Raiders step up pace in offseason workouts

Under Dennis Allen, Raiders practices weren’t for couch potatoes. Tony Sparano slowed them down some as the week wore on. But during this year’s offseason workouts, head coach Jack Del Rio had them moving like a raceway.

Second-round draft selection Mario Edwards Jr. said:

“It was real different (than Florida State). The tempo is definitely different. One thing I noticed, in college, you get two or three breaks, but here, there aren’t any breaks. When you go, you gotta go full speed all the time.”

Going full speed isn’t abnormal for NFL practices, but what the Raiders are doing now represents a notable difference versus what they’ve done in the past.

Even Justin Tuck, who’s been to a pair of Super Bowls, noticed things he’s never experienced when voluntary workouts took place in early April.

It’s not that players are complaining; they like the music that’s being played for the entirety of practice, not just during stretching periods. Anybody who’s spent a fair amount of time at a gym understands. And coaches are louder, more intense than they already are.

Coaches like defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., who is regarded as one of the most intense coaches in all of football. Edwards said:

“He’s very vocal and he wants the best out of his players. He’s yelling and screaming because he wants to push you and get every drop out of you that you have in you. I like that type of coach.”

Edwards fed off it in his first practice as a pro on Friday, and others appeared to have similar feelings.

Norton isn’t the only new coach who doesn’t have a problem exercising his vocal chords. Quarterbacks coach Todd Downing could be seen yelling — not obscenities — but general words of encouragement.

All of this is new to the Raiders, just like the coaches, many of whom have the same goals as any coach. Del Rio said:

“We want to teach. We want to begin to implement our system. We want to help them begin to understand the mentality that we want to have here with the Raiders. We want to teach them what it looks like to be good teammates.”

He added:

“How to respect each other while we’re here working, those types of things. Guys that are here have been with us now for a number of weeks and they have that foundation. We’re trying to catch the guys that are new now, catch them up to the veteran players.”

Undrafted rookies come into camp

The Raiders announced 14 undrafted rookie free agents were added to their roster Friday, including a few who may have staying power.

Notably among them is wide receiver Josh Harper, who started with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr at Fresno State. Harper was gleaming while speaking to the media Friday, and said he’d bought in to a dream that general manager Reggie McKenzie has sold free agent additions for awhile now:

“I feel like the Raiders organization is headed into the right direction. Why not try to be a part of something that’s going to be special down the road? It was a whole little packaged deal: the organization, Derek being here because I know he’s going to help me as much as I can, learning the playbook.”

McKenzie has told prospective free agents over the last two offseasons that they should be a part of something special: A team gutted, then built from the ground up, that he thinks can be great.

Harper clearly agrees.

Nonetheless, Harper says that even with the advantages afforded to him, he knows he’ll have to work hard to stick around:

“You have to give them a reason to allow you do have a spot on this team. Nothing’s going to be given to you but that’s why you have to show up and make plays.”

Other undrafted rookie signings include:

CB Rob Daniel , T Quinterrius Eatmon, QB Cody Fajardo , LB Jacoby Hale, S Jimmy Hall, TE Gabe Holmes, RB Gus Johnson, S Tevin McDonald, LB Braylon Mitchell, DT Leon Orr, S Terrell Pinson, LB Josh Shirley and WR Milton Williams.

Of the group, Pinson and McDonald have the best shot to make Oakland’s roster, due to a lack of depth at their respective positions.

Pinson is a ball hawking safety out of Louisiana Tech, while McDonald might fit at cornerback.

The rest have a lot to prove if they’re to displace anyone on the Raiders roster.


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.