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Raiders Rookie Mini-Camp Continues

Posted May 12, 2012

The Oakland Raiders held the second practice of their three-day rookie mini-camp on Saturday.

DT Christo Bilukidi rushes the passer (defensive coordinator Jason Tarver).Photo by Tony Gonzales

The Oakland Raiders held the second practice of their three-day rookie mini-camp on Saturday. The players were able to apply everything they had learned Friday on the practice field Saturday. “It was good,” said Raiders 3rd round draft pick Tony Bergstrom. “Today felt a lot better. Yesterday was more breaking back into football.”

The rookies were beginning to get the feel for the coaches, the system and their teammates. “It was a good day,” said OL Lucas Nix. “Everyone is starting to get the concepts of everything that is going on and we’re just all out there trying to earn a spot.”

The coaches were also trying to get a feel for the players, continuing to evaluate their talents over the course of three days. “Really we’re just trying to get a good evaluation of the rookies, both the drafted players and the undrafted players,” said Head Coach Dennis Allen. “We’ve had a couple of good practices already.”

One of the things the coaches are looking for is the players’ ability to adapt and get better each play and each practice. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver explained that the ability to correct mistakes is very important. This behavior was being demonstrated by many of the rookies after the first day.

“First day started off a little rough because the transition was a little bit different,” said WR Thomas Mayo out of California (PA). “But the second day, I cleaned up a lot of stuff and was in the playbook all night. And then coming out here and putting it all together…everybody is starting to get what they are supposed to do.”

The rookie mini-camp is critical for the incoming players as the Raiders move towards Organized Team Activities and training camp. “I think it’s extremely important,” said Coach Allen. “We’ve had the veteran players here for a while now, and already been through a mini-camp with them. So, the rookies are obviously behind from the mental and physical standpoint. So they’re going to have to work hard and work fast and get caught up because if they don’t get caught up pretty soon, they’ll fall behind. So, it’s really important to have this camp for them.”

The change of pace from college to the NFL is extreme, but the players are working hard to adjust. “From yesterday, I was a little rusty about [my footwork],” said 6th round draft pick DT Christo Bilukidi. “But today, taking that first step, I was doing everything I need to be doing to be successful on the field. Everything is pretty smooth. The transition from college to NFL, it’s so fast, but now I got my second-wind back, I’m getting there, I’m getting in more football shape, so everything has been real good.”

Fifth round draft pick WR Juron Criner noticed the shift in pace from college to the NFL. “It’s a lot different,” said Criner. “Even just like going from high school to college, the pace of the game changes, what is expected of you changes, and it begins to become more mental. Because here, everyone is talented, everybody is fast, everybody is physical, so the only edge you’re going to have is the mental edge of it.”

The immediate goal for rookie safety Chaz Powell is to improve every day. “I feel it’s coming along,” said Powell. “I’m getting better and better each day. I’m staying in my playbook; that’s the biggest thing. You have to learn the plays and if you don’t, you’re going to get cut, so I’m in the playbook every day. As a team, we’re starting to gel together. There are some flaws, but we’re going to keep working each and every day to get better.”

As they continue to work hard to impress the coaches, the mini-camp participants have also begun to soak up the fact that they get to put on the Silver and Black. “It actually didn’t even hit me until I saw my uniform,” said Criner. “So putting it on was just the greatest feeling I’ve experienced.”

Mayo echoed Criner’s sentiments. “It’s great,” Mayo said. “I was taking pictures on my phone and sending it to my mom, brothers and sister at home. It’s a good feeling. It’s been a dream all my life so hopefully just continue to work hard, compete and make the 53-man roster.”

Bilukidi is excited to continue to put on the jersey throughout the season. “I’m playing for an NFL organization,” said Bilukidi. “I love the feeling that I’m playing for a whole bunch of fans, I’m playing for my family, playing for my friends and playing for Raider Nation and putting on that Silver and Black.”

With one day left of the mini-camp, the rookies hope to eventually make the Raiders roster and, ultimately, help the Raiders win. “I want to get to a point where I can be a contributor,” said Bergstrom. “I just want to do anything I can to help this team.”

The Raiders conclude their three-day rookie mini-camp on Sunday. Be sure to log on to Raiders.com, follow us on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook for complete coverage.

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