The last time the Oakland Raiders found themselves playing under the bright lights on a Sunday night, things were much different for the Silver and Black.
In October 2013 – in a game that still holds the record for the latest-start time in NFL history – Terrelle Pryor was lining up under center for the Silver and Black, Dennis Allen was the head coach, and the Raiders were halfway through what would turn into a 4-12 campaign in the cellar of the AFC West.
My, how the times have changed.
Pryor has re-invented himself as a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, Jack Del Rio is now at the helm of the ship for the Silver and Black, and gone are the days of the Raiders being a perennial cellar dweller within the division.
At the halfway point of the 2016 regular season, the Raiders boast a 6-2 record, and are preparing to host the Denver Broncos Sunday night in what will be the Silver and Black's first nationally-televised game of the season.
With division supremacy on the line, and all eyes on the Week 9 clash between the Raiders and Broncos at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, from the outside looking in, Sunday night's game certainly has a distinct feel, but for Head Coach Jack Del Rio, it's just the next game on the schedule.
"For us, we put ourselves on display each week," said Del Rio Wednesday afternoon. "I get it'll be more hyped this week, but it won't be any different in terms of preparing for it and then going out and playing good football. I think what we recognize as an organization is as you become relevant, as you play good football, you're going to have more of these opportunities."
"This is the natural progression in building a good football team," he added. "We should expect to be in these games. We're going to expect to win these games. Then we're going to move forward and have more of these kinds of games."
Quarterback Derek Carr echoed the sentiment of his head coach, and while No. 4 is well aware of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Sunday night game – especially following his record-setting performance last week – the Raiders signal-caller knows that as soon as the ball is kicked off, his job remains the same.
"It's cool, it's all fun and it's cool to talk about, but when it comes down to it when the ball's kicked off, you just want to win," Carr explained. "It doesn't change anything and that's with any game. Whenever the ball was kicked off last week, I don't care how we did it, I just wanted to win. The same thing this week, that's all we are doing, this hard work and weight lifting and practicing and studying, we just want to win the game. So, once it's kicked off, that kind of stuff, even if it meant something to somebody, it doesn't really matter."
Although Carr is just in his third professional season, his experiences as a starting quarterback have run the gamut of the NFL experience, from starting his rookie season 0-10, to now being mentioned as a possible MVP candidate in 2016.
Those collective experiences have shaped the 25-year-old signal-caller, and make it easier to block out all the noise that coincides with a primetime game against a division rival.
"It's so much easier because as a rookie, you're swimming," Carr explained. "You're seeing blitzes and speed that you've never seen in your life. That's for any rookie, whether they're playing good or they're struggling. It's going to be fast, it's going to be new. You're going to get blitzed, it's all of those things. And then, all of the stuff that happens off the field, press conference every week, signings, there's a whole bunch of stuff that just comes with the territory. But, now it's just, it's easy. I got my process down, I got my way I go about things and I surround myself with good people around me and they've done a great job of protecting me."
G/T –Vadal Alexander – Ankle – Limited
WR – Amari Cooper – Back – Limited
C – Rodney Hudson – Knee – Did not participate
RB – Taiwan Jones – Knee – Limited
DT – Stacy McGee – Ankle – Did not participate
FB – Jamize Olawale – Ankle – Limited
G/T – Kelechi Osemele – Knee – Did not participate
T – Donald Penn – Not injury related – Did not participate
CB – Sean Smith – Shoulder – Did not participate
T – Menelik Watson – Calf – Limited
-Add another accolade to Derek Carr's résumé; after his record-setting performance, the NFL announced that Carr had been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
An exclusive look at the Oakland Raiders as they begin prep for their Week 9 AFC West matchup with the Denver Broncos.
-After missing Sunday's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, defensive tackle Stacy McGee remained sidelined during Wednesday's session, as did center Rodney Husdon, G/T Kelechi Osemele, and tackle Donald Penn.
-In other injury-related news, after leaving the Raiders Week 8 game early with a shoulder injury, cornerback Sean Smith was also unable to practice Wednesday afternoon; however Head Coach Del Rio offered no update on his status for Sunday's game.
"No, no updates," Head Coach Del Rio said when asked about Smith. "I mean Sean has the shoulder. We'll go through the week and put out the injury report as we always do."
Carr talked about his talented group of wide receivers:
"Yes, I love them. You said it for me, I love them. I'm happy that they're here. I tell Mr. [General Manager Reggie] McKenzie thank you all the time."
On a conference call with the local media, Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller recounted Khalil Mack's impressive performance last year in Denver:
"He had five sacks in one half. That just speaks to the volume of the type of player that everyone know he can be."
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