Training Camp Notebook: Mario Edwards Jr., Bruce Irvin, Return To Practice

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Defensive End Mario Edwards Jr.

And on Wednesday, the Oakland Raiders rested.

Well, the players did anyway, enjoying their mandatory off day, free from both meetings, as well as any organized on-field work.

The day off serves myriad purposes; not only does it provide a nice, mental break from the grind that is training camp, but it also allows an ever-important reprieve from the physical marathon of practice too.

However, after Wednesday's off day, the Silver and Black returned to work Thursday, with two of their defensive stars back in the fold on the practice field at the team's Napa Valley Training complex.

After spending the short duration of camp thus far on the Active/Non-Football Injury list, both defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., and linebacker Bruce Irvin got back to work Thursday, participating in the day's work with the rest of their teammates.

"It was great to see Bruce out, and Mario out," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio. "I guess the answer the other day, you asked me about [wide receiver Amari Cooper] 'Coop', was 'yes.' It was a good practice."

A good practice for sure, as Del Rio was not only pleased with the return of two of the team's defensive standouts – with just over a week to go before the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals – but also with the level of execution he saw from the entire roster.

"Much better day today," Del Rio explained. "I thought coming back from an off day, I thought the guys were focused, zeroed in and a whole lot better. That's the way we need to work to be a good football team."

For Edwards and Irvin in particular, there was a pep in their step as they headed out for their first official practice of Training Camp 2017.

"We talked a little trash coming on the field today, but we knew that we would be back," Edwards said. "It was fun."

Trash talk aside, Edwards said after practice that it felt good getting back to work, and after missing all but two regular season games in 2016, he knows that staying healthy is paramount to this success this year.

"It's big," Edwards explained. "Staying healthy is pretty big for me, but I'm back, so I'm ready to play."

When healthy, Edwards has shown to be a valuable complementary rusher to pair with defensive end Khalil Mack, and much of that value for big No. 97 is that he can line up along a multitude of positions on the defensive line.

Ask Edwards though, and it doesn't matter where he starts the play; he just wants to contribute.

"I'm a defensive lineman," he stated. "I don't pinpoint myself as one, particular position. I feel like you put me wherever you want me to play, and I can make it happen."

With a healthy Edwards, and Irvin for that matter, the Raiders hope they can once again boast a dynamic defensive line in 2017. While Mack, the reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year, is no doubt capable of being a one-man wrecking crew, the more players who can get after the quarterback, the merrier.

"We have a great guys that we drafted this year as well, so the great thing about it is you don't just pinpoint Bruce [Irvin], [Khalil] Mack, me or any of the guys," Edwards said. "We have new guys that we can rotate. I agree with what the coach is saying, but we also have guys that can rotate in as well."

The Raiders will be back on the field Friday afternoon at 11:00 a.m. at their Napa Valley Training Complex.

Notable:

-In addition to Edwards and Irvin's return to work, wide receiver Amari Cooper was also back in the fold after missing Tuesday's practice. However, the same could not be said for rookie cornerback Gareon Conley, who once again was seen on the sideline, donning sweatpants and a bucket hat.

-Fresh off an NBA Championship, Golden State Warriors Assistant Coach Mike Brown was in the house for Thursday's practice. Brown spent the afternoon in Napa at the request of Head Coach Jack Del Rio, and was scheduled to address the team Thursday evening as well.

-Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s group had a good day Thursday. Not only were the defensive backs flying around, making life difficult for quarterback Derek Carr, and Co., but the big guys up front got involved as well. During one of the team's 11-on-11 sessions, Jalen Richard took a handoff, and tried to find the corner, but was instead greeted by a bevy of Raiders defenders in black jerseys including linebacker/defensive end James Cowser, and linebacker Nicholas Morrow.

-Defensive end Jimmy Bean made sure to join the party too, bursting through the line, and forcing quarterback Connor Cook to roll out to his right before eventually throwing the ball away during an 11-on-11 session.

-This is certainly far from breaking news, but the Silver and Black's offensive line is built of big, strong, athletic men. That strength and athleticism was on full display as the offensive line matched up against the defensive line in one-on-matchups Thursday afternoon. I'll just say this, Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele look like they're in mid-season form.

-The play of the day might have to go to cornerback Dexter McDonald, who in one of the final team periods of the day, dropped back in coverage, then leapt in the air to secure an impressive interception in the back of the end zone.

-Thursday's practice ended with a little situational football, including a run through a simulated two-minute drill. It seems like each week a handful of games in the NFL come down to who can better execute a two-minute drill, and the Silver and Black got their reps in doing just that Thursday.

Song Of The Day:

"Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang" – Dr. Dre Feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg

Four minutes of perfection from arguably one of the greatest albums of all time.

Quotable:

"It's like climbing a mountain. A lot of different ways it's been described. When you start a season, you start at the bottom of the mountain. It's the beginning of a marathon race. It's a long climb, it's a long race. We just have to be the team that comes out and takes care of business consistently, day in and day out. That's how you really make growth. That's how you really make progress."

-Head Coach Jack Del Rio discussing the progress of his team through the first week of training camp.

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