LB Ricky Brown hits the sled while his teammates wait their turn. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
The Oakland Raiders open the 2010 regular season on Sunday in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans. After posting a 3-1 record in the preseason, the Raiders look to continue the winning trend throughout the fall. While preseason games do not count in the standings, they are opportunities to prepare for the games that ultimately matter.
Players must now transition as smoothly as possible from preseason action to a regular season routine and mentality.
In order for the players to fully shift into regular season mode, they need to get used to the routine that is created near the end of the preseason and lasts through the regular season. Additionally, players have moved back home (after staying in Napa, Calif., for training camp) and are thrown back into a life full of distractions.
"As long as you stay on top of the stuff off the field and eliminate distractions, it'll be easier," explained P Shane Lechler on the transition from preseason to regular season. "I don't think we've gotten into the in-season routine yet. Next week we'll get into the regular season deal. Once you get into that routine, stuff just flies by really quickly. If you're not on top of it, it'll catch up to you."
The team has started to acclimate to the routine at the Raiders facility, which has included two preseason games that took place post-Napa. Players have used the preseason games to perfect their skills for the upcoming season.
For 10-year veteran RB Michael Bennett, the preseason is a time to polish skills and craftsmanship. It's a time to "learn how to execute, get your feet under you and get ready for the upcoming season," said Bennett. However, the regular season is on an entirely different level. "Just like being in the Indy 500, you got the practice rounds, but when all the cars are out there revved up and ready to go, its time to put it in gear and go," Bennett explained. "It's definitely a different feel and a different atmosphere. This is the real deal."
Preseason for LB Ricky Brown is a chance to practice and improve individually and as a team. "Preseason is a lot about honing in on what you do as an offense, defense, and special teams," Brown said. However, when the season arrives the preparation for games is focused more on preparing for the other team. "You're delving into the scouting reports on Tennessee's offense, Tennessee's defense, Tennessee's special teams," continued Brown. Bennett agreed with Brown stating, "This is game week. There's a lot more film study, a lot more attention to the bigger and smaller details going into the game."
The regular season is only days away and the attitude in the locker room is changing. "Everything is a more heightened sense of urgency because these [games] are the ones that count and these are the ones you want to win to get to the playoffs," said Brown. Players realize that although the preseason is helpful to work out kinks and build confidence, in the end, the regular season is what determines a team's fate. "This is when it counts so you have to be firing on all cylinders," said Bennett.