Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders returned to the field Wednesday afternoon for their fifth practice of Training Camp 2014, presented by California National Guard, after a players' day off. It was another padded practice, but with fresher legs, as players had the opportunity to rest and recuperate on Tuesday.
"Every day is crucial so the biggest focus for me is recovery," said LB Miles Burris. "I have all sorts of things that I do. It's not just a day off; it's pretty busy for me."
Each player has their own routine for an off day, but they all do one thing in common – get off their feet. "Went over some plays, got some time off my feet, make sure I was ready to go today," said rookie G Gabe Jackson. "I went to the training room to get therapy to make sure I'm preventing injury and making sure I'm taking care of my body in the cold tank and everything else I need to do."
Rookie CB Keith McGill spent the day with his wife and daughter, which rejuvenated him for the next stretch of practices. "I just went home and spent the off day with my wife and daughter and tried to get in the playbook as much as possible," said McGill. "You just have to try to recover and try to get your mind right ready for today. I've been away from my family a lot, so going home after all these practices and all this work I've been putting in and just seeing my daughter and being able to smile and seeing my wife, it helps out a lot."
The team went back to work and took a little while to get going, but eventually found their stride. "We've got to be able to come back after a day off and be able to regain our focus, but we worked on a lot of different situations, put the guys through a lot of kind of unique situations in a game," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "I thought overall with the exception of probably not as crisp as I would have liked, I was still pretty pleased with what we were able to get accomplished."
"There's always stuff you can clean up, things we can get a little better at," added QB Matt Schaub. "We're always striving for perfection out here, so we're not there yet. It's some good quality work we're getting in and it's a good defense that we're facing on a day-to-day basis. We're just competing well and we're trying to make each other better. There's some good things going on."
WR Andre Holmes felt confident about practice. "It went pretty well. In the beginning it was a little slow and probably a little bit tired, but as practice went on, the tempo started moving and me and the rest of the receivers got better," he said.
The players are leaving each practice feeling as though they've improved. "It feels good to come back out here and work with the team and get a little bit better every day," said Burris. "That's the focus, to keep building."
"I thought practice went pretty good," added McGill. "There's a couple plays out there I left on the field that I need to get back tomorrow and make up for it, but at the same time, the receivers out here are great and they're doing their job so you just have to battle during one-on-ones and try to win as much as possible."
Each practice, the players can feel the improvement of themselves, their position groups, and the team as a whole. "I think we're gelling," said Burris on the linebackers. "I think we're building on what we did in the spring. We didn't take any steps back and we're building on what we did there and getting a little bit better every day and getting comfortable with each other."
Despite the combination of young players and veterans and guys coming together from all over the league, the Raiders are finding their chemistry. "I think the thing that's been most impressive is with all the additions and this turnover in the roster, how quickly we've come together as a team and have one heartbeat and mindset," said Schaub. "We understand what our goal is and everyone's doing the right things to take the proper steps towards our goal. Having enough guys coming from other places, young guys added to the mix, you usually don't find that this quickly. I think that we're all heading in the right directions and we understand how to get there."
The rookies are working with the veterans and finding a rapport. Today, Jackson took reps with the first team. "The more reps I get, the more different looks I get, the better it is for me," said the rookie guard. "I got the opportunity to go against [Justin] Tuck today. I have to make sure I'm doing my technique and everything right and be right all the time because he's a great player. It helped me out a lot."
The Raiders have three more practices (Thursday-Saturday) before another off day. They'll take advantage of the opportunities to improve in all three phases of the game as the get closer to taking the field against another opponent.