ALAMEDA -- Raiders second-round pick Jihad Ward started his professional career a few days later than most. The Illinois product had to finish finals before reporting to his new team, a necessary delay for a player who was a few exams from a degree.
Ward arrived on Thursday, joined veterans for an afternoon workout and was full-go for Friday’s opening practice of Raiders rookie minicamp.
That’s a positive, considering an ESPN report during the NFL Draft stated Ward needed arthroscopic knee surgery and six weeks recovery.
He worked without hindrance in his first formal practice as a pro.
“He looked pretty good, right?” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Don’t trust all those reports out there. We felt pretty good about our reports. He looked terrific. He’s very athletic. He’s a serious guy, and intelligent guy. We’re excited about him.”
Ward is excited to hit the ground running. Each practice is vital for someone with just three years experience as a defensive lineman, and he’s trying to learn as much as possible.
“I’m happy that I was able to finish school,” Ward said. “I really couldn’t wait to get here. School wasn’t really my thing, but I had to get through it. Once I finished that, I was ready to go. I’m really excited to be here. Now I can just worry about football.”
He can also apply what he’s learned. Ward is fully healthy, has been for some time and was flummoxed by a report suggesting he needed another surgery. Ward injured his knee during the college football season, and had surgery to repair it. He didn’t miss a game, and never thought it would impede him as a pro.
“I was very confident I’d be ready to go,” Ward said. “What happened during the football season required surgery, but I’m completely fine. I was able to run around and practice well. I need to keep doing that every day.”
Ward is viewed as a developmental prospect, but they’ll need him to be a rotational piece on the interior line right away. The player believes he can learn on the job.
“I’m ready,” Ward said. “You need coaches to help along the way, and I’m learning from some great ones. I’m confident in myself and that I’ll be able to apply what I’m learning.”