On a windy afternoon in Napa, Calif., the Raiders took the field in full pads for the 18th practice of Training Camp 2010. The team began their preparation for the preseason game against Dallas by "slowing it down just to teach them what 'look' teams are, and the scout team, what all that means," explained Head Coach Tom Cable. Players took the field for drills with position coaches and progressed to 11-on-11 team sessions.
Position battles continue to intensify as players work to earn their spot on the roster. Rookies, in particular, need to prove themselves and impress the coaches with their ability to transition from college to the NFL. With college football camps starting this week, the rookies are reminded that they are not returning to their campuses like normal. Rather, they are "with grown men now. It is definitely different but it's worth it," explained rookie DT Kellen Heard. "[Camp] is very intense," Heard continued. "You've got people you've looked up to and you're playing next to them." Heard felt the biggest difference in the NFL is that professional football is a lot more mental. "You know you can play football, but at the same time it's learning the right technique and learning to do things right every time," he explained.
S Stevie Brown (pictured), drafted in the 7th round out of the University of Michigan, is excited about being at Raiders Training Camp 2010 instead of NCAAF camp and has immediately felt the difference between college and professional football. "The tempo and speed of everything definitely increase at this level," described Brown.
G Allen Smith, a rookie out of Stanford University, noticed the professionalism that comes with playing in the NFL. "The difference between the NFL level and college is just the professionalism. Regardless how anyone is feeling, we always go out there and get better and get working and not only that but as we get closer and closer to the season doing right is at a premium," said Smith.
The Raiders will play in four preseason games over the next month. The first of the preseason contests will take place in Dallas at Cowboys Stadium Thursday evening. Playing an away game in a hostile environment has the potential to be intimidating for first-year players, but many of the rookies feel they are prepared by their college experience. "Going to Michigan you have to play schools like Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame where they always bring out their best and things like that. It definitely prepares you to play in hostile environments," said Brown. Playing for Texas A&M for three years and Memphis for one, Heard has also played games in loud stadiums packed with excited fans. "It definitely teaches you how to read your keys and not just look for movement," added Heard.
Playing in hostile environments in college has helped prepare the newcomers for the away game in Dallas. However, according to Smith, NFL stadiums are "bigger, badder and nothing you see in college can ever compare to it. I'm very excited for the experience to go to Dallas' stadium," continued Smith. "I know it's going to be on another level to anything I've seen in the Pac-10. It's going to be a lot of fun." For Brown, the realization that he is in the NFL and headed to Dallas to play the Cowboys has not sunk in yet. "I think it'll finally hit me when we actually get on the plane and go to Dallas," Brown said. As the team gears up for the first game, the rookies have put their college camp days behind them and are focused on becoming professionals.
The Raiders will be back on the field for an afternoon practice Monday as Training Camp 2010 continues.