NAPA -- Check out Latavius Murray’s Instagram page. You’ll catch one video after another of the young Raiders running back preparing for training camp in a swimming pool, running hills with a flack jacket, dodging four-square balls thrown at him and lifting serious weight.
There’s little doubt many NFL players prepare hard for training camp in an attempt to earn the biggest role possible. This offseason was crucial for Murray in particular.
A man with just 82 professional carries has to get ready for heavy workload in 2015, possibly as many touches as a true feature back. Murray is clearly the first-unit running back, with the size, explosiveness and speed to be a dynamic producer in coordinator Bill Musgrave’s offense. Roy Helu Jr., Marcel Reece and, maybe, Trent Richardson can all shoulder some load, but Murray believes he’s physically ready to take significant carries if asked.
Murray’s had injuries in the past, but had a healthy offseason to prepare properly.
At this point, fitness and scheme knowledge are the important questions he can answer now. He can't prove that he can remain healthy all season in early August. He can't prove he can produce steadily throughout the year while remaining a big play threat. He can use 2012 as a reference for durability, when he had 225 touches for 1,337 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior at Central Florida. The NFL is different, and Murray prepared hard for this golden opportunity.
"I know how important this season is for me," Murray said. "I believe I've prepared well, and now I want to give the coaches confidence in my ability to run the football in this offense."
Murray enters this training camp at 230 pounds, in the type of shape he believes will help him stay healthy and get through the rigors of a long season.
“As long as I’m putting in the work, I’m going to be okay,” Murray said after Saturday’s practice. “What I put in is what I’m going to get out of it, and I put in a ton of effort this offseason. The workouts are obviously important, but taking care of my body outside of practice, outside of lifting weights is vital. Getting in the cold tub, getting treatment and getting rest is so key to maximizing the workouts. You can’t forget that.”
Murray is going to take some hits in training camp, and far more in the regular season. The beating truly starts Sunday afternoon, when the Raiders practice in pads for the first time.
At this stage, maintenance becomes as important as the workouts. Injury prevention, in how he absorbs blows and prepares for work, is vital.
“Before and after every practice, I’m taking care of my body,” Murray said. “It can be quick, but there will be some days you sit in the training room for an hour. I know what I can handle, and the maintenance required to stay rejuvenated for the next workout, the next practice or the next game.”
The 2013 sixth-round draft pick missed his rookie season after suffering a major foot injury. Even after his breakout moment in a Nov. 20, 2014 victory over Kansas City, Murray missed a game with concussion-like symptoms.
He’d obviously like to reach the regular season near 100 percent, but will get some work throughout the preseason as he heads toward the season.
“You want to feel as fresh as possible at the start of the season, but you have to find a good rhythm,” Murray said. “That comes through practice and consistent reps. The key is knowing how to avoid getting hit flush and taking care of my body if I take some shots.”
At 6-foot-3, Murray has a lot of area to hit. He’s run at this height for some time, and has learned how to avoid absorbing brute force whenever possible.
“With my height, you have to know how to protect yourself,” Murray said. “You have to get low, run with good pad level and avoid hits from smaller defenders. I know how to do that at this point. You just have to be smart about how you go about things.”