The Raiders practiced Thursday with an intensity not seen through the first five sessions of training camp.
Several players on the offense and defense had to be separated after left tackle Donald Penn tossed linebacker Ben Heeney to the ground following an 11-and-11 drill.
Later, defensive end Damonte Moore and undrafted running back Jalen Richard exchanged punches.
And then there was all the normal football action that created, from a spectator’s standpoint, the most entertaining practice thus far of camp.
Quarterback Derek Carr, forced to jump in as a peacemaker following the Penn-Heeney initiated fracas, said it’s a fine line of intensity the team has to walk.
“To me, I like the chippiness,” Carr said. “I love the competitiveness. They’re not doing it just because they don’t like somebody. They’re doing it because maybe they got the best of somebody or maybe they played a little too hard. We don’t want to hurt anybody.
“There’s a fine line when you get professional athletes out here. A lot of guys are trying to make the team, fighting for spots. There’s always going to be that fine line. Where do you draw it? If you don’t go hard enough, then maybe they think, ‘Oh maybe he doesn’t play hard, now he’s out.’ They don’t know.
“But the fights, that stuff can’t happen. To me, it’s not about the fights and people getting hurt — which I don’t want. It’s if that happens during a game, that’s a penalty, that’s an ejection. We can’t lose one person. That’s why if I’m the peacemaker, absolutely, I’ll take that role.
“I’ll let them go to a certain extent, get back in the huddle and go kick their butt. But when it comes time where it’s 30 seconds on the clock, now there’s 20 seconds on the clock, cause Coach Del Rio won’t stop the clock. He’s going to let it run and we’ve got to get the play off. It trains us for the games, but if I’m ever in there yelling at people or trying to get them to get back in the huddle, that’s why. Because I don’t ever want it to cost us something that we’ve worked so hard for.”
* There, of course, was more to Thursday’s practice than the fights. Here are some of the non-player absence related highlights. (That stuff was already covered here).
Richard had a few more nice plays. He was tackled for a loss by Brynden Trawick on one run, but came back the next play to make a nice cut and burst through a right-side hole for a big game. Also during some 1-on-1 work, they had the running backs practice lining up wide and running routes. He got past linebacker Shilique Calhoun and caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Matt McGloin.
The other rookie running back, DeAndre Washington, showed he’s got some toughness behind his smaller frame. He caught a short pass and then bounced off a tackle attempt by linebacker Darren Bates and another defender.
Cornerback David Amerson had another nice day that included breaking up a Carr pass to Michael Crabtree. He also provided tight coverage on a deep pass to Amari Cooper to force him to catch it out of bounds. Crabtree later came back and got enough separation to catch a 15-yard out from Carr against Amerson.
The next play, with the team still in 7-on-7 drills, Cooper ran a crossing route and got a step and a half on cornerback Sean Smith. Carr threw him a fastball that went off his hands for a drop. That drew a few groans from the crowd.
Third-string quarterback Connor Cook still isn’t playing great by any means, but he had a couple of noteworthy throws today. He made a solid sideline comeback route completion to Johnny Holton and also connected deep for about a 35-40-yard pass to Holton.
In special teams work, DJ Hayden blocked a Giorgio Tavecchio field goal and scooped it up and would’ve been in line to return it for a touchdown.
The team finished off with a two-minute drill. Carr hit Seth Roberts over the middle and past the coverage of Hayden on the first play for solid yardage. That drive eventually ended in a Sebastian Janikowski 41-yard field goal.
The second-team offense couldn’t score on its drive. Dexter McDonald, who had a real strong day of practice, batted down one pass. Neiko Thorpe also had a breakup on the drive and the final play saw Matt McGloin scramble and launch one deep that Trawick and Dewey McDonald knocked down.