So it begins. The Oakland Raider’s training camp officially started yesterday and things couldn’t look any better in wine country. All of the Raider’s draft picks have been signed including Rolando McClain who was given $23 million in guaranteed money. The symbolic move made by Richard Seymour, coming of the bus with all the rookies and free agents highlights the start of training camp. This shows that Seymour is saying to everyone that we are in this together and no one man is greater than the team.
Being a fan of the Oakland Raiders I am incredibly excited about the start of training camp and this season. The dead weight (Jamarcus Russell) has been cut and a winning attitude has been instilled in this team. But I temper my enthusiasm with caution too. I can see that the Raiders have brought in many players used to winning and as coach Cable said in his press conference “love the damn game” but there is a lot of work to be done.
The first eight practices of the Raider’s training camp will consist of a learning intensive, non-contact phase of football. Coach Tom Cable tried this approach and to his surprise it got great reviews from the players. Now it may not be exciting to watch this almost slow motion walkthrough but it is incredibly beneficial to the team. It allows them get up to speed and apply what they’ve learned in minicamp and OTA’s.
The opening day press conference showed a much cooler, confident Tom Cable and a team that is willing to put in the work required of them. Cable knows that this team is his beyond a shadow of a doubt, even though he has been stripped of his play calling duties. Obviously when all is said and done the Oakland Raiders are Al Davis’ team but at this point in time it seems like Al Davis is allowing Cable to coach as an individual rather than making all the decisions through him.
Training camp has showcased and new and improved football team. Reading Jerry McDonald’s regular updates on Raider’s training camp has given me more reason to be excited. Reports indicate that Darrius Heyward Bey’s work during the offseason, minicamp, and OTAs has translated into training camp. He is catching the ball at a more consistent level than he was last year and his added 10-15 lbs has given him the strength to fight through tackles but he has maintained his trademark speed all along.
The next impressive specimen that has displayed his skills is Rolando McClain. McClain has a brilliant mind for the game of football. Being coach Nick Saban’s eyes on the field during his time at Alabama and just learning from this defensive genius are just two aspects of his game that had him ready for the NFL before he stepped on the field. He justified all of these claims and has had a stellar training camp. He reportedly intercepted a Jason Campbell and exhibited his unparalleled athleticism in doing so.
Along with McClain and Heyward-Bey, Lamarr Houston has brought his trademark intensity to training camp. Reports have him getting into a bit of a scuffle with Robert Gallery during non-contact drills. Now Houston has that killer instinct and a motor that never quits. If he can harness this aggression and ability into a controlled frenzy, if you will, he could be a scary prospect for offensive lines across the league.
The entire team has commented on the upbeat tempo they are experiencing in training camp this year. Last year the first eight practices were truly learning intensive and they rarely carried plays to completion. This years first eight practices were much different, in that the team has grown leaps and bounds and are well ahead of where they were at this time last year.
With training camp in full swing and plays being made on both sides of the ball we Raider fans have a real reason to be excited. The team has chemistry that we have not seen for many years and those players who were just here to “earn a paycheck” are gone because that attitude does not promote a cohesive, winning team. Now Coach Tom Cable truly has “53 men committed to one purpose” and that purpose is turning the Oakland Raiders around from these seven years of losing seasons which is done by playing as team and for one another rather than for their own individual goals. The last step in this process of righting this ship is: Just Win Baby.