The Oakland Raiders took to the field at their Napa Valley Training Camp complex Friday morning for the first practice of Training Camp 2013, presented by California National Guard, in front of a few hundred eligible season ticket holders and the assembled media. Rookie CB DJ Hayden was in attendance and participated while wearing a non-contact red jersey. After a 30-minute walk-through and some warm-up sprints, the players split up into position groups and worked with their position coaches. The Silver and Black participated in two full-team team periods. Special teams was mixed in, with the kickers even taking reps in tackling drills.
Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen, who is leading the team through his second training camp, was pleased with the effort on Day 1.
“We’re excited about being out here, excited about the first day of training camp. I thought for the first practice I was pleased with what we were able to get done today. Obviously it’s the first step in a long journey, and we have a lot of progress we got to make and a short time to get it done, so guys are working extremely hard to get that done,” Coach Allen told the assembled media.
Raiders training camp takes place in a unique setting in the Napa Valley. For some players, getting ready for football season in California is old hat, but the Napa experience is new. DE Andre Carter, who played his college football at the University of California at Berkeley, is attending Raiders training camp for the first time. Carter joined the team in late September 2012.
“Technically this is 12, because last year I missed training camp, still up there though,” Carter said. “I feel great. I was very fortunate the Raiders gave me an opportunity to come back. It’s great [being back in California]. It’s nice, great weather. I’ve been all over the place. This is good football weather. It’s training camp, it’s like boot camp – focusing on football, focusing on the skills and getting your mind and body ready to go out for a 17-week season.”
Carter is the elder statesman of an eclectic group of defensive linemen. He said he’s excited about the group and enjoys working with his line mates.
“They’re coming along real well. From Day 1, starting with the off-season training, we kind of discussed within our group what it would take to turn this thing around,” Carter explained. “Granted you have to pay your dues here on the practice field, you have to pay your dues come Sunday. It starts first in the locker room, in the classroom, and executing and know what you have to do, your responsibilities on the field.”
Another player who is no stranger to the Raiders, but is new to Napa is DB Cory Nelms. During one sequence today, Nelms intercepted a deep pass down the left sideline from rookie QB Tyler Wilson that was intended for rookie WR Conner Vernon. On the next play, Nelms broke up a Wilson pass over the middle. Nelms joined the Raiders practice squad late last season and is participating in Raiders training camp for the first time.
“It feels great, we put in a lot of hard work this offseason and that was a byproduct of that,” Nelms said. “I was going through the cues I was coached to do, reading the quarterback, and when he throws that ball, just go get it. This is great, my first time being at an off-site training camp. College we stayed home, my past teams we stayed home. It’s great to be out here and bonding with your teammates and your organization.”
The secondary has seen quite a bit of change since the end of last season. Several new players have been added including veteran and former Raiders first-round draft pick Charles Woodson. Nelms says he is using the opportunity to learn from the veterans and improve. “It’s definitely a great opportunity to pull those guys aside and ask them questions, how to get better as an athlete yourself.”
One of the team’s younger players who made a name for himself and earned significant playing time thanks to his first training camp experience in Napa is looking forward to expanding his role. Second-year WR Rod Streater was a wide-eyed undrafted free agent last year. This year, he is hoping to become a major contributor.
“It’s feels good coming into camp kind of knowing what you got to do, the structure of camp, how everything works. It just feels good to get back out here and play actual football,” Streater said. “I feel like we have a great connection with the quarterbacks, I feel I know the playbook and everything. I feel like things are going way smoother right now than last year. We’re trying to work every day to get better and make progress.”
The Raiders receiving corps features players of all shapes and sizes as well as skill sets. Streater says each player complements the other well. “We all get along, we’re all trying to work and feed off each other, we all bring different things to the table. We just all try to go out there and make plays on the ball. That’s the biggest thing a receiver can do.”
After a busy off-season program, the first day at camp seemed to be a little frenetic with the assembled media trying to learn more about various storylines. Coach Allen, Hayden and Woodson spoke to reporters at the podium. Several players chatted with writers and TV personalities prior to heading to lunch.
Log on to Raiders.com, our Facebook page, our Twitter feed and Instagram for the latest coverage from Napa. After a walk-through this afternoon, the Raiders will be back on the field for practice tomorrow afternoon. They will take the field in pads for the first time Sunday.
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