Following the 2018 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders got a look at their nine-man draft class over the course of Rookie Minicamp and Mandatory Minicamp, excluding cornerback Nick Nelson.
Selected in the fourth round, - No. 110 overall - the former University of Wisconsin Badger has been sidelined the past few months after tearing his meniscus during a private workout back in April, but his days of rehabbing appear to be behind him.
When the rookies took the field for the first time during Raider Camp Tuesday, Nelson jogged out on to the field with his helmet in hand, eager to play after his hiatus. The exact date and time of when he would return was up in the air this offseason, but it’s clear that the coaching staff, and No. 38 feel comfortable with his health going forward.
“I feel 100 percent,” Nelson said following practice Wednesday.
The 21 year old participated in a series of drills with Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther and Defensive Backs coach Derrick Ansley throughout the day, and he looked every bit as healthy as he said he claimed to be. Nelson showed off his athletic prowess, but more importantly he looked comfortable. For a lot of players, it takes a while to trust their bodies again following an injury, but it didn’t seem like Nelson had that issue.
“It feels great to be out here and fly around,” he said. “I haven’t put the helmet on in so long, so it feels great to be back.”
Since he did miss a brief amount of time, he’ll certainly have to shake off some rust, but Nelson used his time on the sideline to learn, and observe the defense, as well as listen to some veteran leadership.
“[I’ve been learning] how to be a pro,” Nelson explained. “Just how to do the right things on and off the field, the little things you can get away with in college.”
Specifically, the young cornerback has taken a shine to safety Reggie Nelson.
“Reggie Nelson, he’s someone that does the right thing everywhere,” he said. “On the field, he watches a ton of film, always taking care of his body, and even in the locker room around the facility. That’s just someone you kind of want to be like, you want to take after, he’s played so long in the league. That’s someone you want to follow behind.”
Nelson will have plenty of time to continue picking the brain of the savvy veteran during camp, including many other players. As he undergoes his transition onto the NFL stage, the Maryland- native is approaching it the way any rookie should, and while he’s setting goals for himself, he’s not jumping too far ahead.
“I set some pretty high expectations, but really just taking things one day at a time,” Nelson said regarding his process. “One day at a time, one play at a time, and just get better every day.”
The Silver and Black have undergone a complete overhaul of their cornerbacks unit, and Nelson might find himself contributing sooner than anticipated depending on how camp goes. With former cornerbacks Sean Smith, TJ Carrie, and David Amerson all gone, Nelson will have plenty of opportunities to compete for playing time.
While teams all around the NFL are conducting their training camps at various locations, the Raiders are basking in the Napa Valley sunshine, and enjoying its 85 degree weather, something the rookie is grateful for.
“I love it, I love it,” he said with a smile. “It’s a blessing to be here, I just love everything about it.”
I think he loves being back on the field a little bit more, but it's good to hear he’s soaking in his surroundings. With his injury behind him, Nelson has nothing but clear skies ahead of him.
Head out to The Oakland Raiders Napa Valley Training Complex and see exclusive photos from Tuesday's first practice of 2018 Pre-Training Camp.