Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders took the field for the first time of Training Camp 2012, powered by Verizon 4G LTE, at their Napa Valley Training Complex. Practicing in "shells," the players had the opportunity to play with contact and run around at full speed. The guys were excited to get back to football and prepare for the upcoming season.
Head Coach Dennis Allen was pleased with Monday's practice. "I thought we had a pretty good first day of practice," said Coach Allen. "We still have a lot of things that we need to get better at, but I thought for a first day of training camp it was pretty good."
For C Stefen Wisniewski and SS Mike Mitchell, this practice was a chance to get out on the field for the first time since last season after recovering from injuries. "It feels awesome," said Wisniewski. "I was standing around doing nothing for awhile and I didn't like that. It's been seven months since I've played football. It feels awesome; it feels great to be back.
Mitchell could hardly contain his excitement about getting back to football. "It was a blessing," said Mitchell. "I'm really excited and really grateful. It felt so good. It felt so good just to do something competitive with my teammates. It was awesome. I was super excited."
The energy during practice was high for the whole team. "It was good energy," said rookie LB Nathan Stupar. "We're all excited to be here, what the season has in store for us, so we're excited and we're a great team. We're bonding already and having fun and we're excited."
Veteran WR Darrius Heyward-Bey was also impressed with the energy level. "The energy was good," said Heyward-Bey. "The defense was flying around. The offense, we looked pretty crisp for the first day. A couple of things here and there, but it's the first day of practice."
The pace of practice was quick and efficient. "I think that's a big emphasis on both sides of the ball," said WR Jacoby Ford. "We definitely want good tempo. We just want to fly around out there and that's pretty much the main thing so that when it comes to the game, it just can become easy to us."
Today began the nearly four week opportunity for players to earn their spot on the 53-man roster. "I'm very serious about it," said Mitchell. "I still got my good buddies, me, Huff, and Ty, we're still tight, but it's more of a business thing for me because I have a lot to prove. It's a new regime, new coaches, they haven't seen me at all this year. Today, I was really pretty much playing like it was a game. I wasn't hitting or tackling anybody, but the intensity and everything was there. That's how it's got to be, at least coming from me."
That intensity and competition is what Coach Allen is looking for from his team day in and day out. "Everyone is competing and that's what Coach Allen is really emphasizing is competing," explained Stupar. "After the first day we had a great practice of energy and attitude and competition so it's going to be fun to see when we get the pads on."
Training camp is a grind, but the players are willing to do what is necessary to be successful. "It definitely was a long one," Ford said about the first practice. "But that's what we come in prepared for in camp and we have to come in and get in football shape. It's going to be hot, it's going to be tough, but that's the whole beauty of training camp. It's what you live for so I'm just excited to get out here and have a new era beginning."