Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders took the field for their second practice of Training Camp 2014, presented by California National Guard. On another warm day in Napa (although not nearly as hot as Day 1), the team worked in helmets and shells in front of season ticket holders. .
"I thought it was a good, competitive practice," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "I think guys were out here flying around. We're getting better as a football team and I'm excited about that. There's obviously still a lot of things that we've got to work on. We've got a ton of getting better to do, but I like the way our guys are out here working in all phases of the game. We just got to keep coming out and competing on a day-in and day-out basis, and we'll continue to get better as a football team."
The players used the first two practices without pads to knock off rust from the time off and come back together as a team. "The first couple of days have been great. It's been a little hot, but it's been great," said RB Darren McFadden. "Guys are coming out here flying around and I feel like we're ahead of where we were this time last year, so it's a positive thing. We have a lot of things we need to correct and keep building on, but the main thing is guys are coming out here and they're hungry every day.
WR Rod Streater also feels an improvement from last year. "It's been pretty good," said Streater. "I feel like we got off to a fast start, a lot of great plays been made out there. I feel like we're ahead of last year."
The rookies are experiencing their first NFL training camp and are making sure to observe and learn from the veterans. "Very important because you get to pick up on a little cheat here and there from different vets on how they do this, how they take care of their bodies, what are they eating, their studying habits, what are they looking at when they're studying film," said CB TJ Carrie. "You definitely get a different aspect from each and every player, each and every vet, from a positional standpoint on what works for them and how you can implement it into your game plan."
The team is getting accustomed to camp life. Now it's time for the real football to begin. "Tomorrow's the first day we really play football," said Coach Allen. "I think everybody gets excited about the first day in pads. We've just got to maintain our focus, alright? We've just got to focus in on trying to get better every day and not worry about whether we're in pads, not pads. Just do our job and do it right every single time, and if we do that we'll continue to get better as a football team."
Sunday marks the first padded practice of Training Camp 2014 and the players are ready. "Once you get the pads on, you feel like it's football season," said Streater. "I'm excited to get them back on and start hitting."
Tomorrow's padded practice will be the first opportunity to really see what the Raiders squad is made of. "It's very important. Just being out here in shorts and helmets, guys are going out and running around and making plays, but once you're out here in pads, it's a different story," said McFadden. "You can't just tag off on somebody. You have to actually make contact with them."
Big rookie defensive lineman Justin "Jelly" Ellis is motivated to see what he can accomplish in pads. "Especially as a lineman, you work technique and fundamental stuff while you have shells on, but when you put the pads on, that's when you find out who you are and what you need to fix and then you get the real tempo," said Ellis. "I'm ready to see how the real tempo because I like the guys on the O-line, I think we have a good O-line, so I think they give me a good picture."
And Carrie knows playing near game speed will help prepare him and his teammates for the first preseason game, less than two weeks away. "Once you put the pads on at camp, you really start to get a feel for how the actual game is going to played on game day," said Carrie. "You get that aspect of real collision, filling gaps, pressing receivers, going up for the ball against receivers. You get all of those aspects that you're really going to be seeing in the game. You definitely get that game feel."
The Raiders will take the field again Sunday afternoon for their third practice of Training Camp 2014. This time it will be in pads. And this time, football will really be back.