GLENDALE, Ariz. -– Karl Joseph wasn’t sure he’d play Friday night. The rookie strong safety said he’d be surprised if he did, as the Raiders preferred to play it safe as he recovered from major knee surgery.
The first-round pick felt good heading into the game, and ultimately got the go-ahead to make his preseason debut.
“It felt good during pre-game warm-ups, and I was ready to go,” Joseph said after the Raiders’ 31-10 preseason victory over Arizona Cardinals. “They decided to put me in, and I was happy about it.
“I haven’t played in a long time, so being back out there felt really good.”
Joseph hadn’t played a football game since Oct. 3, 2015, shortly after which he tore an ACL in a West Virginia practice. There were nerves, but they calmed quickly after Joseph got back in rhythm.
He played the first series as planned, a nine-snap sequence where he made an aggressive tackle and emerged unscathed. Clearing small hurdles is important for a player expected to play most every snap during the regular season.
While the Raiders will be cautious with their prized pick, they thought it key to get his feet wet early on after participating in 10 of 11 training camp practices.
“That was the intention, to get him a little bit of action,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He wasn’t going to play very long, but it was important for the young man to work his way in and understand the difference in game speed at this level. We didn’t want to expose him too much. We’re going to be smart about things. It was good to get him a little action and then get him out.”
Joseph was predictably critical of his return to action, the first game played alongside veteran free safety Reggie Nelson. He immediately found something to work on as the preseason rolls along.
“Communicating better, that’s a big thing,” Joseph said. “This was our first time with me and Reggie playing together. I’m a rookie, so I have to do a better job communicating with him. It was nice to get a series in and, as the preseason goes on, we’re going to play more and more. I’m looking forward to that.”