Why Derek Carr says he's playing 'free' heading into eighth season

Going into his eighth season in the league, Derek Carr feels more comfortable than ever.

"I remember the night before every practice, I'd be stressed out," the quarterback said of his early career. "In my head, I'm just hard on myself. I'm thinking about everything like, 'I got to do that right.' I'm checking my notes like, 'I got to do that. I wrote this down, got to fix that.'

"Now, it's just so free."

As a young QB, Carr said he was constantly trying to impress everyone from players to coaches to staffers, but as his experience has grown, he realized that was hurting more than helping.

"Once I got away from trying to impress everybody else, I got comfortable with being me and honestly that's when I've played my best."

The three-time Pro Bowler was on top of his game last season, becoming the Silver and Black's all-time leader in touchdown passes (170) while recording his career-best passer rating (101.4). It was also his third consecutive 4,000-yard season in which he reached a career-high 4,103 passing yards.

Carr expects to reach new heights this season with the diverse amount of offensive targets he has on the field that he's currently working through camp to establish chemistry with.

"We're getting different guys different looks and, more for me, it builds trust, but for the evaluators [it's] to see what we have," Carr said.

"It allows me to freely play quarterback," he added. "It's that amount of versatility, but they're all unselfish."

One of Carr's new weapons acquired in free agency, running back Kenyan Drake, has taken note of the relationship built over the last four years between the quarterback and Head Coach Jon Gruden.

"He's real cerebral," Drake said of Carr. "Gruden just kind of gives him the keys and allows him to go out there and make the necessary checks. ... Aside from the physical — because he's a great quarterback and a great arm — I feel like he's definitely a sneaky athlete.

"A lot of people don't give him the respect that I feel like he deserves with his legs. I'm going to continue to be impressed by him day in and day out."

Carr said that while Gruden demands only the best from his team, it doesn't stress the quarterback out as it might've when he was fresh in the league. Rather, it's an expectation now — just like the expectation to win it all.

"There's been one demand, and that's holding up that Lombardi Trophy," he said. "That's all I care about is holding that trophy up. ... We've seen the three trophies every time we walk in and I stare at them all the time. I can't imagine anything cooler than that in football. The demand is excellence."

Getting to that moment of the Raiders hoisting the Lombardi above their heads with confetti falling around them will require not only putting in the hard work but pushing each other, something Carr said he's already seeing in the second week of camp.

"You see these veterans leading and pushing that competitiveness and it's really a beautiful thing, man. It excites me."

View photos from another day of practice at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center during 2021 Training Camp.

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