Rookie WR Derek Carrier makes a catch. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
With several special guests in attendance Saturday morning, the Oakland Raiders took the field at their Napa Valley Training Complex for their 11th practice of 2012 Training Camp, powered by Verizon 4G LTE.
Former head coach turned television analyst John Gruden, play-by-play man Mike Tirico and sideline reporter Lisa Salters were at practice preparing for their upcoming Monday Night Football broadcast. Raiders Legends Fred Biletnikoff and Tom Flores took in practice. Jim Miller and Gil Brandt made their annual training camp visit for Sirius XM NFL radio.
The Raiders will kick off the 2012 campaign in the national spotlight on ESPN's Monday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys, but the players are finding the glare of the of the coaching staff more intense than the bright lights of television.
"It's going to be very exciting, at the end of it though, it's just football, you have to go out there, know what you're doing and do your job," rookie WR Derek Carrier said. "There's a few extra people watching but that shouldn't get in the way."
This will be Carrier's first experience on the big stage after playing his college football at Beloit College in Wisconsin. For many of the Raiders players, especially the younger guys, the allure of Monday Night Football is unmistakable.
"It's unbelievable, it really sounds crazy," Carrier said. "When you really step back and think about everything that's going on it seems pretty special."
With injuries to RBs Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson, one-time Carolina Panthers RB Rashawn Jackson is looking forward to making the most of the opportunity to play and showcase his skills.
"We've been practicing here as a team, working on being together and doing things the right way, my major concern is getting my job done and executing at a high level," Jackson said. "I'm sure Raider Nation will make that a little easier for me."
As focused as he is, playing on Monday Night Football is the stuff of dreams for the former Virginia Cavalier. "Wow, that's a little kid's dream come true. I remember being a little boy just wishing I could be in this position and now it's actually here," Jackson added. "Monday is going to be a very energetic, uplifting night for me."
As excited as the players are to kick things off on Monday Night Football, competition for a spot on the 53-man roster is foremost on everyone's minds.
"It's been great, it's been a lot of fun, so many different guys, so many different skill sets, everyone brings something different to the table," Carrier said of competition at the wide receiver position. "I've been able to take bits and pieces of what I've learned from not only the coaches but other receivers to make my game better."
LB Travis Goethel is flying a bit under the radar after dealing with injuries the first two years of his career. He is looking forward to getting back on the field and re-establishing himself as an NFL linebacker.
"I'm just stoked to get out there and start playing," Goethel said. "I can't be more thrilled, the coaches that came in have taught us a lot all ready and this new scheme we're running, guys are flying around. I'm thrilled to get back on the field and show what I've learned. I'm always motivated to go out there and make plays, even more so now."
Defensive back Brandon Underwood joined the Raiders this offseason after starting his career with the Green Bay Packers. Monday night will be his first opportunity to play in the front of the Raider Nation as well.
"I'm just thinking about competing and going out there and doing what I'm supposed to do," Underwood said. "I'm very excited to be part a part of the [Raider] Nation and be able to play in the Black Hole to open up things."
Monday marks two weeks since the Raiders first training camp practice. To a man, the Raiders are looking forward to hitting the gridiron against an opponent instead of their teammates.
"It's going to fun, it's Monday Night in front of the Raider Nation," Jackson said. "The Black Hole is going to be ready and pumped up, I'm sure my energy will match the fans."
The Raiders face the Cowboys at O.co Coliseum Monday at 5:00 p.m. on ESPN's Monday Night Football. Raiders.com will be on hand for complete coverage.