Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Raiders took the field for their 11th practice of Training Camp 2014, presented by California National Guard, and their last practice before traveling to Minnesota to take on the Vikings in a Preseason Week 1 matchup.
Prior to practice, the Raiders signed two new players – LB Spencer Hadley and S Larry Asante – and waived/injured LB Marshall McFadden and S Shelton Johnson.
The team will have a final walk-through tomorrow morning before boarding a plane for the first road trip of 2014.
"We took them out of the pads today, kind of the last install of training camp working against some situational type of stuff," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "Now, we turn total attention to Minnesota. We're excited about getting this 2014 season started. I'm really looking forward to watching this football team go out and play on Friday night. I think all our guys are excited about it and ready to get this thing rolling."
|CB TJ Carrie. Photo by Tony Gonzales|
The first preseason game is the first opportunity for the coaching staff to see their team in a live situation. While the game is a great opportunity for the players to continue to work on their chemistry and get their football legs back, it's an even better chance for the coaches to evaluate their talent.
"We'll put the first team out there for a few plays and see how things go. I really want to get the ones some work, but I really want to have an opportunity in this first preseason game to see a lot of these young players go out and play," explained Coach Allen. "With all these preseason games, you're trying to use this as an evaluation process. It's a big part of the evaluation. It's one thing when you watch them out here in practice. It's another when the lights come on and they have to play a real game and there are no coaches out there helping them on the field. It's a great time to evaluate our players."
This week's preseason game is a big deal for the rookies – their first game as a professional. They want to bring what they've done throughout the offseason and training camp and execute on the field. "I'm nervous because preseason is big to me right now," said DT Justin Ellis honestly. "I'm trying to make the 53-man roster so you have to perform well as a rookie going into the preseason, so I'm nervous. But I'm going to try to settle down and just play."
There's excitement for all of the players as they get ready to finally face an opponent."I'm excited and hopefully I'll just go out there and execute the game plan exactly how my coaches want to," said QB Derek Carr. "I want to just try and be very detail oriented with my technique, my footwork, and try to play as perfect as possible, knowing that's never going to happen. There's always going to be things to correct, but just go out there and I really just want to enjoy it. That's the number one thing, go out there and enjoy it, but try to do my best to do what my coaches are saying."
There is not as much game planning that goes into the first preseason game because it's unclear who each player may face on the opposite side of the ball, but the talent in the NFL is greater than in college, so regardless of whom they may face, the rookies will get to really experience professional football. "Just getting experience, getting back into game speed mode and playing a length of a game," said G Gabe Jackson. "It's been awhile since college that I've had a whole full game because the Senior Bowl we had just one half to play and all that, so playing the length of the game and competing against NFL players; there's great players on this level."
The defensive players will likely face Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater. LB Khalil Mack is looking forward to seeing him across the line of scrimmage. "He's a great player. I'm looking forward to playing against great competition," said Mack. "That's what this game is all about. That's what it's about - being a competitor. He's a great competitor. He's mobile. He has great arms and what not. I look forward to going against him and whoever else."
While the Raiders understand what Minnesota might do, they are more concerned with executing on their end. "Our preparation is really to understand our defense and be able to play sound football and make the offense adjust to us," said CB TJ Carrie.
Their preparation for another opponent has been at a high level, facing off against the Silver and Black's offense and defense on a daily basis. "I think we've got a better O-line than previous years so I think working against the veteran O-linemen has been good for me," said Ellis.
The chance to take the field as a Raider for the first time is keeping the Raiders rookies focused, motivated and excited, even this deep into training camp. "It's a dream. It's all still a dream to me," said Ellis. "It's all a dream right now."
Anticipating putting on the real jersey and taking the field has the players amped up. "I get chills thinking about it right now," said Carr. "I'm very excited. I don't know how I'll feel. All I know is I'll do my best to be ready. Obviously, I have a long way to go being a quarterback, but I'm excited to put [the jersey] on and just go out there and play. I'll do my best and then obviously the next day, come in and correct it and work on it from there."
"To me, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me, so I really can't explain the excitement I have for [the game]. I'm just real happy and elated to get ready and play," said Jackson.
Friday's matchup is a culmination of years of hard work for a lot of the players and it's only a single step in their journey in the NFL. It's their chance to showcase how they can help this team win.
"It's an unfamiliar feeling and the excitement is unreal to explain," said Carrie. "Just to be here, being able to accomplish a dream and a goal and being able to live that dream on Friday is a memory that I will cherish."
The Raiders hit TCF Bank Stadium for a 5:00 p.m. PT kickoff against the Vikings this Friday. Follow along on Raiders.com, Facebook and Twitter, or listen live on KFOX 98.5/102.1 or watch on KTVU FOX 2.