NAPA -- Raiders tight end Clive Walford sprinted through traffic, right down the middle of the field. He turned towards quarterback Derek Carr, and the pass was upon him. The reception was secured moments later, a connection that was put on hold for nearly a fortnight with the third-round draft pick on the shelf.
Walford was hindered by a hamstring strain, and the Raiders were conservative in returning him to action.
They felt comfortable bringing him back on Tuesday, and he was working with the first and second units as a full participant in Wednesday’s padded practice.
“Clive is a big-time target, and it’s great to have him back,” Carr said after Wednesday’s practice. “He has great size, and he’s easy to throw to. Whether it’s his route-running ability or his ability to go up and get the ball, he’s very quarterback friendly. It was good to see him out there.”
Missing training camp practices is difficult for a rookie who is trying to get up to speed with the NFL game and his new team. Walford was concerned he’d be way behind, but his return has been easier than expected.
“The morning (before Tuesday’s) practice, I thought I was going to be far (behind),” Walford said. “But once I got out there and I got the feel for it and knew my plays, I picked it right up.
"So we’re back in action.”
Walford isn’t sure if coaches will let him play Friday’s preseason opener, but the rookie will try to sneak in the game.
“To be honest, man, I don’t know,” Walford said. “I don’t even know if coach is going to let me go. So I’m trying to work hard out there these next couple of practices. Hopefully, he sees I’m healthy enough to go. We’ll see, man.”
The Raiders expect Walford to be a heavy contributor this season, and is by far the team’s most versatile tight end. Lee Smith is a solid blocker and Mychal Rivera is a quality receiving option, but Walford offers Carr another top target.
That’s why the Raiders wanted to make sure he was 100 percent before bringing him back.
“I think he’s a football player that had a really good spring and we look forward to getting our hands on him and getting him to work,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “But we’d like to avoid that yo-yo process where he’s back and forth. So, hopefully we let it settle down and we can put it behind us.”