he is hopeful of getting back some players soon.
— Andre Gurode worked at right guard and Tony Bergstrom at left guard with the first-team offense.
Gurode and Bergstrom got all the reps because Mike Brisiel and Lucas Nix didn’t practice and weren’t able to compete for job openings.
Allen said it’s crucial for the Raiders to find five reliable offensive linemen as soon as possible, but it’s more important to make the proper decisions before the regular-season opener.
— The Raiders had a lengthy practice today on what passed for, perhaps, the hottest day of camp. Good thing for the players, the practice was without full pads.
— Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor received all but three reps in the longest session of the day. Matt McGloin came on for two reps — one was a hand-off — and Matt Wilson mopped up with one rep. He made a nice throw to Greg Jenkins on his lone snap.
Afterward, Allen said Wilson needs more work on his command of the playbook and execution. Until then, it appears as if undrafted rookie McGloin is going to get more reps than Wilson, a fourth-round draft pick.
— Strong safety Tyvon Branch made the defensive play of the day when he ran stride for stride with tight end David Ausberry and hauled in a tipped pass from Wilson for an interception in the end zone.
On offense, Andre Holmes gets the nod for going up over two defenders and snaring a pass from Flynn for a touchdown. Later in practice, Holmes came close to making an even better grab on a deep throw from Pryor. Credit Chimdi Chekwa with the pass breakup.