Newcomers eager to prove Raiders will be in the thick of it
ALAMEDA -- The Raiders' rejuvenated roster got its first crack together on Tuesday when the team opened up its organized team activities eager to prove its offseason moves will pay off.http://www.eastbaytimes.com/raiders/ci_29934350/newcomers-eager-prove-raiders-will-be-thick-it?source=rss
"We have plenty of potential inside this building," said cornerback Sean Smith, a free agent signee from Kansas City. "Plenty of great players, great leaders. We have all the tools, everything we need to be successful. We're just looking forward to going out there on the field and putting it on tape."
Linebacker Bruce Irvin, another free agent who signed from Seattle, is very much part of that "prove it" mindset.
"We look good on paper," Irvin said. "It's nothing until we go out there and prove it and win these games."
Smith and Irvin are two players who figure to provide more than just on-field production -- they both expect to be leaders.
"They didn't bring me here to be a follower," Irvin said. "I'm a very outspoken guy. You guys will learn that about me. I'm coming to be a leader. I'm not stepping on any toes, but if I have something to say, I am going to say it."
Smith sees himself as a wise veteran member of a young secondary that can absorb his knowledge.
"My job is to come in here and make them better mentally because they have all the talent and all the tools to make plays," Smith said. "Just have to get them up to par with me from a football IQ standpoint."
Among Oakland's vaunted free agent class, safety Reggie Nelson was the one player who wasn't present on Tuesday, presumably due to an injury. Del Rio, by policy, doesn't speak about injuries until the regular season, when he's required by the league to give updates.
"Anybody that you didn't see out there in a full uniform participating would be in that category of wants to go, but we're doing what we need to do with them," Del Rio said.
Second-year defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. is among that group. The 2015 second-round pick, who suffered a season-ending neck injury in Week 15 last year, stretched with the team, but headed to the weight room when practice began.
"Because I don't spend time going through any one, I'm not going to make Mario an exception," Del Rio said of Edwards. "I would just say that they're all here, they're all working hard and eager to return. I think we feel good about being able to have all those guys join us at some point in, hopefully, not too far away."
Tight end Clive Walford, who injured his knee in an offseason ATV accident, also didn't participate in team drills. Same goes for defensive tackle Dan Williams, linebackers Malcolm Smith and Neiron Ball and cornerback Neiko Thorpe.
Right tackle Austin Howard, who injured his knee late last season, was suited up for the duration of practice, but sat out the team drills. But Menelik Watson, who was in line to be the starting right tackle last season before rupturing his Achilles, was back and fully participating.
"He was a guy that was really having a great camp and it was kind of a freaky injury," Del Rio said of Watson, who was hurt during the team's third preseason game. "Great to get him back. I know he's excited to be back."
Safety Karl Joseph, the team's first-round pick, worked out on the side and didn't have a brace on his right knee. He had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament to put an early end to his senior season at West Virginia. He looked good doing agility drills and is expected back by training camp.
Keith McGill has switched from cornerback to safety and had an interception from his new position on Tuesday. He played some safety in college at Utah and Del Rio sees him with a better shot to earn a role at that position.
"We like his length. We like a lot of things about him," Del Rio said. "It's just a matter of how far we can bring him, in terms of developing him, but that's largely up to him. We're going to give him every opportunity, knowing he can do some things at corner but we feel like his long-term future would be best served with him at safety."
After making the Pro Bowl last year as a replacement selection, Raiders running back Latavius Murray is vowing to get back fully on his own merits this season.
"It was a great experience," Murray said. "I had a lot of fun and I'm definitely stoked I got the chance to go, but I want to make it on my own terms and what I do on the field."
Murray was second in the AFC with 1,066 rushing yards last year, but without a complementary back, the Raiders were just 28th in the league in rushing. They hope to have solved that problem with fifth-round pick DeAndre Washington of Texas Tech.
"He's good," Murray said. "Quick guy, great feet, great vision and he looks real good. Excited to get to work with him and learn from him and hopefully he can learn some things from me."