Former head coach of the Raiders and current ESPN commentator Jon Gruden attended practice on Saturday, the final practice before the team plays the Cowboys on Monday night in their first preseason game.
Gruden's attendance marked his first time to Napa since Al Davis traded him prior to the 2002 season. Gruden will broadcast the game with Mike Tirico and Lisa Salters on ESPN and the team confirmed the game will be televised live locally.
The Raiders practiced in shells and shorts for the second time this week and Richard Seymour (knee), Tyvon Branch (back) and Jack Crawford (foot) returned to action. Dennis Allen wasn't real pleased with the team's focus and tempo on Friday and what he got was a much crisper practice on Saturday morning with the offense and defense trading blows.
You would expect no pads to result in fewer injuries, but linebacker Mario Kurn and wide receiver Duke Calhoun both left practice with knee injuries that may be significant. Kurn limped to the field house after getting treatment from the medical staff, but Calhoun needed a cart to chauffeur him there.
That's in addition to the players already nursing injuries, such as the trio of players with injured hamstrings Denarius Moore, Taiwan Jones and Eddie McGee. Tight end Brandon Myers left practice on Friday, but Allen confirmed the test results were negative on his shoulder and the team will monitor his progress over the next few days.
Goodson (neck) is still out and Lechler is still on the non-football injury list with a knee injury. Aaron Curry is on the physically unable to perform list and is currently seeking treatment on his injured knee in the Los Angeles area.
Crawford's status for Monday's game is a game-time decision and it would be surprising to see any of the players that didn't practice Saturday morning play.
Allen said the timeline is closing on Curry's ability to return and have enough time to get ready for Week 1.
"Obviously, he was not the same healthy Aaron Curry that we saw on tape last year." Allen said. "We’re trying to do everything we can to give him a chance to get healthy so he can be out there opening night. We’re getting closer to that point where that might not be a possibility, but we'll see, it’s not there yet.”
With Curry missing practice time, Miles Burris is getting all the reps with the first team defense. He'll likely be the starter until Curry can return and he's been noticeably improving the last few days of practice. Burris is doing a better job of covering backs that leak into the flat and filling the right running holes, but there still have been occasional lapses.
Allen said of what he wants to see more consistency from Burris.
"I want to see him be able to put one play after another, positive play, and eliminate some of the young mistakes that he's still making." Allen said. "Every day he goes out there is a growth process for him. The good thing is you can see improvement and you can see him correcting some of the things he might have made a mistake on before."
Burris said he's been learning a lot from the veterans and that running with the first team alongside Rolando McClain has helped speed up his development.
“He’s got a really smart football mind,” Burris said of McClain. “He keeps his communication going with me a whole bunch and helps me get in the right place a lot of the time. Just talking on things.
“A lot of times, we’re going to have to work together on certain man coverages or this that and the other. He’s done a great job out on the field there with me, and I let him know, ‘Hey, thanks, man, I appreciate that.’”
Burris' next opportunity to string together positive plays will be Monday in Oakland, but Allen doesn't want to disclose how long his starters will play on Monday night. Typically, the starters will play one or two series and the No. 2 offense and defense will take over for the rest of the first half.
Despite the fact that the starters will see limited action, Allen still wants to win.
"That's the only reason why you play the games." Allen said. "Absolutely, we're going to try to win. Now, that doesn't mean we are going to play our starters for four quarters. We're trying to win the game, but we also trying to evaluate the players that we have here and see who can play and see who can help us out through the regular season.
"These games, they don’t count, but they matter. If you want to develop a winning attitude, the best way to do it is to go out and win games.”
With Moore's nagging hamstring, the Raiders may lean heavily on rookie wide receiver Rod Streater, who has been running with the first-team offense when the Raiders go with three receivers sets.
On Saturday, Streater dropped two passes, one was thrown behind him and Bartell might have gotten a hand on it and the other was a straight drop. Streater rebounded just a couple plays with the play of the day, a diving, sliding grab between a couple of defenders.
"It's called being mentally tough." Streater said of clearing his mind after the two drops. "Carson (Palmer) told me the day before, 'You're going to make plays, I've seen you make plays before, I know you can do it, but you're not going to catch everything. You've got to have a short-term memory, come back and make the next one.' That's what I did."
Mental toughness is one of the traits Allen has said repeatedly he's looking for in his football players and it's no surprise it's something the team likes about Streater.
Streater wasn't the only player that had a drop on Saturday morning, Jacoby Ford finally broke free from veteran cornerback Shawntae Spencer and dropped a deep pass. It was one of the only times Ford has been able to wiggle free from Spencer in the last few days. Spencer has also thrown a wet blanket on Juron Criner and put to bed any talk of DeMarcus Van Dyke starting.
Chmidi Chekwa, who was briefly demoted in favor of Pat Lee returned to work with the No. 2 defense, but had trouble sticking with receivers and a few occasions. He needs a good preseason game, because he's creeping closer and closer towards the roster bubble and he doesn't want to end up on the other side.
Christopher Hansen is a Lead Blogger at Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisHansenNFL
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