When Aidan O'Connell learned he would get the start this week against the Giants, he felt the enormous amount of support of the locker room behind him.
Interim Head Coach Antonio Pierce named the rookie out of Purdue the starting quarterback going forward, as he believes he "gives us the best chance" when the New York Giants come to town for the Week 9 clash.
As O'Connell prepares for his second start of the season, his confidence is growing thanks to his teammates.
"It's been awesome. Definitely overwhelming to know the guys have my back and super supportive both vocally and how they treat me," the rookie said. "That gives me a lot of confidence in myself."
That includes a lot of support from veterans Brian Hoyer and Jimmy Garoppolo – who O'Connell said has been a huge resource for any question he has – as well as Davante Adams.
"Aidan is just a really consistent dude, man. ... You see him just working on his craft and just always ready for his opportunity," Adams told the media Thursday. "And that means a lot because it's just been so much up and down and shifting with the quarterbacks.
"Having that type of mentality as a young guy, he could obviously sit back there quietly, but the way he works on his body, all the things like that, it's a lot more mature than what I've seen from a first-year quarterback in my history. In Green Bay, those guys were great, but I just see something different as far as his intentionality and the way he goes about his business. So, it's a recipe for success."
O'Connell played in 33 games with 26 starts over five seasons (2018-22) for the Boilermakers, completing 826-of-1,328 passes for 9,219 yards and 65 touchdowns. He finished as the university's all-time leader in completion percentage (66.7), passer rating (141.8) and 500-yard passing games (two).
In two appearances (one start) for the Raiders, O'Connell has completed 34-of-52 passes for 313 yards, two total touchdowns and two interceptions. He considers his Week 4 start against the Chargers one of his most valuable experiences so far in his time in the Silver and Black.
"I got to know what it's like day before the game, day of the game to be the guy that was going to play and then obviously have that experience in-game," he said. "At the same time, it's a completely new team, new scheme we're playing against [this week], so it's a different challenge."
Along with a different QB under center, the offense will have a different play-caller in Bo Hardegree, quarterbacks coach turned interim offensive coordinator. It'll be helpful that O'Connell has forged a strong connection with Hardegree since rookie minicamp in June, learning from him in position meetings, practices and every other moment of the day he can.
Hardegree has spent the last 10 seasons in the NFL, beginning his career as an offensive quality control coach with the Denver Broncos in 2014 and also spending time with the Bears, Dolphins, Jets and Patriots prior to joining the Raiders in 2022.
"He works super hard," O'Connell said. "He watches so much film. He's always in there watching film and trying to get as much information as possible. Always prepared. Always has us prepared. … I've learned a lot since I've been here and a lot of it was because of him."
As for his approach leading up to Sunday afternoon, O'Connell isn't making any changes in his usual game preparation. Nothing is guaranteed in the National Football League, and he recognizes that though he is starting this week, the situation at quarterback could change at any time. It's important to him to play every snap like it's his last.
"You try to take one play at a time, no matter what the situation is because it's football. It could be your last play at any play," the rookie said. "You try to take advantage of every opportunity and it's all the same with this one."
Head inside Intermountain Health Performance Center to view the best photos from Thursday's practice.