Tuesday’s kickoff to the Oakland Raiders mandatory minicamp may have been highlighted by the disappointing news that cornerback DJ Hayden will be out with an injury setback until at least training camp, but for the rest of the Raiders team it was business as usual as the push towards training camp heated up with the first minicamp practice of the year.
After practice 2014 free agent addition Maurice Jones-Drew took time to do a presser with the media on hand at practice to discuss his mindset going into the push towards the regular season as well as what he sees out of his new teammates on offense.MJD touched on his relationship with new backfield teammate Darren McFadden and the similarities between the two veterans in addition to what he sees out of rookie Derek Carr as well as his new offensive line during his media availability.
Following is the transcript of MJD’s press conference courtesy of the Raiders official website:
Q: Has what you’ve seen since you’ve gotten here been everything you hoped it would be?
“I never come in with expectations at all. Obviously, when you hear about some of the big-name signings that we’ve had and you get to meet the guys, you want to start building expectations a little bit. But for me, all I want to do is to come here and help everyone get better every day, and I think that’s what we’ve done up to this point. We didn’t have the best practice, the sharpest practice today, but there were some good things we haven’t done and so we want to keep building on those, and then really the things we haven’t done well, continue to strengthen those as well, and get ready for training camp in about a month. As long as we get better every day, I think that we’ll be fine. I love the way everybody’s competing. You’re starting to see guys step up a little bit, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Q: Do you expect running back-by-committee or do you want to be the number one guy?
“That’s a tough question for me. Granted, everyone wants to be the guy, but I think with what we have here with myself and Darren, and the other guys that are working their butts off, when these pads get on, you’re going to start seeing what we’re going to be about, and that is going to be running back-by-committee, which is going to help us because we’re going to be fighting every day to get the ball. I know Darren wants the ball just like I do, just as Latavius and Stew [Jeremy Stewart] and everyone else. That competition and that drive is what’s going to help us become a better backfield and try to be the best backfield in the league. You go in everyday wanting to be the starter, but we understand what it is and that has to be your mindset going into this thing.”
Q: When you signed, you joked on the conference call that you had heard this was a great set of running backs for 2009. What makes you guys think that you guys are still the backs that you were?
“My year is different than Darren’s. I know Darren was hampered with injuries. Obviously mine was coming off that foot injury and not really having an offseason. But as you can see out here, we’re explosive, we’re cutting, and we’re doing some great things. We just want to continue with that. Everyone has an opinion so you have to give them freedom of speech, so everyone can say whatever they want, but I just want whoever said it to stick to that. Don’t be the same guy in a couple weeks or a couple of months saying, ‘Oh we knew they could do it.’ Continue to be that person; hold yourself accountable like everyone holds us. We hold ourselves accountable to whatever we say and whatever we do, and talking with the guys here, we feel like we have something that we can build on. Obviously I know what I did last year wasn’t anywhere near what I’m capable of doing, and so this year I’m doing everything I can to get back to the form I’m used to, and I know Darren is as well. Our goal is to get back to that I guess, 2009 form. I prefer 2011 personally, but it’s all the same.”
Q: Did you know Darren very well before this year, or did you just get to start getting to know him?
“I had run into him a couple of times, just from being out around here, but never really got a chance to hang out with him, but throughout this offseason, with my family being in Jacksonville, I hung out with Darren and Marcel [Reece] a lot and got to know them and became decent friends. I think our relationship is going to continue to grow, but to this point it has been cool hanging out with him and getting to know him a little bit, and hopefully in a couple of days, my family will get to meet his and we can grow that relationship that way.”
Q: This whole offense is based on the offensive line getting completely revamped, but it’s still a question mark. Have you been able to get in tune with them at all, have you worked with them in any sense?
“Oh yeah, we’ve worked with everyone. Like I said, competition breeds greatness, and that’s what you need at every position, if it’s quarterback, if it’s running back, DB, coaches are competing. You need that in order to get the best out of people, so it’s good right now to have that mix going on of guys playing in different positions, guys moving and feeling that pressure, being able to perform in that type of situation, because when the game is on the line, you’re going to need a guy you’re able to trust to be out there and make sure he’s on his assignment, and make sure he makes the right read or make sure he makes the right throw. That’s what we’re preparing for now, and I’ve been around some great offensive lines and these guys have the potential to be one of the best I’ve ever played with. To see some of these guys, how they’ve grown since April, is amazing. I think for us, like I said before, it’s all about getting better and continuing to compete, and as long as we do that we’ll be fine.”
Q: What are your first impressions of Derek Carr?
“I like him. I’ve had my deal with rookie quarterbacks, so I guess I’m kind of on the different side of it, where I feel like, if it’s me, I would prefer him to sit and watch and learn and then come in, but Derek has sat and watched. He had a brother that was in the NFL, so he’s done that, and he’s done a great job competing, coming in and moving up, throwing the ball well. He’s learning the protections, putting himself in positions to be successful, and as a quarterback, that’s all you can do. You have to trust everyone else around you, and so he’s done a great job. Obviously, you want to see what he does when the pads come on, because that’s what really matters, but up to this point, he’s done an amazing job and I know guys are feeling his presence.”
Q: As a Bay Area guy, is it cool to have Howie Long, Jim Plunkett and those guys trotted out the first day of a minicamp? Jones-Drew:
“Yeah, it was a little awkward. I just like to come in and get my work done and then I’ll talk to you after, but getting a chance to sit down and talk to those guys, it was nice to see that. Growing up being a Raiders fan, it’s always nice to see hall of famers come back, and hopefully one day we can have a couple on our team come back in the next couple of years.” Quotes courtesy of Raiders.com