Rod Streater caught Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s first professional touchdown pass, and then had a bit of a brain fart. Streater is a New Jersey native so, after he opening the scoring against the host New York Jets, he tossed the ball to his aunt wearing his No. 80 jersey in the MetLife Stadium crowd.
Oops, Streater thought after the fact. That probably should’ve been a memento.
His aunt gave the ball back postgame, knowing it was a prized souvenir for any NFL quarterback.
It should’ve been the first of many scoring connections last year between Streater and Carr. It was the only one.
The third-year pro fractured his foot in Week 3 and missed every game after, denying Carr a valuable target.
That wasn’t the original plan. Streater was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return later in the year. He practiced for a few weeks and still wasn’t the right. The Raiders eventually cried uncle and placed Streater on season-ending IR.
The designation to return was Streater’s carrot during rehab. It was devastating when taken away.
“I had great trainers around me to help me get back and get my mind right,” Streater said. “When I found out I wasn’t coming back, it really hurt. I wanted to be out there with my team and finish strong, but everything happens for a reason. I worked hard this offseason, and to make sure I was strong to come back this year.”
Foot injuries are tricky. They can take a long time to heal. Streater wasn’t right when practicing last year. Life is different off the field, where normal movements don’t present pain. Slashing and sprinting, however, applies a different standard. It took nearly seven months to feel right on the field.
“I want to say probably at the start of (voluntary veteran minicamp in late April) I was feeling good,” Streater said. “Little sore then, but I feel way better coming into this Week 2 of OTAs. I feel like I can go out there and be myself.”
The Raiders need Streater playing to his old standard. He led the team with 60 catches for 888 yards and had four touchdowns in 2013, working with lackluster quarterbacks. He was productive as an undrafted rookie, and will be heavily counted on this year despite the acquisitions of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper.
That will only happen if he’s truly 100 percent.
“I think he’s coming along fine,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He has been able to learn our system and plug in. He’s a guy that should be a productive player for us.”
Streater admits the injury was a mental grind, but he has emerged a smarter player for the experience.
“You get a lot of time to watch film with the quarterbacks,” Streater said. “You have to stay tuned in. You’re not playing the games so you can kind of drift, but I made sure that I hung out with (Derek Carr) and the quarterbacks and just try to watch as much tape as I could and stay tuned in.”
Streater focused on individual cornerbacks each week, dissecting their style and figuring out ways to beat them. That should make Streater a vital part of what he considers the “most complete” receiver corps in his tenure.
“You can put any of us on the outside or in the slot and I feel like we don’t miss a beat,” Streater said. “We are all interchangeable. I think that’s going to add strength to us when we get out there on the field. I think we’re going to make a big impact this year.”