ALAMEDA – NFL starters typically see the most action of the preseason in the third game. They often play into the third quarter of a game considered a regular-season dress rehearsal. Coaches don’t game plan extensively for this game, but they treat it like a game week in terms of practice routine.
A rash of preseason injuries has Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio re-thinking that course. Green Bay lost receiver Jordy Nelson for the year. Dallas will move on without cornerback Orlando Scandrick after a knee injury. Losing a player of that caliber is difficult to handle at any time, let alone in a game that doesn’t count.
It is possible that Del Rio gets conservative with playing time for his key players in Sunday’s preseason against Arizona.
“There are certain things you kind of expect about what you’re going to do and try to do (in preseason game No. 3), but I think you do have to take pause and make sure you think about it,” Del Rio said. “We’ll do that. We’ll see what is appropriate.
“You would like to get, ideally, you’d like to get the guys to feel coming back in the second half and starting the second half at least, because that’s what it ends up being that first week of playing with smaller rosters and getting the feel of what it’s like to take that number of snaps in a game. The conditioning aspect, not only physically but mentally, it’s important, so it’s an important part, but you have to weigh that against having your best people healthy and ready to go for the year.”
Del Rio has been careful with some veterans, including safety Charles Woodson and running back Latavius Murray. That group might expand some to other starters.
Injuries can’t be avoided in a violent contact sport, and some players need game reps to prepare for the regular season. Others don’t need as many.
That’s why Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said quarterback Carson Palmer likely wouldn’t play into the third quarter.
"We're going to look at how we practice this week and gauge the conditioning of our team," Arians told local reporters. "I don't think mentally we need to do that, it's more for conditioning for playing, so you can come out in the second half and play a little bit, come out of the locker room and all those things."
"We'll gauge (each) individual guy. Some guys might play longer, some guys may play shorter."
This week remains valuable to the Raiders for several reasons, including who they prepare.
“We’re not as concerned with scheming in the preseason as much as we are showing the players how we gather information, how we package it and how we put it together, what the cut-ups look like, the different things – the coaches’ presentations – what they’ll look like,” Del Rio said. “We go through a dry run this week … That’s all so important for us as a football team to understand what it looks like and how we’re going to prepare and how we have to help each other.”