C Stefen Wisniewski gets ready to block as QB Jason Campbell steps back to pass. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
The Oakland Raiders held the opening practice of their 2011 Training Camp on a warm day in Napa, Calif. After a morning of conditioning and walk-through, the team came together on the field for the first time. Despite an offseason without OTAs, mini camps, or team workouts, the Raiders forged ahead with their preparation for the 2011 campaign.
"I think we hit the ground running like I anticipated we would," said Head Coach Hue Jackson. "I thought it was a good start, but again I am going to keep raising the level here each and every day. That's what I told them and that is what we're going to do."
QB Jason Campbell could tell throughout the practice that players did their work during the offseason. "I think it gave the guys the opportunity to show leadership," said Campbell. "You have to do things on your own and coaches don't have to design something to work together. We have to design it as a team and show how bad you want to be a good football team. I think we had some guys that did something very well and competed at a high level. But overall, I'm excited about what I saw out of today's first practice."
The players, despite the heat, were pushing themselves to their limits to get back in football shape. "It felt like a first day's practice," said Campbell. "It was all out and that's pretty much how it's going to be. That's Coach Jackson's mentality -- practice hard, work hard, play hard. It's what we have to do day-in and day-out and of course the body is going to be sore. We have a short time frame to get ready, but everybody is doing it around the league. We just have to take pride in what we do and do it hard."
Players were excited to be back on the field with their teammates. "It is a great feeling, we finally got everything out the way, all the paper work resolved with the CBA and the lock out and all that," said CB Stanford Routt. "It is definitely a great feeling to be back with everybody, it is kind of like a déjà vu all over again, it's almost like we haven't left this place. But it is a new year and a new beginning."
As happy as the team was to work with each other again, they were also focused and ready to work. "If we want to take that next step as a team it is going to require that we come out here and grind and work hard every day," said DT Tommy Kelly.
S Mike Mitchell enjoyed being back with his teammates and thought the first practice was successful. "It is just fantastic. It was a good hard day's work and it has got to be hard work for us to get to where we need to be and to compete," said Mitchell. "It has been so long since we have been able to do that. There were no OTAs and no mini camps. All of us were going hard and obviously conditioning is a factor and we need to get into game shape. You can do all the running that you want, but there is only one way to play football and be in football shape, and that is to play it and do it. It was a good first day."
Seven of the eight Raiders draft picks participated in the first training camp practice and Coach Jackson did his best to watch their production. "My eyes were everywhere, but I like Wisniewski, he was in there at center and I thought he handled it well," said Coach Jackson. "I like DeMarcus Van Dyke and the way he moved his hips. That was pretty impressive. I mean the guy can run. Ausberry is playing tight end for us and again that was new for him to move around and do those things. I think we have all seen Taiwan Jones flash a couple of times running up through there. Denarius Moore making catches. Again our group is a very good group. I am very excited about the whole group. Day by day they will continue to grow and understand how to play the game of pro football, but I think it is a very good class."
The Raiders top selection of the 2011 NFL Draft, second-rounder Stefen Wisniewski, felt good about his first professional football league practice. "I thought it went well, everything was moving fast out there," said Wisniewski. "The defense was shifting their blitzes and coming, I had a lot of checks to go over. But for the first day it went well. I still have a lot of stuff to work on, but I'm excited about the opportunity to be out here."
"I was just kind of sitting around today smiling, because I'm finally a Raider," Wisniewski continued. "It finally feels real today. Getting drafted and then sitting around on my own, it didn't feel real yet, but putting the helmet on, practicing, and getting after it feels great."
The squad looks forward to continuing to improve and grow as a team as they make up for lost time. The team returns to the field tomorrow morning for walk-through and for their second practice in the afternoon.