ALAMEDA -– Raiders tight end Clive Walford missed most of the preseason with injury, a period far too long for a rookie trying to make an immediate impact. The third-round pick still believes that, despite his absence, quick contributions remain a strong possibility.
"I feel good," Walford said, "and I’ll be ready.”
Walford made that clear on Twitter on Aug, 28, shortly after offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said his absence was significant for him and the team. Walford had only practiced twice and played in one preseason game before ending up back on the shelf. It really hurts rookies to miss large sections of their first training camp, an important period in NFL development.
That downtime finally ended Sunday, when Walford returned to practice after roughly three weeks on the sideline.
“It was a really long process, and it felt good to finally be out there with my teammates,” he said. “I’m 100 percent and ready to go.”
That’s a good sign for him and the Raiders, who still have high expectations for the young buck. Walford is a versatile talent when healthy, and can be a real factor in the passing game. Mix him in with Mychal Rivera and blocking tight end Lee Smith and it rounds into a strong position group.
It will be interesting to see how quickly Walford can adjust and contribute to this team. Every practice is valuable, which is why he wanted to return last week.
“It was a little frustrating because I wanted to come back a littler earlier, before the preseason ended, but I had to sit out unfortunately,” Walford said. “I’m happy to be back at this point.”
The Raiders wanted to make sure he was back and ready for the regular season. Walford said he didn’t feel rust in his first practice back, and that his conditioning remained strong. Getting involved in plays and game reps “might be a slower process,” but he’s excited about the prospect of a relatively quick contribution.
“I’m going to be ready,” Walford said. “Whenever they call my number, I’m going to be ready to make a play.”