NAPA — Rookie offensive tackle Menelik Watson and linebacker Keenan Clayton returned to practice Wednesday, just in time to take part in the final on-field activities of the Napa portion of training camp.
Now it’s on to Alameda, where the Raiders will spend the rest of the season. Much remains to be done between now and the regular-season opener Sept. 8.
Even so, coach Dennis Allen and quarterback Matt Flynn, in particular, departed Napa satisfied that their time in the wine country yielded the proper harvest.
“It was a good camp,” Allen said. “Our guys came out here and worked and we got better. We got a good evaluation of what we have here in this camp right now.”
Flynn was even more emphatic and fired up over what took place here since the players first arrived four weeks ago.
“I feel like we had a really good camp,” Flynn said. “I do. We’re a different team now than we were at the start of camp on Day 1.
“We’ve made a lot of improvements, gotten used to each other, we’ve developed a lot of chemistry and I learned that there’s a big passion for the game from everyone, from the top to the bottom. I like this team, and I like the work ethic and I have big expectations for us.”
— Allen said Watson has a lot of catching up to do after missing virtually all of training camp with a calf injury. Therefore, Watson won’t play Friday night against the Chicago Bears.
“We got him a couple of reps per period,” Allen said. “Just, again, I want to ease him into it, even though he’s missed a lot of time, and he’s far behind, because he’s missed all of camp, but I want to try to make sure he’s healthy and get him ready to go and I won’t play him in the game Friday night.”
Watson worked at right offensive tackle during the media access period. That brings about the prospect of the Raiders moving Khalif Barnes to left offensive tackle to fill in for injured starter Jared Veldheer and finding someone to take Barnes’ spot on the right side.
After all, Barnes played left tackle during his four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the left tackle spot is the blind side tackle spot for the Raiders.
“We’ll talk about it, we’ll look at it,” Allen said. “I feel comfortable where he’s at on the right side. Anything is possible, but I don’t really anticipate a change there.”
— Veldheer spoke with the media Wednesday for the first time since he had surgery to repair a partially torn triceps.
He said the injury was somewhat of a fluke, that it came during a pass-protection drill. He added that he doesn’t feel there’s a connection between the injury and how hard he trained during the offseason. He also doesn’t feel as if he made things worse by continuing to practice for a spell afterward.
“It’s strange,” Veldheer said. “It’s not something that I’ve ever been through. First football-related procedure that I’ve ever had done. It’s disappointing, it’s tough but the only thing that I’m focused on now is putting all my attention into getting after it and rehabbing and getting back on the field.”
He said he intends to play again this season. He won’t have a firm timetable for his potential return until he goes in for a follow-up appointment next week.
— Allen said that strong safety Tyvon Branch and defensive tackle Pat Sims likely won’t play Friday against the Bears.
Branch has been bothered by sore hips. Sims has missed most of camp with a leg injury of some sort.
Defensive tackle Vance Walker also has missed considerable time this camp with an undisclosed injury. He is slated to make his Raiders debut Friday night.
— Alex Barron is your starting left offensive tackle Friday night for the second straight game since Veldheer went down with his injury.
That doesn’t mean that he’ll be the starting tackle for the regular-season opener. In fact, Allen said, the Raiders always are on the look out for players that can provide an upgrade.
“You’re always looking for ways to improve your football team, so we’re going to continue to watch and see what comes across the waiver wire and what else is out there, and if there’s somebody that we feel like gives us a better chance, then we’ll make those moves,” Allen said.
— Several people asked during the live chat today for an assessment of linebacker Chase Thomas. Well, given the media weren’t permitted access to much of the proceedings today, we’ll turn to Allen for his take.
“Obviously, with J.T. (Jason Tarver, defensive coordinator) having some experience with him from Stanford, that was an obvious plus,” Allen said. “He’s got some power, some strength, does a pretty good job as an on-the-line, line of scrimmage linebacker setting edges and doing stuff like that. He was a guy that we felt like could come in, learn the system pretty quickly and really be thrown into the fire fairly quickly.”
— As of now, it’s conceivable that linebacker Sio Moore will be the only one of the 10 players selected by the Raiders in the NFL draft in April in the starting lineup against the Indianapolis Colts in the season-opening game.
In fact, it’s possible that Moore will be the only one of 16 players drafted by general manager Reggie McKenzie during his two years at the helm to be among the 22 starters against the Colts.
That doesn’t mean the Raiders didn’t find some talented players with the potential to help out in some capacity this season and potentially start at some point.
“I’ve been pleased,” Allen said of this year’s draft class. “Really, from top to bottom, we have brought in some talented players. They’ve all made progress throughout this camp. They still have a long way to go, they still have a lot of improving they have to do. The fortunate thing for us is they still have two more preseason games to really evaluate them and to see if they’re worthy of being on the team.”
— Fortunately for this year’s draft class, whether they make the 53-man roster isn’t tied to their performance in the rookie show that teams typically put on during a night out in camp. For the Raiders, that took place earlier this week.
“They were terrible,” Allen said. “In 12 years of NFL football, it was the worst rookie show I’ve seen. A couple of good skits. D.J. has a little talent, Sio Moore has a little bit of talent but overall very disappointed. I’m glad we’re not evaluating them on their rookie show ability.”
— If you’re looking for the next Rod Streater, a player that makes the quantum leap from undrafted free agent to instant impact player, keep looking.
Allen said he was impressed by several such players during camp this season, but none matched the production of Streater last season, when he went from an unheard of player out of Temple to a starting receiver in the opener.
— Quarterback Terrelle Pryor is seeking to become the fourth player to don No. 2 in a regular-season game for the Raiders.
He switched from the No. 6 he wore his first two seasons with the Raiders to No. 2. Punter Leo Araguz and quarterbacks Aaron Brooks and JaMarcus Russell are the only other players to wear that number in a regular-season game before.
Pryor, of course, wore No. 2 at Ohio State. When he signed with the Raiders in 2011, he checked into the prospect of wearing No. 2.
Here’s what Pryor had to say at the time, when he broached the topic with then-coach Hue Jackson: “Coach won’t let me wear No. 2. Why? I don’t know. You tell me. I’m just going off what coach tells me.”
— Allen said it’s possible that all four quarterbacks will see action against the Bears.
Projected starting players tend to play the most in their team’s third exhibition game. So, that means Flynn likely will play one half, if not a tad more, then be relieved by Pryor. Undrafted rookie Matt McGloin will take over for Pryor for the third straight game, Allen said, with fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson mopping up.