After the rookie season Bryan Edwards had to endure with injuries and COVID-19 restrictions, a sense of normalcy is starting to come for the second-year receiver.
Edwards, like all of his 2020 draft class, didn't have the usual rookie experience. In the midst of the pandemic, Edwards had no rookie minicamp, OTAs or preseason games. Edwards' short, but impressive 2020 Training Camp managed to earn him a starting wideout position Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers opposite Henry Ruggs III.
While both had high expectations of themselves coming into their rookie seasons, they combined for 645 yards and three touchdowns. Edwards was limited to 11 receptions in 12 games due to an ankle injury.
"I just had such high expectations for myself," said Edwards "I put that pressure on myself and I wanted to be a guy in this league and for this team. When I got hurt and I went down, it was real tough on me just mentally. Trying to force myself a little early to get back – it just didn't go the way I wanted to go."
Ruggs has already publicly stated that he's no longer crying over spilled milk from his rookie season, and that he just wants to continue to get better. Edwards let the media know Wednesday that he feels the exact same way.
"I think me and Ruggs kind of just let the past be the past," said Edwards. "We're kind of trying to put our best foot forward and focus in on the now and try to be present and be where our feet are everyday."
A big factor in Edwards becoming more comfortable within the Raiders organization has a lot to do with how he's adjusted to the city of Las Vegas. The offseason gave Edwards a chance to relax and enjoy his new place of residence, after spending his whole life in South Carolina. Earlier this offseason, Edwards even had the chance to catch a Vegas Golden Knights playoff game at T-Mobile Arena with some of his fellow teammates. He admitted that, "I know nothing about hockey, but the energy in that building is electric."
"I've definitely adjusted well," said Edwards. "I've been here [this offseason]. I went home for a little bit, but I spent most of my time here just trying to get myself adjusted to the heat, to just the atmosphere, the people. So Vegas has really grown on me.
"I bought a home here, so I feel good about it."
In the time Edwards spent in South Carolina, he went back to his alma mater and "tried to give some knowledge" to the up-and-coming Gamecocks and "be a light to them and kind of guide them through their journey like I was guided through mine." A light in Edwards' journey in adjusting to Las Vegas has been receiver Hunter Renfrow. Renfrow is also from South Carolina and grew up in Myrtle Beach, 14 miles south of Conway, South Carolina -- Edwards' hometown.
"Coming all the way out here from South Carolina -- never really been out of the state for much of my life, so coming all the way out here to Vegas, everything [is] new. Having Hunter here for support, just a familiar face from back home, he helped me so much. Mentally, you get a little homesick and just got a guy right there that understands you, that's huge."
Renfrow and Edwards were cross-state rivals in college with Renfrow winning two National Championships at Clemson and Edwards breaking several receiving records at South Carolina. The Raiders slot receiver knows Edwards' game very well and is happy to finally be with him and not against him.
"He's done a great job of playing fast," Renfrow said Monday after practice. "When he plays fast, he's as good as it gets. I've seen that ever since he was in JV football. You can't guard him whenever he's locked in and going full speed. Thankfully, he's healthy and it's going to be an exciting year. But his mentality has never changed, it's just getting him healthy and thankfully he's finally healthy."
Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller can also visibly tell how more comfortable Edwards has become after last season, saying he's playing more "free, not worrying about injury." Waller even claimed that Edwards is letting more his personality come out on the field during Training Camp with him "being goofy out there and just having fun, just being loose."
Quarterback Derek Carr has also noticed Edwards becoming more free on the field as he's been able to develop more chemistry with the receiver this offseason. He even compared Edwards to his former college teammate and All-Pro receiver Davante Adams.
"He's very quiet. But around me he's very open. We talk about a lot of things, joke around, all those kinds of things," Carr said about Edwards.
"Very fun to throw him the ball. I've said it before, just like Davante [Adams] could just move through the air, their body control is just impressive. I wish I could do that. It'd be nice to be able to catch a football like that. I think also you see his strong hands. Sometimes he'll catch a ball and he's so strong that he doesn't bring it into the body where they can punch it out, he'll just hold it away from them. Not many guys can do that, but he can."
No. 89 is coming back into his second season with the same heavy expectations he had his rookie season. While he's drawn comparisons to other star receivers from his coaches and teammates, he seems to solely be focused on being the best Bryan Edwards.
"I'm just trying to come in here and work every day, no matter what's said about me," said Edwards.
"Just come in here and be the same guy, make as many plays as I can for this team."
View photos from another day of practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center during 2021 Training Camp.