Rookie P Marquette King punts during practice. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Raiders rookies finished their first NFL off-season program on Thursday. Both drafted and undrafted rookies saw improvement throughout mini-camps and OTAs as they prepare for their first NFL training camp at the end of July.
"I think it went good," said DE Jack Crawford, the Raiders 2012 fifth round draft selection out of Penn State. "I picked up a lot, just learning from the veteran players. When it came to the last few practices and the final mini-camp, I had all my plays down and I was able to execute fast and under pressure, like Coach Allen says. It was successful for me personally. I was able to bond with the team more and get a better feeling for the playbook and the atmosphere and the program. It gave me a good edge coming into camp."
The Raiders seventh round pick out of Penn State, Nathan Stupar, also started to get the hang of things with the final few practices. "I thought it went pretty well," said Stupar. "A lot of things started to click the last practice and it's just fun being around everyone and having an opportunity to be at this level with all the best. I'm just blessed to be here."
The rookies took advantage of their time with the coaching staff. "It went pretty good," said P Marquette King. "I had a chance to work with one of the best coaches in the NFL, and he taught me a whole lot, so that's good. In my off time I have to go home and work on everything we talked about, as far as the one hand drop."
Safety Aaron Henry, out of the University of Wisconsin, felt confident in his progress. "I felt like it went great," said Henry. "It was definitely, from the time I came in to where I am now, I felt like I made leaps and bounds. It's just a matter of slowing everything down. The playbook is definitely a whole lot easier now than it was from the get go. I'm definitely excited about this off-season."
One of the most difficult aspects of the off-season for the rookies was making the adjustment from college to the NFL. "It's a big difference," said King. "It's tough to adjust to because it's a lot of new stuff I haven't ever done. So you've got to force your body to do something new that you're not used to."
The mental aspect of the NFL was the toughest adjustment for Stupar. "You're an athlete, you can come in here and adjust speed-wise, but the game is just much more complex than college," said Stupar. "Just learning the defense in and out and really understanding it and putting it against the offense. And there's so much offenses can do and you have to know what to do on every adjustment and it's just crazy how big a difference."
Despite the challenges, the rookies felt good with their acclimation to the NFL game by the end of the mandatory mini-camp. "For us to make the progress we made from day one to the end today, I think it was amazing," said Henry. "Guys came out here and fought their butts off; guys came out here and competed every single day. Coaches pushed us to the limit. It's just been going well thus far."
With the off-season program in the books, the rookies now look forward to suiting up for their first NFL training camp. "I'm excited to compete," said Stupar. "We're out here and it's more a mental game, but when we finally put the pads on, it's more an all-around physical and mental game and really competing and I can't wait for that."
Henry is excited for the opportunity to participate in training camp. "I'm just looking forward to coming out and competing," said Henry. "I'm excited to head up to Napa and go out there and just compete for a job and go out there and lay my butt on the line every single day and get to know the guys a little better. I'm really looking forward to camp."
The rookies and veterans will report to the Napa Valley Training Facility at the end of July.