NAPA -– The Raiders' first training camp practice comes Friday, but their preparation has already begun.
Most Raiders reported for duty on Wednesday at the Napa Valley Marriott, following an extended hiatus since a June mandatory minicamp concluded the offseason program.
The Raiders, especially those who piled off the rookie bus, are excited about the real first day of school.
“I’m ready to get started,” rookie quarterback Tyler Wilson said. “Some of the vets swear that this is the best camp location in the league, and it seems like it. I know we have a lot of work to do, but it’s an exciting time to be a Raider.”
It’s a crucial time for a team with so many new faces. The Raiders could have eight new starters on defense and have four new offensive position coaches, including coordinator Greg Olson.
In other words, the Raiders have a lot to do. Thursday is full of physicals and administrative meetings in preparation for on-field work.
The first goal: get back to playing Raiders football.
“I’ve always seen the Raiders as playing ugly, nasty, physical football,” running back Rashad Jennings said. “The Raiders play real football, and that’s how we want to play this season. I’m excited to get out here and add a new and successful chapter to the history of this franchise.”
Chemistry must be built between players not used to playing together. Jennings believes time in Napa will help that cause.
“Being away should help bond us together,” Jennings said. “Getting away from all distractions outside football really helps you focus. All we are, out here, are football players. We’re going to get to know each other as such. We’re going to fight, and there’s going to be some trash talking, but all that will draw us closer together. I will say that we’ll go back to Oakland a better team than we are right now.”
The Raiders don’t break camp until Aug. 21, and must resolve several issues if they’re to exceed already low expectations. They have to come together as a unit, stay healthy during the preseason and have players like quarterback Matt Flynn, safety Charles Woodson and defensive end Lamarr Houston emerge as leaders on the field and in the locker room.
The work will be hard. Head coach Dennis Allen will make sure of that.
“One thing you learn from him is that football is a smart man’s game,” left guard Tony Bergstrom said. “They throw everything at you and they do it early. You have to be smart to play fast, and he’ll make sure we do. You have to be tough and you have to be smart to survive these Raider camps.”