With pads on, Raiders ready to hit each other
By Vic Tafur August 2, 2015 Updated: August 2, 2015 9:43pm
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, left, hands off the ball to Marcel Reece, right, during their football training camp Friday, July 31, 2015, in Napa, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) Photo: Eric Risberg, Associated Press Photo: Eric Risberg, Associated Press Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, left, hands off the ball to Marcel Reece, right, during their football training camp Friday, July 31, 2015, in Napa, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Raiders defensive tackle Dan Williams could smell it in the air as early as Saturday’s practice.
“It started getting chippy,” he said. “Everybody knows what’s coming. Everybody’s eager to hit, the players and the fans. The intensity goes way up.”
Yes, Sunday afternoon’s practice was the unofficial start of training camp, as Oakland players put on the pads for the first time this season and respectfully slammed their teammates.
“You get that first hit in and it’s all downhill,” linebacker Khalil Mack said.
It wasn’t an especially violent practice, and no hard feelings were expressed outwardly except for a near-skirmish between running back George Atkinson III and safety Jonathan Dowling.
First-year head coach Jack Del Rio didn’t turn the troops loose on each other, as he is more concerned that everybody is tackling correctly. It’s one of the things that jumped out to him watching video of last year’s 3-13 team.
“I think as a group, we need to tackle better,” he said. “We’ve got a new system to learn, so make sure that you understand where you belong and arrive with an attitude.”
And NFL teams, with so much concern about player safety, don’t get as much time practicing in pads as they did when Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. were players.
“The amount of contact we have in today’s NFL is limited, so we have to be very purposeful when we are in pads that we get the work we need and that we prepare ourselves fundamentally to be able to do the blocking and tackling that’s necessary to be a good football team,” Del Rio said.
So, obviously, Day 1 was a little rough.
“As coaches, you know what you want it to look (like) in the end,” Del Rio said. “We’re just focused on teaching and growing and developing and all those things. Energy was good, but we’re a long way from being clean and still have work to do.”
Del Rio did say he looked forward to watching video Sunday night of the offensive line’s matchups with the defensive line. And though former 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree was a standout, Del Rio also singled out 5-foot-9, 218-pound running back Michael Dyer.
The Auburn alum had two long runs and caught a pass in the scrimmages, and also held up well in the blocking drill. He is taking advantage of the extra reps he is getting with free-agent signee Trent Richardson out for a third day with an illness.
“Michael’s done a nice job of developing,” Del Rio said. “From what we saw in the spring until now, he seems more comfortable, accountable and dependable on offense and special teams. Every now and then, he’ll pop through a hole and turn on the speed. He’s off to a nice start.”
As far as Richardson, Del Rio said the reports of his demise might be premature. Del Rio said the former Browns and Colts bust worked hard to get in shape before training camp.
“Trent came here very close to the weight we requested, which was a very ambitious goal to get to,” Del Rio said. “He’s down in the low 220s. That’s what we asked of him, and that’s where he was as a player at ’Bama.
“I believe that, with Trent committing himself like that and getting in that type of shape, that he’ll have a chance to come out here and show what he’s really capable of.”
Receiver Brice Butler, meanwhile, returned after sitting out Saturday. Receiver Rod Streater, tight end Clive Walford, kick returner Trindon Holliday and defensive tackle Stacy McGee were still out.