Defensive End Jihad Ward
Win, lose, or draw – particularly in the midst of the Oakland Raiders three-game winning streak – the message has remained the same from the players and coaches alike; the team's focus is solely on the next game on the schedule.
Whether that's a home game, an away game, or in this case a "home" game in Mexico City against the Houston Texans, Head Coach Jack Del Rio and his staff are remaining consistent in their messaging to the team as a whole, even though the Silver and Black's Week 11 tussle with the Texans is far from a normal home game.
"We try to provide a vision of how we want the business trip to go each week whenever we're traveling," said Del Rio Thursday. "It's really business as usual for us in terms of laying that out."
Yes, there is a little more fanfare surrounding the Monday Night Football game than normal, and the team is indeed heading abroad for what is deemed a home game on the schedule, but regardless of the outside attention, the Raiders are going about their business as usual this week before flying down to Mexico City Sunday afternoon.
"We've been very purposeful in approaching each game one at a time, really understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each opponent," Del Rio said. "We have a healthy respect for every team we go against, but we're not fearing anybody. So, it's all about us and our preparation leading up to the game. Whether it's here at home in front of our great fans or whether it's down somewhere else on the road. Even an international setting like Mexico City, which we know will be awesome, but it still comes down to our preparation leading up to playing a good game."
That mindset is echoed by the team's players, and while Monday's matchup at Estadio Azteca certainly provides a change from the norm, they know that there is no doubt a job to do – particularly with how tight things currently are in the AFC West.
"It's just the next game," rookie defensive end Jihad Ward said. "We just have to keep getting better, and just compete until the next game. We're onto the next. It's a big game for us. It's Monday Night Football, but we're going to treat it like a regular game. We're going to play Raider football."
That "Raider football" as Ward describes it, has been synonymous with a high-flying offense led by quarterback Derek Carr, but over the last month in particular, defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s group has shown a marked improvement, and Ward hopes to see that improvement continue against the Texans in primetime.
"We just have to learn from our mistakes and just get better at it," ward explained. "We're doing a hell of a job, and we still have a lot to work on, so everything'll be good."
And while the Monday night affair won't be the first primetime NFL game that Ward plays in as a Raider, it will be his first time out of the country for the University of Illinois-product.
"This my first time [leaving the country]," Ward said. "I stayed in Philly. I haven't really gone out of the States yet, but I'm just traveling and getting a lot of experience."
Kickoff against the Texans is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PT.
WR – Amari Cooper – Back – Limited
C – Rodney Hudson – Knee – Limited
DT – Stacy McGee – Ankle – Limited
RB – Latavius Murray – Ankle – Limited
G/T – Kelechi Osemele – Knee – Limited
CB – Sean Smith – Shoulder – Limited
-The Raiders were getting in the spirit for their trip to Mexico City later this week, as several of the songs in the team's Thursday afternoon practice mix featured Spanish artists; full immersion for the Silver and Black in that regard apparently.
-In a bit of an anomaly for Week 11 of the regular season, the Raiders had complete participation in Thursday's practice, although six players – including Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray – only practiced in a limited capacity.
-Although the Raiders did have total participation in the day's session from the 53 men on the active roster, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. - who is still listed on the Reserve/Injured list - was still not able to go as he recovers from a hip injury.
Quarterback Derek Carr on whether or not he'd consider a presidential run in 2020 or beyond:
"Yeah, I might. I'll think about it. (laughter) It's definitely something… I'll never say no to that. We'll see."
Although the AFC West is ultra-competitive at this point in the season, wide receiver Amari Cooper is focused entirely on the Silver and Black handling its own business:
"We really don't worry about any other teams. We just have to focus on our own team; take it every week at a time, every game at a time."
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