The Oakland Raiders officially opened Training Camp 2016 Friday afternoon at their Napa Valley Training Complex, and while there weren't many surprises as far as which players participated in the on-field work, there were two noticeable absences.
For the first time since 2013, neither Justin Tuck nor Charles Woodson was on the field, meaning that for the first time in their young careers, both quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack began a training camp without two of the team's most-experienced leaders.
When Tuck and Woodson retired, their absences certainly left a leadership void, but the cyclical nature of the NFL means that now the mantle is left for the younger core of Raiders to pick up, particularly Carr and Mack.
"I think with Charles not here, they realize they can't look to Charles and lean on Charles," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio following practice. "I think you see guys like Khalil Mack and [linebacker] Bruce Irvin, and [cornerback] Sean Smith, and [safety] Reggie Nelson, [linebacker] Malcolm Smith, these guys have all taken it upon themselves. I think we have a really good core of guys that are assuming leadership positions within their respective groups and I feel really good about that. In fact, I think we've taken a significant step forward overall with leadership abilities."
While Mack has his own type of leadership style that is different from Tuck and Woodson's, heading into his third season in Silver and Black, the imposing defensive end realizes that now it's his and Carr's time to take hold of their respective sides of the ball.
"I feel like it's one of those things where I try to use my actions, I don't try to talk as much, even though I have to, but I try to use my actions to lead guys," Mack explained. "Whether it's them seeing me in meetings, or them seeing me on the field and how hard I work on the field, and there's no letup."
Mack also said that it's crucial to have a group of players step up and lead the team, and he didn't hesitate in naming Carr as the leader of the offense. While the Raiders' quarterback is a natural leader, Carr maintains that regardless of the situation, he's going to remain true to who he is.
"I'm always going to be myself, just like I was last year," said Carr. "If I need to say something, I will. I like to talk and lead guys that way, but I also like to just shut my mouth and go to work, show them that way as well. I'll always just go with how I feel, go with where it leads me."
- Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson both missed the duration of the Offseason Workout Program, but Friday afternoon both were on the field, moving around the field and working through practice without limitation.
"It feels great, man," Joseph said after practice. "This is what I've been working for since I got here, so it feels great to finally get out there with all the veterans. It was a great first day,
- In his post-practice remarks Head Coach Del Rio announced that the team had made a roster move, placing running back Roy Helu, Jr. on Injured Reserve and signing defensive tackle Derrick Lott.
- Linebacker/Defensive End James Cowser made an impressive play during Friday's practice, hauling in a tipped pass and returning it to the end zone for a pick six.
- Cornerback SaQwan Edwards also enjoyed a quality first practice of training camp, making an impressive play on a pass intended for wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, jumping into the passing lane and batting the ball to the ground.
- There has never been any question about running back George Atkinson III's speed, and he put it on full display again Friday, hauling in a pass in the flat, then turning up field and bursting untouched down the left sideline.
- The organization also hosted over 100 alumni at Friday's practice, with players ranging from Hall of Fame wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff to Akbar Gbajabiamila in attendance.
- The Raiders will be back on the field again Saturday, and practice is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m.
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