As I donned my Silver and Black garb, I couldn’t help but feel like a kid who sees Disneyland for the first time. It’s a feeling like the first time you enter the Oakland Coliseum and see the field painted with the words “Oakland.” Chills, excitement, jubilation, and a ton of optimism. I stopped by my friend Mark Taylor’s house, and he walks out clad in Silver and Black. That’s when it hit me, we are headed to Oakland Raiders Training Camp. An up close and personal setting that allows the fans to see their team only a few feet away.
There are many ways to get to Napa, CA, and it all mostly depends on where you are coming from. Our route took us across the valley north of Sacramento, down the I-505, and onto I-80 westbound. We stopped off at N. Texas Street in Fairfield, CA, for one of the best and closest versions of a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich at a place called I-80 Cheesesteak. I definitely recommend their signature sandwich, because it hit the spot. Back onto I-80 westbound, north on the 12, onto the 29, and finally exited at Redwood Road. We got there about a half hour before registration began, and I definitely recommend you do so. Parking is a cinch if you do, and you get a spot under the pop-ups for shade.
Just before 3:00 PM, the gates opened up and we walked into the practice field. As soon as we were inside, there was Charles Woodson making his way to the bleachers, across the yellow line, and into the crowd that awaited him. He is definitely a fans player. He stood there and signed autographs for a ton of people, and he didn’t care that the fans were right up next to him. If it’s possible, and it is, C-Wood earned even more respect from me.
Practice kicked off with a very slow and methodic pace, and the players were just wearing helmets. No doubt they earned a day out of pads due to their intense practice on Thursday. Sebastian Janikowski put on a kicking display that was simply amazing. He went 10 for 10 on field goals, starting at the 20 yard line and moving backward. His final kick was about a 65 yarder that cleared the uprights by about 8-10 feet. Jano also looks like the slimmed down from last year, and his leg doesn’t seem to be losing its strength. Furthermore, the chemistry between Jano and Marquette King was much improved.
The team stretched, then it was onto the real deal; 7 on 7 drills, passing drills, running drills, coverage drills, then 11 on 11, and so on and so forth. This team has a lot of fluidity and confidence about it. The players were pushing hard even without their pads on. A lot of nice things happened during my observations of practice, and there were some real standout moments. So I won’t bore you with all the details. Instead, I want to touch on some key things and the standout moments.