With training camp well underway in Napa, our staff writer Mariano Hernandez executed his right as a proud Oakland Raiders season ticket holder, took the day off of work on Monday and checked out Day #4 of training camp. Here are his notes.
For season ticket holders, this year marked a great opportunity to see a training camp session of our beloved Raiders. The gates were officially opened last Friday but I was able to get my spot reserved for Monday the 29th. Each ticket holder was allowed one extra pass to bring a friend and then there was a stand by list for any additional guests of season ticket holders. Around 2:30, the staff opened the gates and let the fans in and around the two practice fields to the bleachers on the far sided field. The turnout wasn’t as big as the weekends turnouts but none the less, the fans were excited for this opportunity. Many fans brought their memorabilia in hopes of getting a signature from their favorite players or to add to their collection of autographed goodies. The organization provided free water to the guests and had snack food and of course Raiders gear for sale in case you had left yours at home.
When the players finally came out, the anticipation grew. At first there was individual stretching followed by some drills and warm ups by some of the players. Slowly the practice intensified and the kicking crew came out an practiced punting and field goals. Janikowski and Eddy Carmona were putting them through the uprights with a couple of misses by both of them. Chris Kluwe and Sea-bass also has some fun while practicing. Kluwe looked through his Google glasses while Janikowski was kicking and then let Sea-bass take a turn with the glasses. Then the return units came out and practiced kickoffs. These sessions were non contact and at half speed.
Shortly after that all the players came out and started their warm up sessions. That’s when the fun began. First it was seven on nine drills with the first, second and third teams making the tradeoffs. Flynn received all the first team starts followed by Pryor and then Wilson and McGloin. The majority of the plays were short intermediate throws with a couple of running plays. McFadden ran with power as did Rashard Jennings and Latavius Murray. Flynn looked pretty solid but I did notice that he didn’t look at all his progressions and tended to look at his primary target as the plays developed. All the QB’s practiced some form of the read options and each was able to gain good yards against the defense. Early on,Wilson fumbled an exchange from center but made up for it later by throwing a long pass to Greg Jenkins towards the sidelines. Pryor also had some short yardage plays to his TE’s ad ran well when the protection broke down.
On the defensive side, first team reps on the LB’s went to Sio Moore, Nick Roach and Kevin Burnett. The unit as a whole looked solid as did the rest of the defense. I think the defense will surprise a lot of teams this year based on what they were doing on the field. Tyvon Branch broke up a pass to left side and the blocking and coverage by the defensive unit was tight. During one exchange towards the end of the session, rookie LB Sio Moore and T Willie Smith got into a scuffle that didn’t amount to much. Some pushing and shoving and then one of them shouted out ” Don’t start no sh-t, won’t be no sh-t”. The fans laughed and seemed to enjoy the altercation. There was plenty of hitting with this being the second session with pads on. DJ Hayden did get first team reps but was not allowed to have contact and was wearing the designated red jersey.
Once the session was over the fans got off the bleachers and stood up to get what they were waiting for. Though not every player came out to sign autographs, the majority of the rookies obliged the fans as well as Miles Burris, McFadden, Burnett, and Reece to name a few. They all showed their appreciation by signing the fans gear and pausing for pictures and thanking us for coming out and supporting them. I was able to ask Miles Burris why he didn’t suit up and he said that his hamstring was still an issue but he hoped to be back on the field soon. When I asked McFadden if he felt good and how his legs were doing, he said he felt good and was eager to put in work and get back to doing what he does best. Though some fans were disappointed that not all the players made themselves available ,many seemed to be waiting for C. Woodson to come out including my friend, all left happy having been able to see their first training camp.
As for me, it was an overall positive experience. I got McFadden to sign my AFL anniversary jersey as well as got signatures on my Raider shield that has been to every game I’ve been to since the team was in LA. I look forward to next year’s session just as I am looking forward to this year’s season. GO RAIDERS!!