Quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders offense
In recent years, IMG Academy has served as a factory of sorts for professional athletes from all walks of life.
From current NBA players Michael Beasley and Renaldo Balkman, to former Major League Baseball players Nomar Garciaparra and Josh Hamilton, the playing fields at the sports academy in Bradenton, Fla., have played host to a bevy of professional athletes, and beginning Wednesday, IMG officially became the Week 8 home of the Oakland Raiders.
With an already daunting travel schedule on the agenda, Head Coach Jack Del Rio elected to keep his team on the East Coast for the week between games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, cutting out two cross-country trips in the process.
However, while the team is based in Sarasota leading up to its matchup against the Buccaneers, Head Coach Del Rio is keeping the schedule as consistent as possible during the Silver and Black's week in the Sunshine State.
"Normal Wednesday for us, really trying to simulate as much as possible a normal game week and preparations," said Head Coach Del Rio Wednesday. "We're busy in that, right in the middle of it."
That consistency in preparation translated to the practice field as well. Granted the Raiders were going about their business with a rugby practice being held to the south, and a lacrosse practice being held to the east at the expansive IMG campus, but as far as the team's work, it was business as usual.
The warmup session was identical to what the team does at their Alameda, Calif., facility, and practice itself was nearly a mirror image of what the team does on a weekly basis. While the location changed, nothing else from practice seemed to be different.
As far as if there's been any adjustment for the players being away from home for an extended period of time, if there is one, quarterback Derek Carr hasn't seen the effects of it.
"I think that we have the kind of group where it doesn't really matter where we're at, we're just always together, we're always one family," Carr said. "So, it's kind of like a vacation in that aspect. Obviously this is a business trip for us, but it's a vacation in the sense that it doesn't matter where we're at, we're a family, you know what I mean? So, we could be here, New York, doesn't matter, we're all together and that's awesome. Our focus entirely is on winning this football game."
"I feel like we're just enjoying it," wide receiver Michael Crabtree said. "It's beautiful. Sarasota, this is nice. Taking it all in and at the same time, we're working every day. You can't beat this weather. You can't beat this scenery, the Ritz, you can't beat none of this. I'm just taking it all in, enjoying it and playing ball."
After wrapping up Wednesday's session, the team will be back on the field at IMG Academy Thursday afternoon, before wrapping up the week of practice Friday.
G/T – Vadal Alexander – Ankle – Limited
WR – Andre Holmes – Hip – Limited
RB – Taiwan Jones – Knee – Did not part.
DT – Stacy McGee – Ankle – Did not part.
S – Brynden Trawick – Shoulder – Limited
T – Menelik Watson – Calf – Limited
-Neither running back Taiwan Jones or defensive tackle Stacy McGee were able to participate in Wednesday's session, with Jones sitting on the sideline bleachers watching the first portion of practice in street clothes. The speedy running back has appeared in just four games thus far in the 2016 campaign.
-As we said earlier, while the locale for the Week 8 practice was different, nothing else seemed to be, including Justin Ellis, Bruce Irvin, and Khalil Mack working on their hands, throwing and receiving passes from assistant special teams coach Tracy Smith during the stretching portion of practice.
-The instruction from the coaching staff during practice also remained consistent, as tight ends coach Bobby Johnson made sure to relay to his group during a session of individual drills the importance of both head and hand placement.
-Buccaneers running back Doug Martin hasn't hit the field since Week 2 as he recovers from a hamstring injury, and on the team's first injury report of the week he was listed as a non-participant. Martin's availability – or lack thereof – is certainly something to keep an eye on as the week progresses.
Carr talks about whether or not he was part of the group that sent Marquette King balloons for his birthday:
"(laughter) I just saw that, no I did not. I was not a part of that. (laughter) But that's awesome, happy birthday, Marquette."
Amari Cooper talks about his relationship with Michael Crabtree.
"He's always given me advice, every time I'm around him, and it's not just football. He gives me advice outside of football, and in football, so he's nice to have around."
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