Oakland Raiders Preseason: A Former Player Reflects on Training Camp

Jarrod CooperCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2010

Napa Valley Marriott Napa Ca.

Napa Valley Marriott rolls out the red carpet when the Oakland Raiders come to town.   For one month out of the year our world famous wine valley produces something other than grapes, the beginning of the NFL season. The football players occupies half of the Marriott and the other half is filled with die hard Raider fans egger to get a glimpse of Americas roughest NFL football team.  After finishing my career as an Oakland Raider in 2008, I now have the honor to come back and report to the fans.  What are the team’s chances this year?  The one thing that NFL football fans know about Jarrod Cooper is your going to get an honest assessment from a NFL veteran.

 I was voted by my teammates 4 out 8 years to be special team captain because the truth comes out of my mouth; I just call it how it is. I really think the Raiders are set up to have at least a 8-8 season,  asking for much more than that would be really pushing it.  Most teams have a rebuilding year; it seems the raiders have had a rebuilding decade.  Other teams would kill to have the group of athletes like the Raiders have.   Al Davis has handpicked the fastest and smartest players to his knowlge although I am an Oakland Raiders alumni and fan at heart and am very excited to report on them, sometimes the truth hurts, and plenty of poor decisions were made last season.  Like the one to let Jamarcus Russell be a starting QB.  In the 2010 off season, a lot of changes were made, on and off the field.  This year’s draft selection has been one of their strongest in years.  Maybe this is the formula for the silver and black to get back to a winning football seasons, finally. 

Driving up to the Napa Marriott this year I began to get the chills, much like I did for the last five years of my football career.  Maybe I wanted to come back to the NFL.  In the NFL world there is a new term for players wanting to come out of retirement it’s called “Brett  Favre-ing”.  I quickly remembered why I retired when I walk out on that football field.  Number one is “It’s Not Easy”.   Number two, after three ACL surgeries my knee is still swollen and my neck and back are spread out on football fields across this country.  Number three, there is more to the game of football then just the players on the field, and now I have a chance to be a part of the football off the field as a retired player.  I am now discovery all the ins and outs of football off the field. 

For players trying to get a job, NFL football camps are like a 14 hour job interview with someone punching you in the face.  For high paid starters, camp is a bit more relaxed.   I was always a player that had to excel in special teams in order to make the team.  Special teams are the toughest job on the football field, and your shelf life is less than three years. 2010 Oakland Raider camp, there are 100 men trying to win a job., and if you’re not a starter on offense or defense then starting on special teams is what you are fighting for.   Collage players coming into the NFL for the first time realize that it is no longer just a game, it’s a way of life, and that way of life can be taking or given on any given day.  Nnamdi Asomugha is the highest paid corner in the NFL set to make over 16 million dollars this year.  Nnamdi is running up and down the field as if he wasn’t aware he is the best in the NFL.  Nnamdi Asomugha is not letting his success go to his head; he’s setting a dominant example for every player on the football field, young and old.   If you know anything about football you know a lot of top dollars players come up with a baby injury for an excuse to sit out of training camp.  What that player doesn’t know is that everyone on the team coaches and players alike lose a little bit of respect toward that individual.  I do not see this happening to Nnamdi Asomugha. Tom Cable is poised and playful with the players during the start of practice stretches, but quickly flips a switch of seriousness when that whistle blow and practice begins.  He has added Hue Jackson to his offense, and in practice they look great, but we have all heard this story before.  There isn’t anything I can tell you about Oakland offense that is going to make you feel better.  They have reached a point of actions speak louder than words.  Even with the addition of QB Jason Campbell.  The Oakland Raider fans have heard the same old song and dance for 7 years, it’s time to put up or shut up.  I am not going to harp on the fact that Jamarcus Russell is no longer with the team.  The one thing you learn in the game of football is to forget the past, weather it was good or bad, it’s in the past.  Besides NFL football camps are filled with emotions and heart break starting day one.  It seems every day one of the players you get close to gets cut.  Yes, fired! Starting with 100 men you have to cut down to 53 before the NFL season starts.  You build relationships during camp and most will be lost due to the nature of the game. 

I won’t kid you folks; every team in the NFL is trying to get the players focused and want to go into the season on a good note.  If you ask any player or coach in the NFL right now they should say “we are excited about the season, training camp is going well”.  I have not once been on a team were players and coaches have said anything but.  So when you are evaluating NFL football camps, you are looking for the way the team works together.   You can have a great group of athletes that look good on paper, and not win because they don’t work together.  That has been the history of the Raiders for the last 7 years.   With that being said this is the first time in the last five years that the Oakland Raiders has a coach at the helm that isn’t worried about getting fired before week one.  Callahan, Turner, Shell and Kiffen are all respected in their own way, just not respected by AL Davis.  Al Davis has had a change of heart on the last four head coaches, who’s to say he won’t have a change of heart on head coach To Cable.  There has been no off season controversy about the head coaching job in the Raiders organization.  Some people thought Tom Cable was just a fill in; I most certainly did at first.  He is set on proving that he is the man for the job, and from what I have seen at training camp and what he has done during the off season, I think he might be right.  A+ is what I am giving the tempo and moral of the Oakland Raider training camp.  It seems the Oakland Raiders have all the pieces to the puzzle, now what are they going to do with them.



8year Veteran

Jarrod Cooper

Real men wear Black and Spay or Neuter their pets.