The Oakland Raiders went back to practice in pads after a shell session on Wednesday and a day off yesterday. As the team gets closer to the preseason opener Monday against the Dallas Cowboys, injuries continue to be an issue as well as focus and execution.
“No, it wasn’t what we expected,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said on Friday's practice. “I thought our focus wasn’t there. I didn’t think the tempo was there. I thought the guys tried to battle through, but we have to practice better with less mistakes than we did today. I think the guys are trying but that’s all part of that mental toughness that we talk about and our ability to focus in and block out the distractions, whether it be the heat, whether it be the fact that you’re tired, whatever the case may be. We have a job to do and we have to execute better when we come out here tomorrow.”
Four more players were added to the injury list during today's practice. Strong Safety Tyvon Branch was a no go with back spasms. Tight end Brandon Myers, who was just announced to be number one on the depth chart, left practice with a shoulder, offensive tackle Zach Hurd left with a head injury, and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey left with a knee.
“Well I don’t think any of them are real serious injuries but we’ll see as we go along,” Allen said. “Brandon Myers was probably the one that we’ll see.”
Those players joined linebacker Aaron Curry, who will see a specialist for his knee injury, punter Shane Lechler (knee), running back Mike Goodson (neck), defensive end Jack Crawford (foot), running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring), defensive lineman Richard Seymour (knee), and wide receivers Denarius Moore and Eddie McGee with hamstring issues.
“Aaron Curry went to see a specialist in L.A.,” Allen said. “He’s just not quite where we want him to be. We’re going to go down and basically let him get a second opinion and see if we can’t do something to get him better.”
Strong safety Mike Mitchell, who was seeing first team reps as he filled in for Branch, is showing energy and effort. While covering the tight end on a pass route, Mitchell stepped in front of a Carson Palmer pass for an interception. He is also capable of delivering so big hits while playing the run and to receivers in space.
“He’s competing,” Allen said of Mitchell. “At the end of the day you look for guys when you walk off the practice field or look at the practice tape you see something and say, hey the guy made a play today. He’s done that a couple times this camp. I think I’m pleased where he’s at. I want to continue to see progress from him. I’m looking forward to watching him play against somebody else and see how he does.”
With Denarius Moore's hamstring injury, the Raiders have been trying out punt returners in camp. Jacoby Ford is the primary replacement for Moore now and has proved he has the explosiveness and ability to make plays as a kickoff returner with four career touchdowns, but hasn't fielded punts since his senior year at Clemson.
“Totally different,” Allen said of returning punts as opposed to kickoffs. “The flight of the ball, you have got to be able to tell whether the ball is going to turn over or if it is going to go end over end. It is a lot more difficult to catch punts than it is to catch kickoffs. He’s getting better. Obviously with Denarius' hamstring he hasn’t been able to be out there. But I see Denarius fielding punts for us; I see Jacoby fielding punts for us.”
When it comes to playing time in the first preseason games, Allen will not tell the players how many snaps they will be on the field.
“I won’t tell them until they play the game and I tell them they are coming out,” Allen said. “Because there is only one way you can play the game and that’s getting your mind right to go out and compete. That’s what I want those guys to do regardless if they are ones, twos, or threes. I think a lot of times when you tell them, ‘hey you are going to play one quarter or 10 snaps,’ there’s a little bit of a mental let down and I don’t want that.”
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