QB Carson Palmer calls the play in the huddle. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders opened a three-day voluntary veteran mini-camp at their Alameda practice facility on Tuesday. Returning and recently acquired veteran players took the field for the first time as a squad. The team also learned their 2012 regular season schedule, in which they will open on ESPN's Monday Night Football against division rival San Diego Chargers.
Head Coach Dennis Allen had a few goals for the first mini-camp of 2012. "Really, we're using this as an opportunity to really install our core, base offense, defense and special teams, and really just kind of let the guys go through the motions of breaking the huddle, lining up in a formation, lining up in a defense, lining up in a punt-team formation, and allow them to get a feel for what we're going to do and how they're going to be asked to do it," said Coach Allen during a conference call with the media.
"It felt great to get the grass under our feet a little bit and I think it went well," said TE David Ausberry on the first day of mini-camp. "There's not really too much you can put in on day one, but whatever we could put in, we did. I think it went well and it's good to see everybody again."
Second-year running back Taiwan Jones enjoyed having the opportunity to put the preparation into practice. "It was fun just to get out there and get out of the books and actually put the books to work. It felt good out there running around."
LB Philip Wheeler stepped out on the Raiders practice field for the first time on Tuesday and felt good about the work. "Today was a little bit more up-tempo than I'm used to, but it was a lot of fun," said Wheeler. "It was good to start running around so early and I wouldn't trade it for anything."
For newcomers like Wheeler, the mini-camp is a chance to get to know their teammates on the field. "It was fun seeing Aaron Curry and it was real cool seeing Rolando McClain and how he plays the game and how they move a little bit and then how I fit in," Wheeler explained.
To be back on the field signifies the real start of the football season for Jones. "Just the more guys I see come out here and the fact that we're back outside, I feel like [the season is] right around the corner, so we just have to keep preparing."
The players also feel the season approaching after learning their 2012 regular season schedule. "I think opening up on Monday Night is going to give us something to look forward to and it's going to keep us more focused on what we've got to do," said Wheeler. "It's primetime so it's more fun."
Coach Allen expressed his excitement for the Monday Night opener. "I'm excited about it," said Coach Allen. "You grow up watching Monday Night Football, hearing the theme song. We're excited about getting a chance to open up the new era of Raider football both in the preseason, and then in the regular season."
Jones and Ausberry were also excited to hear they would be opening the season at home, primetime, and against a division rival. "You can't beat that and we get to play against San Diego to get this thing going," said Ausberry.
While the players and coaches are energized by the release of the schedule, they are focused on taking full advantage of their time during mini-camp to start 2012 off on the right foot. "We just hope to build," said Ausberry. "We want to implement as much of the offense as possible and with that it's going to take a lot of extra time, extra film and work. And I think if we do that, we have a great foundation to allow us to move a little bit faster during training camp."
The team will continue the mini-camp tomorrow and Thursday. Check back on Raiders.com each day for further coverage.