Rookie safety Aaron Henry. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Raiders finished up their second week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Thursday at their Alameda practice facility. After six days of on-field work, the rookies are adjusting to NFL speed and feel comfortable working with the veterans. "It's going really well," said S Aaron Henry, a rookie out of Wisconsin. "It's a whole lot different from college, of course, but we're installing a lot, the pace is a lot faster. I feel like it's going really, really well and I'm definitely learning a lot from the older guys."
Although swimming through an incredible amount of information, the rookies are feeling good about their recent rookie mini-camp and two weeks of OTAs. "I feel good," said rookie OL Dan Knapp. "I have a lot of work to do, I have to get in this playbook a little more, but I'm starting to pick up things, starting to get used to the system and looking forward to the future."
DT Christo Bilukidi, the Raiders 6th round draft pick and the first-ever draft pick out of Georgia State, is working hard to get comfortable at the pro level. "It's tough, but you have to take it one day at a time," said Bilukidi. "Make sure I get all my plays down, study every day, get all my fundamentals because that's the number one thing right now. The plays aren't too hard, it's just my fundamentals that I need to break down and do everything I need to do to be successful."
K Eddy Carmona, a rookie kicker out of Harding, is soaking up his experience. "It feels great. This is my dream," said Carmona. "I always wanted to be here and I'm actually here. It's a great experience and I'm getting a lot of good stuff from the big guys and I'm excited about all of it."
The rookies had to transition from an all-rookie mini-camp to mixing in with the vets during OTAs. The most noticeable difference to the new players was the change of pace. "It's different because now the pace is a lot faster," said Bilukidi. "It's a lot different because it's faster, these guys know exactly what to do because they've been doing this same system for some time and they know each other."
Henry also noticed the drastic change in speed. "The pace just picked up," said Henry. "Coming in here with all the veterans, they had known this stuff prior to us getting here and now it's just about knowing it and knowing it at a really, really high speed. The difference level was the game play."
With the veterans in play, the rookies are getting an opportunity to watch and learn from the more experienced guys. "It's been good," said WR Rod Streater, a rookie from Temple University. "I get to sit back a little bit and have mental reps, see the vets go, so it's been a good learning process."
The rookies will work with the strength and conditioning staff and study their playbooks and film next week, while the veterans get a week off. It is their opportunity to play catch up and improve. "I think every day that you come to the facility you plan on getting better," said Henry. "For us, it's a chance to get better in the weight room. It gives us a chance to catch up with [the veterans] and definitely padding our skills in that playbook. It's an opportunity for us to get better."
The players want to use the time to get stronger and faster to match the level of play from the veterans. "[I want to] just get stronger in the weight room, listen to the strength and conditioning coach, make sure that I'm studying my playbook, and just get strong so I can be ready for next OTAs, mandatory mini-camp, and then training camp," said Bilukidi.
The week is also a chance for the rookies to get their playbook down." Obviously, get in the weight room, we're going to do that every day," said Knapp. "And get in the meeting room and get into this playbook of mine."
The rookies are determined to prove themselves as Raiders. "In that time, I'm going to try to get better in the weight room and learn the plays and take that time to get better with the playbooks and learn everything," said Streater.
OTAs resume June 4 and will be followed by a full-team mandatory mini-camp.