ALAMEDA — Derek Carr is learning the art of avoidance.
Carr was bestowed early with the gift of gab, a trait that dates back to his days as a youth when his mother was aghast that young Derek would strike up conversations people he’d never seen before in the grocery store.
“I used to have to tell him, `You can’t just talk to strangers like that,’ ” his mother Sheryl Carr said in 2015. “He just loved talking to people — he’s still that way.”
Now that Carr is a legitimate Most Valuable Player candidate on a 10-2 team that is creating a national buzz, the “strangers” bring recorders and cameras and want to hear his story.
Which has led to a few talks on the subject of time management by coach Jack Del Rio.
“We talk about how to protect his time from guys like you that come in here,” Del Rio said good-naturedly to a national writer in town to write about the Raiders success. “When the game is bigger and there’s more people around, you’ve got to protect your time, your preparation time, your time with your family.”
Carr concedes it hasn’t always been easy.
“Sometimes it’s been had for me, to be honest, because I try to be nice to everybody and a lot of people try to take advantage of it. That’s just the truth. I’m trying to learn as we go through it, how to say no, because everyone wants a piece of what’s going on. They didn’t much want a piece of it when we were 3-13.”
That’s about as close to an edge as you’ll get from Carr, who dutifully answered questions for nearly 12 minutes Monday, pleasantly revisiting stories about his brother’s David’s influence he’s told dozens of times.
Carr has a weekly radio spot on the Raiders flagship on Mondays, his usual time with the local reporters is Wednesday and he occasionally does conference calls with media from the Raiders opponent that week. National opportunities are screened mostly through the Raiders, as well as Carr’s representation.
Because the Raiders play Thursday night, Carr talked Monday and other than pleasantries in the locker room, will be unavailable until post-game questioning. A meticulous planner, Carr goes into media sessions with talking points and deftly avoids anything of a controversial manner.
It’s much appreciated by Del Rio, who never finds himself dealing with issues because of something controversial his quarterback told reporters.
“As a young player, he’s maturing and that’s probably the thing I’m most pleased with,” Del Rio said. “Obviously the productivity is awesome. But the way he’s conducted himself, continuing to heap praise on his teammates, to make it more about us, not about anything he’s doing individually. And I think that’s really healthy for us.”
Carr, along with running back Latavius Murray, treated the offensive line to choice seats at the Warriors game Monday night. He extolled the virtues of the team in an interview with CSN Bay-Area.
“We have a great group of guys, honestly. We have guys with character,” Carr said.
— Safety Nate Allen played just 12 snaps on defense in 10 games (missing two with a quadriceps injury) before playing 40 snaps against Buffalo. He got an interception on the play Khalil Mack hit Tyrod Taylor in the end zone.
Allen was playing in place of Karl Joseph, who left with a toe injury.
“You can’t sit around and mope,” Allen said. “You’ve got to be ready when your number is called.”
Del Rio said, “Nate really has been a pro. It’s good to have that kind of depth we can go to. He’s had an impact for us on special teams and he showed up big (against Buffalo).
Allen is the likely starter at strong safety against Kansas City, with Joseph hobbling and unlikely to play against Kansas City.
— Defensive tackle Darius Latham, defensive tackle Stacy McGee and linebacker Shilique Calhoun did not practice. Guard Kelchi Osemele and linebacker Cory James were limited.