Mario Edwards Jr. returned as a full practice participant Tuesday for the first time since suffering a neck injury in Week 15 of last season.
Edwards, a second-year defensive lineman whose promising rookie season was cut short by the injury, said he’s fully cleared and will suit up for full contact when training camp begins in late July.
“It felt great to be back with the team, out there working hard with the guys,” said Edwards, addressing the media for the first time since his injury. “Ready for the next day.”
Tuesday was the start of the Raiders’ three-day mandatory minicamp, their last time together until training camp gets underway in Napa.
The team has been very vague about the nature of Edwards’ injury since it occurred. Coach Jack Del Rio termed it a “significant” injury at the time and general manager Reggie McKenzie revealed in February there was some thought it might be genetic in nature.
But Edwards said on Tuesday that it was “just a sprain in my neck” and he never had any real concerns that he might not return to the field.
“We knew exactly what it was and I was ready and I was just doing everything with the training staff to get back to where I needed to be so I could come out here and practice today,” Edwards said.
Edwards had spent some time on the practice field during the team’s organized team activities, but had not yet gone through a full practice until Tuesday. He instead had been doing a lot of work with the team’s strength and conditioning coach Joe Gomes.
“It looks like he’s been working hard,” Del Rio said of Edwards. “He’s been working hard with Joe, doing the things he can do. He was able to join us today. It’s good to have him back.”
Edwards started 10 games last year and had 2 ½ sacks and was emerging as an impactful and versatile piece on the defensive line before he got hurt.
“Any time anyone’s having a good season and anything like that, it’s always devastating,” Edwards said of his year getting cut short. “But I know the work I’ve got to put in this year to pick up where I left off so that’s what I’m focusing on now.”
Del Rio believes Edwards has plenty of potential.
“Sky’s the limit,” Del Rio said. “He’s a really talented player. He’s got a lot of passion and he’s super athletic for such a big man.”
Linebacker Malcolm Smith said it was great for the team to finally have Edwards back with them.
“That’s big time,” Smith said. “He’s worked hard to get back to where he is, kind of getting the favor of the doctors and stuff. That’s good to see and he’ll have a great year too I expect.”