As bifitting the first padded practice, the luminaries were out in full force, led by former Washington quarterback and current Oakland Raider Marques Tuiasosopo. He was there with his father, Manu. Other fathers there included Bob Eriks, Greg Barton and Tony Benjamin. Ink Aleaga and Jamal Fountaine were also there with Hugh Millen, as well as signees Jordan Slye, Isaiah Stanback and Dan Milsten. Jordan was there with his older brother. Another special guest was current Cincinnati Bengals special teams coach Al Roberts. Al was a running backs coach under Don James and later under Jim Lambright.
There was no 'full-go' contact today, just players getting used to pads once again. The first real action was during the first set of 3-on-3 drills. It was the receivers blocking downfield where the first popping took place. Paul Arnold and Reggie Williams did their best work taking guys down, while Evan Benjamin stood out as the main defender that took the receivers on with gusto. The redshirt freshman from Redmond wasn't backing down from anybody today.
Both Rich Alexis and Braxton Cleman had a devil of a time catching swing passes. It was clearly their bugaboo today. They weren't the only ones too, as the quarterbacks continued to struggle, especially with the long ball. Numerous times Neuheisel was seen motioning to the QB's to put a lot more air under the ball on deep balls.
The defensive line stepped up at the end of practice, with DE Manase Hopoi making Joe Toledo look foolish on one off tackle blast play, easily gobbling up Rich Alexis four yards deep behind the line of scrimmage. On another play, he came in untouched through the heart of the OL to grab Braxton Cleman for no gain. The sophomore from Sacramento is showing to be a quick, aggressive presence, especially when lined up against the tight end.
Graham Lasee continued to play in front of Hopoi, giving the Huskies an interesting 1-2 look at DE so far. Both can run like crazy and don't shy away from contact. Josh Miller was at nose tackle and Jerome Stevens was at defensive tackle. Both look very quick and slimmed down from last year.
The offensive line again looks very solid and the core group of Khalif Barnes, Nick Newton, Dan Dicks, Elliott Zajac and Andre Reeves are getting a ton of reps. They look solid. The twos are Ryan Brooks, Aaron Butler, Brad Vanneman, Jason Simonson and Robin Meadow. We expected Meadow, the redshirt frosh from San Francisco to be in the middle of the first fracas of the year, but it happened so quickly it was hard to tell who the instigators were. As is the case with the first padded practice of the year, fights are expected, so to see only one minor skirmish develop over the course of the practice seemed a bit unusual. But since it wasn't one-hundred percent full go, players may be holding back until they get the green light to really lay the hammer down. Monday, depending on whether they go padded again, could be interesting practice to follow.
Marques Tuiasosopo quotes:
On the transistion from college ball to the NFL - "The transition was a pretty big one. It wasn't too bad. Football wise, there was a big difference in terms of the speed and the volume of plays I had to learn, the terminology, deciphering defenses. It's a jump, but like the jump from high school to college, once you get a couple of weeks under your belt you get used to it and it's not that bad. It's just studying and practice. It's different being on your own, so I had to adjust to being on my own, being a little more responsible with my time, paying bills. I bought a house. Being able to stay down there is nice. But the transistion went pretty smooth for me. We have a great coaching staff and some great players that made it a really easy transistion for me."
On playing with Rich Gannon - "Rich Gannon has been great. Not only is he a great guy off the field, but he's a great teammate and a great guy to learn from. He's always trying to help me out and help the other quarterbacks out. He knows where he stands and he's secure with that. We are all out there competing and he's fine with that. I think that's what's the best thing about it is that there's no animosity."
On his off-season - "After the year is over we have a couple of months off. We started up again on March 25th with our off-season program. The NFL only allows 14 practices in a 14 week period that they've designated through the collective bargaining agreement. But we have our schedule now and our coaches have strategically placed our practices out and we also have our mini-camps. Because we have a new coach we have three mini-camps. So inbetween the spread-out practices and the mini-camps we just do running, lifting and conditioning."
On his time off - "I was able to get back up to Seattle and relax. I love it up here. That was fun. But I haven't really gone anywhere or done anything yet. I've been playing a lot of golf. (laughs) If I can get under 100, that's a good day."
On new Raiders Head Coach Bill Callahan - "I'm really excited about Bill Callahan. He was the offensive coordinator for Oakland last year. We all know him and I think he's going to be a very good coach. He's a no-nonsense type guy and he loves to have fun and loves to win. That's what we need. I think we'll be fine."
On his expectations for next year - "I'm going to try and take advantage of every opportunity I have when I get a chance to get under center. I'm going to continue to work hard as I always do and I'm not going to let down. I'm going to continue to push Rich and continue to push myself and get better. If that means I have to play backup beacuse I haven't beaten him out, then fine. And if I do beat him out, then that's the way it goes. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can. Nothing bad ever happens when you have competition. Just have to go with it."
Rick Neuheisel quotes
On today - "It was a spirited day, the first day in pads. We're anxious to continue to improve. We are still rusty in the passing game. A lot of that is just because we didn't get a chance to do a lot of throwing in the off-season. Hopefully we'll see improvement as we go forward."
On Kai Ellis - "Kai was held out today because of some soreness in his knees. We are going to keep researching why that is happening."
On today's intensity - "It was all we needed it to be. As a matter of fact I had planned to have a 3-on-3 full speed pad-cracking thing at the end but I thought we were right where we needed to be with respect to our contact. I didn't think we needed to waste any more hits today, so maybe we'll do that early next week."
On the first scuffle of the day - "I really don't know. I'm going to have to go back to the film to find out. Once the bodies start circling around all we try to do is get to the middle of it and get people apart."
On Jafar Williams - "He's played well so far. It's been nice to have him back. He and Tyler Krambrink. There were so many questions asked about our defense, but the bottom line is that it's nice to have guys back and healthy. And hopefully we'll get Marquis (Cooper) back before the season starts and Kai Ellis will be healthy. We'll keep our fingers crossed that we can be as healthy as we can be. With (Greg) Carothers and Roc (Alexander) back, you'll like our defense."
On Tyler Krambrink playing inside and outside - "We are working in combinations right now with those guys. We want to be as flexible as we can be with those kinds of kids."
On Ben Mahdavi deep snapping today - "Ben's out there doing a whole bunch out there. He's just not going to be in full contact. He and Jimmy Newell are in that same category where they are going to participate in everything but full contact."
On the wide receivers - "The wide receivers are fine. Like I said before, we are rusty. And the rustiness will dissapate as we get back into it."
On Cody Pickett and limited repititions - "Yeah, he is. We'll see how that goes. And he's going to miss Monday as he has to fly back to Idaho to attend a funeral. We'll see how his arm feels on Tuesday. He's sore, but he says it's a 'good sore'. It's tired because it's being used again. It's nothing mechanical. We had him at 50-50-50 the first three days and we'll see where we are at next week so we can get him back to going full-throttle."