Curry looking for a shot at punt returner

Ronald Curry's first NFL experience has been just about what he expected. Long hours studying the playbook, team meetings every night, and every now and then the former North Carolina standout will get to actually take a snap or two in practice. That's life for the Raiders' seventh-round draft pick, but he isn't complaining.


            ‘'I came in here understanding the situation,'' said Curry. ‘'If I came in here thinking that I was going to get in and continue to get as many reps as I did in college, it would have been crazy. But I came in knowing we already had four quarterbacks and I was fifth on the depth chart.''

            The Raiders training camp is a virtual revolving door of flesh, as players bounce in and out of drills regularly. But at quarterback the rotation is essentially Rich Gannon and Marques Tuiasosopo. As the starter Gannon takes the majority of reps in practice and Tuiasosopo, whom Oakland is trying to groom in a hurry to be Gannon's back-up, takes most of what's left. Occasionally, Rick Mirer gets in for a few snaps.

            Curry, meanwhile, stands behind the drills alongside Bobby Hoying, the Raiders other quarterback whose football future might be in jeopardy because of an elbow problem. Jim Harbaugh, the former NFL quarterback and Oakland's current quarterbacks coach, is also nearby offering tips to Curry and pointing out nuances of the offense.

            ‘'The third quarterback doesn't get that many reps so you know fourth and fifth aren't going to get any,'' said Curry. ‘'So I came in knowing that this was going to be a year where I could learn from Rich and work on the things that I need to work on. Getting out here and working with (Harbaugh) every day is helping me as far as my mechanics.''

            Curry's best shot to make the Raiders 53-man roster might actually be as a punt returner. Though he hasn't done it full time since high school, Curry has been spending quite a bit of time with Oakland's special teams. Punt returner is also one of the few positions where the Raiders don't have a certified starter in place. Reggie Barlow and first-round draft pick Phillip Buchanon have also been returning kicks in practice, and cornerback Charles Woodson still harbors hope of playing the position.

            ‘'(Curry) is growing with every step,'' Callahan said.


            While running back Tyrone Wheatley has been sidelined with a calf injury, sixth-round draft pick Larry Ned has been getting a crash course in the NFL. Charlie Garner, Randy Jordan, Terry Kirby and Madre Hill have gotten the bulk of the work during practice but Ned has also been getting a fair share of reps on offense. Ned has shown flashes with his running but the Raiders are hoping to see more out of him during he coming weeks. ‘'The jury's still out,'' said Callahan. ‘'Until he really gets in a game situation and you watch him in the preseason, it's hard to tell. He's consistent at some things and he's inconsistent at others. As a receiver coming out of the backfield or lining up in space, we want him to be a little more functional in that role.'' … After a day off, Callahan turned up the heat on his players in practice. The team went through its toughest workout of camp thus far, a 2 1/2 –hour session highlighted by a spirited scrimmage between the offense and defense with the stakes being an extra hour of curfew. The offense won, scoring three times. Zack Crockett caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Tuiasosopo then later scored on a one-yard run. Jerry Porter made a great catch on a pass from Rick Mirer for another score for the offense. The lone highlight for the defense came when Johnnie Harris dropped Ned for a five-yard loss, and then later when the offense failed in a two-point conversion attempt. ‘'They live and die for that hour,'' said Callahan. ‘'It's like gold to those guys.''  … In a later drill, the offense started from its own 20 and moved downfield before having to twice settle for field goal attempts. Sebastian Janikowski's first kick easily cleared the uprights from 48 yards out. His second kick, from 58 yards away, was well short and far left … Matthew Hatchette didn't help his cause trying to win a spot at wide receiver. Thurman was wide open during a 9-on-7 drill but dropped the pass from Mirer … Later in the same drill, linebacker Travian Smith dropped a sure interception … Five officials from the NFL were on hand at practice to review new rule changes with the players. The officials will be at practice Thursday as well … Lincoln Kennedy and John Parrella were given the afternoon practice off.


            Linebacker Bill Romanowski woke up Wednesday morning with a stiff neck, so the Raiders held him out of most scrimmage drills … Tight end Doug Jolley (groin) did some rehab work in the hotel pool, while running back Tyrone Wheatley (calf) jogged and worked out with weights. Both could return to the practice field as early as Friday.




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