Quarterback Derek Carr
Let's face it; training camp is a long haul.
For the better part of a calendar month, the entirety of the Oakland Raiders football operation pivots from the team's Alameda, Calif., facility and heads north to the Napa Valley.
While Napa is no doubt one of the better training camp locations in the NFL, the fact remains that for several weeks, the Raiders players, coaches, and staff are away from their families, sequestered in the team's training complex.
However, Sunday was a family affair for the Silver and Black, as the team hosted its annual Family Day, with player's friends and family in attendance to watch practice, then enjoy a barbeque on the practice field.
"We've got a little family day, as you can see, set up," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio. "We've got a little barbeque for our guys. Families have come up, enjoyed practice, and I think it's just one more thing that the organization is doing well. Really appreciated having a lot of the Raider greats, a lot of the guys that came before us here opening weekend and then to have the families out this weekend, it's a nice touch. Tip of the hat to the organization, the front office, that made this happen, [Team President Marc] Badain and [Senior Vice President – Community Relations and Public Affairs] Rosie [Bone] and all those people."
Now approaching two weeks into training camp, and with just under a week until the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals, the Raiders – like the other teams in the league – are currently in the dog days of summer.
The pick-me-up of seeing some familiar faces in the crowd, and then getting to enjoy a good meal together is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered for the players on the roster.
"Some guys, it puts them into their comfort zone, gives them something to practice about," said defensive tackle Justin Ellis when discussing family day. "After a couple of days of training camp, your body gets tired and all that, but when your family comes, it gives you that extra burst of energy."
"It's Family Day, so there might be a high school coach here or a wife or kids or something here," added Del Rio. "Everybody gets a little more excited for that and I think they knew Jerry McDonald [Bay Area News Group reporter] was here and that always raises the level. (laughter) No seriously, it's a little bit of the cameras are here, and the families are here. They know that the last time we worked before a day off I wasn't real happy about how it went down. I think they just bounced back and did the right thing and practiced really hard today."
Since Del Rio took over as Head Coach in 2015, Family Day has become a fixture at camp, and Ellis said that the players on the roster, top to bottom, appreciate the fact that it has stuck around.
"He [Del Rio] does as great job with this, man," Ellis said. "I love that he gives us off afterwards. He allows us to go hard, and practice hard, show the family how it goes, the behind-the-scenes things, and I think that's great."
That being said, the team certainly earned their lunch Sunday afternoon, running a few extra sprints at the end of practice before taking the pads off and enjoying some barbeque.
"A little extra conditioning before they hit the barbecue," Del Rio said with a chuckle. "Nothing punitive. It's OK, they're going to have barbecue, they're off tomorrow. So, they're lifting their legs right now so it was a good way to kind of finish up, get a little extra conditioning, work their legs now and then they get tonight and tomorrow off and be back at it Tuesday."
-The Silver and Black's practice field was a high-traffic area Sunday. In addition to the players' family and friends, NFL Network was also in the house, conducting interviews and doing live hits from the team's Napa Valley Training Complex. The timing worked out perfectly for quarterback Derek Carr, as his brother David is an analyst for NFL Network, and was in town for the day.
-Once again, cornerback Gareon Conley, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and safety Obi Melifonwu were held out of practice Saturday. Each was seen on the sidelines wearing their jerseys and sweats.
-Mike Tice's group must have had a good night's sleep or something, because the offensive line came firing out of the gates at practice Saturday. Watching the group go through its individual drills
Sunday, it's easy to see why Derek Carr is so partial to the big fellas up front. The group known as "Carr Insurance" is filled with big, physically-daunting men, and I personally can't wait to see them get to work Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals.
-The Carr-to-Michael Crabtree-connection was one of the Silver and Black's best tools in 2016, and if training camp is any indication, get ready to see a lot of it again this year. Carr and Crabtree have looked in lockstep all camp, and that was especially apparent Saturday as No. 4 threw a beautiful pass to "King Crab" who hauled it in with ease during a one-on-one drill.
-After a nice day at practice Saturday, cornerback Antonio Hamilton followed it up with another good day on the gridiron Sunday. Going one-on-one against a wide receiver, Hamilton jumped the route, and picked off the pass, running it back, and winning the rep all at the same time.
-One of the biggest takeaways from camp thus far is just how in sync Carr and tight end Jared Cook look. The duo looks like they've been working together for years, and once again, Carr found the big tight end for a touchdown Sunday during an 11-on-11 period of practice.
-Speaking of tight ends, Ryan O'Malley found the end zone as well Sunday afternoon, hauling in a pass from E.J. Manuel, and falling in for the touchdown, absorbing a pretty big hit in the process. The 2017 crop of Raiders tight ends is a deep one, and I'm looking forward to seeing them work throughout the preseason.
-Towards the latter stages of practice, Head Coach Jack Del Rio had his team work on some situational football, in particular the two-minute drill. As they say, practice makes perfect, and getting some extra work on specific situations is one of the biggest advantages of training camp.
Song Of The Day:
"Bank Account" – 21 Savage
Mr. Savage made a catchy song, I'll give him that.
Marquel has done a pretty good job. He's battling every day, trying to soak up as much as he can. He's a conscientious kid. He has good size and movement. He shows up in the run periods maybe a little more now than in some of the past periods, but he's making progress."
-Head Coach Jack Del Rio discussing rookie linebacker Marquel Lee.
Tweet Of The Day: