The Oakland Raiders hit the practice field at their Napa Valley Training Complex Thursday morning. The defense certainly seemed to have the upper hand today, batting passes down, picking passes off and stuffing runs in the backfield.
Several notable personalities have passed through Raiders training camp so far, but perhaps none more inspiring than ESPN's Shelley Smith. The longtime ESPN reporter told me that she is cancer free. She also shared some thoughts on her colleague Beth Mowins calling play-by-play for the Raiders preseason TV broadcasts.
"She is unbelievable. I would look at her schedule…she would have football, and then volleyball, and then softball and then football. I can barely do a football game a week," Smith said. "She is truly a talent. I am so glad to hear that. She would be a joy to listen to."
"I can see already a different energy in this team. It's sort of the way [Seattle Seahawks Head Coach] Pete Carroll runs things [with Ken Norton, Jr. as defensive coordinator]. There is no wasted time, this is game speed," Smith said. "The fan base is so huge and so loyal, the fans deserve to have a good team.
Here are my observations from today's practice:
Running back Trent Richardson returned to practice. Running backs Roy Helu, Jr., and Michael Dyer, along with tight end Clive Walford and tackle Menelik Watson did not participate.
Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms was in the house reporting for Bleacher Report.
The Raiders defense had a bit of a pep in their step Thursday, flying around the field and making their presence felt more than in previous practice sessions.
Linebackers worked on diving on and recovering fumbles during fundamental drills.
During a goal line drill, quarterback Derek Carr showed good mobility and pocket presence and threw a dart to fullback Marcel Reece.
During the same drill, quarterback Christian Ponder scrambled for a 9-yard touchdown.
Defensive end Shelby Harris showed his hops and batted down a screen pass.
Wide receiver Kris Durham made a catch at the pylon and the ref signaled TD, put it did not appear that he got both feet in.
Later in the same drill, Crabtree caught a similar pass in a similar situation, appeared to get both feet in and the ref waved it off.
Carr zipped a 9-yard TD pass to tight end Mychal Rivera.
Carr then threw a nice back-shoulder bullet pass to wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins for a touchdown.
Safety Brandian Ross blew up a short hitch to wide receiver Andre Holmes.
Running back Trent Richardson mad a nice inside run for eight or nine yards, dodging tacklers and showing quick feet.
Linebacker Josh Shirley and defensive end Denico Autry jammed up running back Taiwan Jones in the backfield.
Safety Jonathan Dowling popped running back George Atkinson III and knocked him out of bounds.
Safety Nate Allen scooped up a fumbled snap and the offense did push-ups.
Safety Larry Asante made a nice stop on Murray in the backfield on an off-tackle run over the right side.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Cornerback Tevin McDonald jumped a route and intercepted a Christian Ponder pass to end practice, much to the delight of his defensive teammates.
TWEET OF THE DAY