Nnamdi Asomugha wasn’t in Napa wearing the silver and black that he’s donned his entire career, but his former team was out in full pads moving at full speed. No Nnamdi? No problem for the players who continue to wear the colors of the Oakland Raiders.
It was the first day in pads for the gladiators of Oakland and you’d have a hard time seeing any rust that may have formed from the long offseason. Players ran at full speed, played fast, and stirred up enough intensity to cause a few scraps with each other.
There was plenty of pushing, shoving, and trash talk going on between plays, but the worst altercation came midway through practice when second-year linebacker Travis Goethel got into a brawl with third-year offensive guard Roy Schuening. Goethel, who played his ball at Arizona State duked it out with Schuening, an Oregon State alum, to fairly even draw that lasted nearly 15 seconds.
Veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly showed undrafted rookie offensive lineman Alan Pelc a few pointers in boxing — slap boxing. After a play in which Kelly pushed Pelc far into the backfield, the two came out swinging, but it was the defensive tackle who connected with at least three head slaps and a punch by using his longer reach to keep Pelc from landing a single blow.
The ‘old’ Pac-10 battle wasn’t the only time two Raiders went extracurricular on the field — it was just the most notable. On one play, Louis Murphy running down the sidelines, lowered his shoulder and gave rookie defensive back Zac Etheridge better than he got. Recently signed defensive back Jerome Boyd was there to witness it, and after a little more shoving between the veteran and rookie, commented to Etheridge, “He’s trying to get you.”
For the last two seasons, Raiders training camp practices haven’t been what you’d call a place for cheering. Campers would go through training camp practices mostly silent, but a Hue Jackson camp is definitely anything but that.
In a variation of the old Oklahoma drill, players from both sides of the ball were cheering their teammates on from the sideline. A big block had offensive players, wearing white jerseys, egging on the defense, while big hits from defenders, wearing black jerseys, brang out the ‘Ooohs’ from the sidelines.
“It felt good to get back out there and bang around a little bit,” seventh-year pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley told reporters after practice. “I think a lot of guys felt pretty good.”
Under Jackson, the Raiders’ players will be expected to be physical on the field. It’s part of his plan to make the Raiders a ‘bully’ against their opponents this season. “I love [physical practices]. That’s the name of the game,” said the first-year Raiders head coach.
“If we’re going to be a team that’s building a bully, I can’t all of a sudden walk out there on Sunday, Monday or Thursday and say we are,” continued Jackson. “We’ve got to become one, and I think our guys understand it’s a contact sport, and we’ve got to line up every now and then and run into each other.”
They did on Saturday…
- Louis Rankin is baaaack! Rankin was the top preseason rusher in 2008 for the Raiders and Saturday he looked just as good on the field. Running between the tackles or taking the rock to the edge, he was able to avoid tacklers often throughout the day.
- As good as Rankin was on Saturday, there is no question that Darren McFadden is the top back for the Silver and Black. McFadden was as explosive as ever, but this year he’s running with a confidence he hasn’t shown this early in a season.
- (FB) Marcel Reece, (LB) Sam Williams, (DT) Desmond Bryant, (QB) Trent Edwards, (LB) Bruce Davis, (OL) Khalif Barnes, and former Cal defensive tackle Derrick Hill were all signed and at practice. Covering Cal the last few years, I bet Cal alum Vit Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle that he will make the team. Vit and I bet a sandwhich.
- The starting offensive line on Saturday was (LT) Jared Veldheer, (LG) Daniel Loper, (OC) Stefen Wisniewski, (RG) Cooper Carlisle, (RT) Joseph Barksdale. Of the five, it was Carlisle that looked game ready.
- Rolando McClain isn’t the same player he was a year ago — he is much better! “Wow! Wow! What an improvement,” said Jackson after practice when asked about his second-year star. While being blocked by fullback Tonga Manase, McClain buried the blocker and crushed rookie running back Taiwan Jones.
- Jones, rookie defensive back Chimdi Chekwa, wide receiver Jacoby Ford and Alex Parsons left the field injured on Saturday. Chekwa left with what looked like a dislocated left shoulder and Ford was walking around with a wrap around his left arm from above his bicep to his wrist.
- Players are not allowed to walk off the field when going to the sidelines. After one play in which the defenders were subbing out, Jackson yelled out, “No walking off the field!” He then reminded his coaches of the same thing by telling them, “Coaches, don’t let your players walk off the field.”
- Matt Shaugnessy has Jared Veldheer’s number — metaphorically speaking. No matter what Veldheer tried to do to prevent the third-year defender from getting around him, it usually didn’t work, and when it did, it didn’t work well.
- Veldheer wasn’t the only lineman struggling on Saturday. Rookie right tackle Joseph Barksdale had trouble finding a defender he could block and rookie center Stefen Wisniewski wasn’t able to snap the ball in the air when going against John Henderson. Wisniewski, who was snapping in a shotgun formation, twice rolled the ball to the coach pretending to be his quarterback.
- After practice, starting quarterback Jason Campbell spent time practicing with his rookie center. In the normal quarterback-under-center formation, Wiz II snapped to the veteran signal caller.
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