Minicamp is a weird time for the NFL fan. Real live action football is still 86 days away, hell even training camp is still six weeks away. Mix in the fact of no contact and no pads and it is harder and harder to see how the annual June event has became such a big deal around the league other than by the sheer popularity of football and the growth of the 24/7/365 NFL media schedule. As Mike Tomlin famously said “It is just football in shorts.”
But the reality now is that Minicamp IS a big deal around the league as new players and often new coaches get familiar with what they will be running in the fall in June at these camps with the distractions of contact and preseason games looming out of the picture, these June sessions allow everyone to get familiar with their playbooks as well as their teammates.
This rings especially true for the 2013 Oakland Raiders as a new coach, new offensive coordinator, and a brand new roster that GM Reggie McKenzie has extensively overhauled in hopes of finally creating a group of character guys that will bring positivity into the Raiders, the month and a half of rookie camp, OTAs and the three day minicamp has been especially important for the team.
The new faces that have been brought in and the sheer change in faces and familiarity is what needs to be put into perspective when evaluating the Raiders camp. Those thoughts were not kept in mind by most of the media on Day One. As a new offense led by new quarterbacks, a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and new wide receivers could not seem to gel on Monday, the media took the opportunity to dub the performance of Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor “as the worst camp performance they have ever seen.”
Most clearly ignored the added challenge of an entire team trying to gel together, but that is the way it goes with the team under the microscope as the media flocks to camp and picks apart each and every potential storyline to deliver to the fans. That is how the game works and we here at JBB are as guilty of that as any, but it is the way it is and it contributes to what you saw on Monday as everyone panicked after a bad first day of practice and some poor throws from Flynn and Pryor.
Still despite that momentary panic attack that Monday caused, the Raiders Minicamp could be deemed a success as the following two days showed tons of promise. The secondary looks good and Charles Woodson appears to be focused on being the veteran leader who turns things around for Raiders Nation in his return to the Silver and Black. Pryor and Flynn bounced back and fourth string quarterback Matt McGloin emerged as a quarterback with some promise, creating a name for himself with the added minicamp crowd taking notice to his very visible talents.
Those final two days were capped off by Dennis Allen’s extremely positive close to camp at his final press conference on Day Three. Allen was nothing but good spirits in his final talk with the media, going well into the NFL’s Coaches Cliche Manual in talking about his high expectations for this team and that its work ethic in practice is going to lead to surprising people come the time an opponent is on the other side of the ball.
Whether it was genuine or not, the Raiders camp closed with positive thoughts and excitement which is what everyone needed. With minicamp closed today on Thursday, everyone is already counting down the days to training camp at the end of July, and that is a sign that is as good as any that this Raiders team is a team that might just be better than we hoped for after the roster was blown up during the offseason.
Still it is minicamp and everything should be taken with a grain of salt. The start of an NFL preseason after the draft is much like the beginning of a new relationship. At first you are stoked and focused on all of the athttp://justblogbaby.com/wp-admin/post-new.phptributes of your newfound companion. Perhaps her busty chest or huge backside is all you can focus on at first as you talk her up to your boys, but give it a few months and you will start to notice her annoying habit of laughing at everything or that her mom has the personality of Art Shell as you start to really get to know her. That is the difference between minicamp and the preseason, the new relationship goggles are very much in place.
Now the focus is on making sure that those faults don’t happen come the end of July as Dennis Allen has stressed that his players stay focused and out of trouble as they prepare to be in even better shape come training camp. “We spoke to ‘em a little bit this morning about [what's expected of them].” Said Allen. “We all understand that we put a lot of work into this, and this is the time of year that we’ve got to mind our P’s and Q’s and do the right things and get back to training camp in shape, come back to training camp mentally and physically ready to go.
Still, Allen doesn’t think he will have to keep too much tabs on a group that he thinks is filled with good players who are all on the same wavelength. “We can have contact but I think it’s important this time of year, we’re gonna keep tabs a little bit and make sure we know where everybody is but at the end of the day, they gotta get away a little bit too. Get refreshed and get ready for training camp because it’ll be a grind once we get there” said Allen in his final media availability.
Adding Woodson will be a huge help to maintaining that focus and creating that individual hunger that is needed to drive the players to elevate their games and conditioning to another level on their own with the six week break. “I work,” saidof his plans for the next six weeks. “I work and prepare myself to be ready when training camp comes so I can hit the ground running. I’ll go home and I’ll be home with my family but a large part of it will be conditioning myself to the point where if we had to play a game July 27, I could play July 27 and not have to come off the field. That’s what I’ll do the next couple of weeks.”
That type of attitude is exactly what the Raiders need during this break from each other in preparation of training camp. Time on their own can not be spent at the strip joints and partying for six straight weeks forgetting about football. The time is there to recharge the batteries, but if a Raiders team that will still be projected to miss the postseason across the board is going to prove the doubters wrong, they will now need to find inward inspiration as everyone goes their separate ways.
Minicamp is over and spirits are high, but if they are going to stay that way at training camp, the work can’t end right now.