Filed for print . . .
Year 3 of the Reggie McKenzie/Dennis Allen regime finds the Raiders with their fiscal house in order, an upgraded roster and expressing the confidence of a playoff contender.
Now all they have to do is win.
With owner Mark Davis espousing a “no excuses’’ mantra, the Raiders report to training camp Wednesday at the Napa Valley Marriott. They’ll go through physical exams and meetings Thursday before practicing for the first time Friday at 3 p.m.
“I think we’ve got some football players,’’ Davis said. “At that last mandatory camp, it looked like we had a team.’’
It’s a team that will be on a tight schedule, with Allen having only 13 training camp practices to acclimate 41 new players on a 90-man roster to systems of football on offense, defense and special teams.
The Raiders will hold their last practice in Napa on Aug. 11, the travel to Oxnard for joint sessions with the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 12 and 13. Following their preseason game against the Detroit Lions, they return to the team facility in Alameda.
During that time, the Raiders will adjust to a new starting quarterback in Matt Schaub, rebuilt offensive and defensive lines and an expectation that the 4-12 records of the past two seasons will not be acceptable.
Allen even wrote a letter to season ticket holders promising better days ahead.
“Step by step, we are building a smart, tough disciplined football team that will play this game with the passion and energy the fans deserve,’’Allen wrote. “Reggie McKenzie and our personnel staff have done a tremendous job bringing in players that fit the vision and goals of our organization.’’
Allen concluded the letter by saying “We are building a team that you can be proud of in 2014 and many years to come.’’
In trading for Schaub and signing veterans such as defensive linemen Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley and Antonio Smith, offensive linemen Donald Penn and Austin Howard, running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver James Jones, the Raiders succeeded in bringing in self-starters who are serous about their craft.
Schaub, who would probably have been released by Houston after a poor 2013 season, was acquired for a sixth-round draft pick Aug. 23 so he could get a head start learning the system and hit the ground running when training camp begins.
“If they believe in him as much as they did, then it was a smart move to trade for him and get him in here early instead of going through free agency and losing that time,’’ Davis said. “I think that was an effective move. I’m all for it. If it works, it’s great. You’ve got to have a quarterback.’’
The flip side of all the new faces in free agency is those players were allowed to walk away from their teams, or in the case of Penn, released.
“It’s fuel and motivation,’’ Penn said. “We’ve got a lot of players with chips on our shoulders.’’
It’s a formula the Raiders used with success from 1998 through 2002, when players considered past their prime such as linebacker William Thomas, wide receiver Jerry Rice and linebacker Bill Romanowski came aboard to put exclamation points on successful careers and contributed to teams that won three straight division titles under Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan.
During the offseason practices, both voluntary and mandatory, Allen drew upon the Raiders’ tradition more than at any time in the previous two seasons, having former players speak to the team in hope so rekindling a spark and to help provide the organization with its first winning season since 2002.
After going 8-24 in his first two seasons, the lowest winning percentage over his first 32 games than any coach in franchise history, Allen believes he has an even playing field in terms of depth and roster talent.
There is also the presence of rookie linebacker Khalil Mack, whose play in the non-padded offseason workouts was impressive. He leads a rookie class that includes quarterback Derek Carr, who ideally would learn behind Schaub this season, and guard Gabe Jackson, a third-round choice who will compete to start on the left side.