The Oakland Raiders held an inaugural alumni weekend as they kicked off Training Camp 2015 at their Napa Valley Training Complex. Dozens of former players attended this unique event and enjoyed reminiscing and watching the next generation of Raiders players get going on the field.
Former fullback Jon Ritchie, who covers football now for NBC Sports, is not far removed from the training camp experience in Napa. Despite feeling like he was heading back as a player, he enjoyed the singularly unique experience of alumni weekend.
Raiders Alumni attend Training Camp 2015 in Napa Valley.
"Incredible. I've never been to Napa for leisure purposes I've always been here for camp. I had some butterflies. It felt like the first day of school was coming and I was heading back to camp myself, which is a mixed bag. I always loved getting back out here with the teammates," Ritchie explained. "Camp used to be pretty rough with the pads on every day smacking my face on people every day. I got a chance to sleep in at the Napa Valley Marriott which is the the first time ever."
Ritchie added that he enjoyed reuniting with his former teammates and mingling with players of the past.
"It was so cool getting a chance to see some of the players that I played with and some of the legends I grew up admiring," Ritchie said. "This has been a great experience."
When former quarterback Daryle Lamonica joined the Raiders, the team held training camp in Santa Rosa, Calif. Things have changed greatly since Lamonica was one of the faces of the franchise.
"It's great to see my old teammates, we're reminiscing quite a bit, obviously training camp has changed a great deal since we started," Lamonica said. "It's well organized, I'm impressed with Jack Del Rio and what he has done with his coaching staff. But it's early in training camp. We're not hitting but we seem to have an awful lot of speed. Speed kills if we're able to utilize it and score big with it."
Former punter Leo Araguz, who holds the NFL record for most punts in a game, 16 in a 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers in 1998, returned to Napa for the first time since competing with rookie Shane Lechler in 2000. Araguz is proud to be part of the rich history and tradition of punters in the Raiders organization.
"Definitely it's an honor when it comes to having the first true punter go into the Hall of Fame, and him being a Raider made it that much sweeter for us. When you do look back you go from not that many punters, from the time Ray Guy retired to when Jeff Gossett took over, to when I took over from Jeff Gossett, then Shane Lechler," Araguz explained. "When you talk about almost 30 years, close to 40 years of Raiders history, you talk about very little punters that were turned over, just being part of that fraternity, being part of this organization, it's much sweeter to say I have an NFL record being it was part of the Raider organization."
Araguz thoroughly enjoyed the alumni weekend experience and appreciates being remembered and included. "We're having fun. I haven't been back since I left the Raiders back in 2000," Araguz said. "Coming back, it brings back a lot of memories, faces, seeing people who were very special to me when I was here, seeing some of the players, it brings you back to some games and some situations that you were in. It's something close to my heart. It's amazing for me to be here."
The Raiders organization truly believes that Once a Raider, Always a Raider. This weekend has been proof positive of the validity of that statement. All generations, decades and squads of the Silver and Black were represented from Super Bowl champions to Hall of Famers to the recently retired. It truly has been a wonderful experience for everyone involved.