Greg Biekert hauled an overstuffed black duffel bag out of the locker room and heaved it into a moving van. Anthony Dorsett carried two cases of bottled water to his cherry red SUV. Roland Williams never skipped a beat, laughing and joking as he made his way off the practice field one final time.
The Raiders broke training camp on Thursday, practice ending with a hearty and loud cheer from the players after a last morning workout in Napa. From here, the team heads back to its permanent facilities in Alameda where it will continue working out for the next three weeks in preparation for the season opener in Kansas City.
Head coach Jon Gruden said he was pleased with what Oakland was able to accomplish during its 28-day stay in Napa but added there is plenty of work that needs to be done between now and the opener on Sept. 9.
‘'I'm encouraged by a lot of things but there are some areas we have to continue to refine and improve on,'' said Gruden. ‘'We've got to tighten up every aspect of our situational football: our red zone offense, eliminating penalties, generating more turnovers on defense. We can wind it up and turn it up a notch in just about every phase of our football team. We have the capability to do that.''
The Raiders still have three preseason games to get through before turning their attention to the regular season. For several of the team's rookies and younger players, that means there's still time left to make a lasting impression on a coaching staff that is already facing its toughest roster decisions in the four years that Gruden has been in Oakland.
The most interesting position battle continues to be at wide receiver. Tim Brown and Jerry Rice are the only two players with secured roster spots but beyond that it's anyone's guess. Veterans James Jett and David Dunn are no guarantees after being pushed in camp by youngsters Marcus Knight and Ken-Yon Rambo. Alex Van Dyke was impressive early in camp but has slowed his progress over the last few days.
Then there's Jerry Porter, Oakland's second-round draft pick a year ago who is an interesting piece of the Raiders' puzzle. Blessed with an abundance of physical talent and arguably one of the most gifted athletes on the team, Porter has alternately been praised and chastised by Gruden and the coaching staff during training camp. While he stands a good chance of making the 53-man regular season roster, the Raiders say they would like to see more from their young receiver.
‘'At times he's been very good,'' said Gruden. ‘'The big this is, is he as consistent and productive as I think he can be? No. We still have work to do, there's no question about that but he is playing better. The standard for Jerry Porter is way up here in terms of the way I look at it.''
While the players eagerly bolted training camp, their break is only temporary. Gruden said the team will resume practicing Friday afternoon after the equipment is moved back from Napa and set up in Alameda. Moving vans backed up to the practice field before the morning workout had ended, then workers began loading equipment up as the players began piling into their cars for the 45-minute drive back to Alameda.
Gruden, himself, will take the opportunity – a rare one at that – to go home and celebrate his 38th birthday a day early with his family.
‘'I've got three little boys that I miss a lot,'' Gruden said. ‘'Every year I can remember, for my birthday I've been with a bunch of players. It will be great to spend some time with my family. I'm going to go home tonight and actually see them and I hope I have a birthday present waiting for me.''
Raiders optimistic as they break camp
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