Wide receiver Johnnie Morant and cornerback/kick retuner Chris Carr, however, are two players who figure to have a roster spot. That statement is one that few people would have been bold enough to make before the Raiders arrived in Napa, CA for training camp.
With a crowded pool at wide receiver coupled with the fact that he was not counted on to return kicks, Morant appeared to be the odd man out. In addition, Morant was a target of the coaching staff's criticism early in training camp. Morant, however, figures to be all but a certainty to have a roster spot with Doug Gabriel being out with a finger injury for 4-6 weeks. In addition, Carlos Francis, Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry are recovering from injuries. Morant, who was a fifth round pick out of Syracuse, took advantage of his opportunity with 15 catches for 315 yards in four exhibition games.
"Johnnie is a big physical guy," Raiders head coach Norv Turner said. "When he uses his physical skills he can be very tough for any corner to handle. What we're working on is consistently using those skills and understanding what his strengths are and using them."
Carr is an undrafted free against from Boise State but figured to be a longshot going into training camp with the Raiders already having drafted two cornerbacks, Fabian Washington and Stanford Routt. Carr, however, showed promise as a corner and blossomed as a return man, averaging 15.0 yards on nine punt returns and 26.5 yards on six kickoff returns.
"When we start, I think some of the veteran guys kind of chuckle when you say on the first night of minicamp that someone in this group is going to surprise the whole league," Turner said. "There's someone in here who's going to show that they belong at some level. We were looking for a returner. We went after the best returner we could find."
Added Carr: "I remember something like that but you can't get caught up in that. If you can play, you can play no matter where you're from. It's a matter of getting the opportunity."
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org