The Oakland Raiders have a new set of special teams players in long snapper Andrew DePaola, punter Johnny Townsend, and kicker Eddy Piñeiro that are expected to carry the torch going forward, and so far the trio have performed well through training camp, specifically Townsend and Piñeiro.
The duo became friends and teammates in college, as they both went to the University of Florida, and developed a connection early on. Together, the two achieved some impressive feats during their time as Gators, but the transition from the collegiate level to the NFL is not always seamless; however, No. 9 seems to be comfortable of the early stages of his NFL career.
“Camp is going well, I think I’m hitting the ball well,” Piñeiro said Monday. “I feel strong.”
The responsibilities that come with being an NFL player can take some getting used to. At the college level, Piñeiro’s role was straight forward: kick it as hard as you can, and kick it through the uprights. That role has changed now that he’s a member of the Silver and Black, considering there’s more that goes into his preparation, approach, and overall product on the field.
“[It’s] just different from college,” he said. “In college, for example, with kickoffs it’s a lot different. In kickoffs they wanted me, in college, to just [kick] touchbacks, but here they want placement, high right, high left, and just different kicks and stuff like that I never really did in college.”
In addition to learning a new playbook and getting acquainted with his new coaching staff, Piñeiro is trying to add more to his tool box. Over the weekend, the Raiders signed veteran kicker Mike Nugent who’s been able to share some of his knowledge with the 22 year old.
“Just [been practicing] field goal stuff, angles on my kickoffs, and placement on kickoffs, stuff like that,” Piñeiro said when asked about what he’s been perfecting. “He’s got a lot of knowledge, he’s played in the league for a long time, so learning from him has been a good experience so far.”
While there’s a lot of unfamiliarity with the next step in his journey, having Townsend, someone who’s been by his side for years, in the fold has only benefitted Piñeiro.
“I think it’s been very constant ever since college and we’ve played together,” the Florida native said. “I think his holding… I mean everybody always gets better, nobody ever stays the same, so everybody I think is just getting better.”
He also shared what it’s been like rooming with Townsend.
“It’s been good,” he said with a smile. “We’ve been rooming together for two years — when we were at Florida. Every away game and home game we’ve been rooming together, so it’s cool — familiar face. He’s good, very clean. We’re both very clean, very organized, it’s good.”
Piñeiro will suit up this Friday for his first official taste of an NFL game, and he’s looking forward to it.
“It should be fun, I’ve been working at it a lot, so it should be fun.”
You can watch Piñeiro and the rest of the rookie class take the field at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum this Friday at 7:30 p.m., as they take on the Detroit Lions in the Raiders’ first game of the preseason.