Defensive End Mario Edwards Jr.
After months of discussion and speculation regarding the health of his neck, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. returned to the practice field Tuesday, participating in the entirety of the first day of Raiders' Minicamp.
"It felt great to back with the team out there working with the guys, and ready for the next day," said Edwards after practice.
The former Florida State Seminole suffered a neck injury in the team's Week 15 loss to the Green Bay Packers that caused his rookie season to end prematurely, but interest surrounding his future began to increase throughout the offseason as no timetable for his return was made readily available.
However, Edwards cleared up any confusion about the specifics of his injury Tuesday afternoon, calling the issue a neck sprain, and confirming that he's 100 percent recovered from the ailment suffered in December.
"Looks like he's been working hard," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio when asked about Edwards' first day back. "We know that he's been working hard with [Strength and Conditioning Coach] Joe [Gomes], and doing the things that he can do, and he's able to join us today, and it's good to have him back."
Before Edwards was lost for the final two games of the 2015 season, the rookie defensive end had put together a quality opening campaign in Silver and Black, totaling 41 tackles and two sacks, and had become a regular contributor along the Raiders' defensive front. While he was able to play a majority of his rookie season, dealing with the consequences of his neck injury was a bitter pill for Edwards to swallow.
"I mean anytime anyone is having a good season and anything like that, it's always devastating," said Edwards. "I know what work I have to put in this year to pick up where I left off. So that's what I'm focusing on now."
Edwards' infusion back along the defensive line also means that the one of the deepest position groups on the Raiders' roster gets a little bit deeper, and with the additions the team has made this offseason, Edwards is excited to get to work and contribute.
"I'm definitely excited," Edwards said. "With the new players that we got from the draft, from the new players that we got from other teams, this is going to be a great defensive line. I'm just trying to go in and contribute as much as I can."
He didn't hesitate either when asked about his ability to put the pads on when the team reports to Training Camp 2016 in late July.
"Yeah," Edwards said with a big smile. "I'll be good."