Programming note: Tony Sparano, Jason Tarver and Greg Olson will address the media today at 1:30 p.m. Watch the live stream right here.
Starting as a rookie quarterback is a difficult endeavor under normal circumstances, but the advent of Derek Carr’s professional career has been more strenuous than most.
He had to curtail leadership qualities natural to his personality while playing behind Matt Schaub in the offseason and training camp.
He recalibrated after being promoted.
Then the Raiders lost the season's first four, three in embarrassing fashion. And he got hurt. And his head coach got fired.
All that in five weeks. Welcome to the League, kid.
Carr has dealt with adversity deftly, maintaining the same level-headed, polished demeanor throughout these early trials. The most trying time came last week with firing of head coach Dennis Allen and subsequent promotion of Tony Sparano, when Carr tried to keep the offense together despite myriad changes.
“Any time you go through change, you can handle it one of two ways,” Carr said. “You can let it defeat you or you can embrace it. We’ve already talked about Coach Allen and now we’re moving on.
"We’ve embraced Coach Sparano. We’re excited. You walk out to practice and the team was excited and flying around. We played with great energy.
"There were still mistakes, as always with every practice around the nation. But, the energy and the effort was there. Now we’re just embracing this challenge. We’re excited to do it.”
Shortly after being promoted to interim head coach, Sparano sat down with his young quarterback and made something perfectly clear: I’m in charge, but this is your team. Now lead.
Sparano was comfortable having that conversation because he sees the qualities required to be a leader. He believes that without a doubt that Carr can handle the responsibility.
“I visited with him and we got a chance to talk about that,” Sparano said. “I said to him, ‘This is your football team; you’re the quarterback. We don’t have time for you to be a rookie right now, this team needs you to step up and be that leader. Don’t sit around and wait to do that.’
"It’s in Derek’s DNA, he wants to go out there and do that. He wants to be the leader. He does so just by the way he goes about his business in the classroom and out on the field and how hard he works. We had a really good conversation and he knows that he has to wear that hat.”
It sits comfortably on his head because is merely being himself. While he’s generally positive in his outlook and interaction with teammates and fans, Carr isn’t afraid to let negative emotion show.
We certainly saw that side after an interception that wasn’t his fault, ended a comeback attempt against New England. He was vocal in displeasure, and had no problem being critical on the sideline. It’s because he hates losing, something the Raiders have done regularly this season.
He maintains a positive aura during these tough times, hoping it will help keep others committed to the cause. It’s a major undertaking for a rookie, even from the quarterback position, because his respect is ultimately earned over time.
“You don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. You want to be a great teammate,” Carr said. Now it’s like, ‘Here are the keys, now take it and let’s go.’ There’s no easing into it anymore. We’ve already done that for the first four games. Now it’s, ‘You’re our guy. Let’s roll. Lead them and let’s go do this thing.’”