Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders took the field Monday afternoon for their ninth practice of Training Camp 2014, presented by California National Guard. This is the first game week of 2014 and the players are excited for the opportunity to face another opponent.
"I thought it was a good practice today. I thought they responded better after the day off this time as opposed to the last day off," said Head Coach Dennis Allen. "It's really our last day off before we start preseason games. It's right around the corner from us. We're excited about kicking this thing off in four days against Minnesota and we're kind of beginning to turn our attention that way. We've got a lot of getting better to do, but it's time to start playing preseason games."
Normal game weeks include extensive game-planning and preparation for an opponent. However, the focus of Preseason Week 1 is all about the Silver and Black. "Right now, it's still about us, it's all about the Oakland Raiders," said DL C.J. Wilson. "We're not really worried about the Minnesota Vikings because it's still practice. So right now all we're worried about us right now. All that matters is the Oakland Raiders."
The players are anxious and ready to take the field against another team. "Guys are excited to go play against another team," said WR Brice Butler. "For the last two weeks we've been going against ourselves, so the adrenaline and anticipation is always high when you get to play against somebody else."
With just three full practices this week before traveling to Minnesota, the team is focused on preparing to play under the lights. "It feels great knowing we have a game; it gives you something to look forward to," said Wilson. "At the beginning of camp, there's no light at the end of the tunnel, so you hit the same guys every day, going against your teammates. You have fun, but it's a grind. But knowing we're getting ready for a game, the intensity picks up, the focus picks up and you're just happy because you get to hit somebody else besides your teammates."
The atmosphere during practice changed a bit as the players know their opportunity to show the coaches what they can in a game situation is approaching. "I think everybody is excited, excited that we get to face somebody else and not beat up on each other," said CB Taiwan Jones. "You can tell everybody is looking forward to it."
Friday's match-up with the Vikings is the first chance for the team to really see what they've accomplished through Organized Team Activities, Mini-Camps and Training Camp. "It's very important because you're getting looks from another opponent," said Jones. "You kind of gauge where you're at and you can kind of gauge where you're at as a team, as a group. We finally get to come together as a group and play another opponent. We've never played with each other so we're excited to see where we're at."
The players are also keenly aware that every time they take the field – preseason or not – in that Silver and Black jersey, they are representing the shield and the best fans in sports. "It does start once you put on that jersey for real, which in the preseason, you put it on you go out representing the Raider Nation," said QB Matt Schaub. "I'm looking forward to it. It does start there. It started back in March when I came here. So we're just looking forward to going and lining up against another team."
The chemistry developed during training camp, and the entire offseason, is what should eventually benefit the team on game day. "We've got great veterans that inspire us every day and you've got a lot of young folks who are bringing a lot of energy," said Jones about the defensive backs room. "I think it's a good combination of guys."
The guys are enjoying the atmosphere and having fun playing football. "It's so much fun, every day. This is what I do," said Wilson. "I've been doing this since I was nine years old, so this is all I know. It's a great atmosphere. It's fun to play for the Oakland Raiders. I have to give it up, every day the atmosphere is next to none. It's fun every day to put the pads on and come out here and work with these guys. I'm excited."
The Raiders have two more practices before traveling to Minnesota with their first preseason game. It's finally football season. The players are excited and Raider Nation should be too.