Murphy off to good start in Oakland

Darrius Heyward-Bey is expected to return to the practice field this week for the first time since injuring his hamstring two weeks after the NFL draft. In his absence, Louis Murphy has been the Raiders' most impressive rookie so far.

Murphy, Oakland's third-round draft pick, has a smooth, almost casual-looking stride as he races past a defender, and he's equally impressive while talking to the media, often sounding like a seasoned veteran rather than a rookie who has yet to play a single down or even sign his first NFL contract.

He has also made several nice catches, going across the middle or streaking downfield, while working primarily with the second team offense.

But what sets Murphy apart is his work ethic. At last week's OTA practices, the former Florida standout ran a deep pattern and had the defensive back easily beaten but had to stop and turn around when the pass from quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was underthrown. As he did so, Murphy still looked to be in position to catch the ball but instead it slipped right between his hands and through his arms for an incompletion.

Later, after head coach Tom Cable ended practice and while nearly all of his teammates were headed off the field and into the locker rooms, Murphy stayed back and requested an assistant coach to use a machine – one normally used to simulate punts – to throw deep passes so he could work on making catches on similarly thrown balls.

"Me and Bruce have been working on that so I wanted to get some deep balls where I have to stop and go back to get the ball," Murphy said. "Yesterday I caught one the same way. Today, I guess I lost my focus on it. That's what I'm here for."

Mind you, many NFL rookies come into the league talking about working hard and putting in the extra mileage, but truth be told, so many are wide-eyed that first few weeks of practice that their too busy trying to digest it all to worry about staying after practice to get extra work.

Yet here was Murphy, after one dropped pass, putting in for OT.

Now, like everything else that happens on the practice field in May and June, you can't make too much out of anything. But considering some of the slackers that have come through the facility in recent years – Murphy's attitude bodes well.

XXX

The Raiders begin their second-to-last week of OTAs Tuesday and will also work out on Wednesday and Thursday. The team then comes back next week for another three-day sessions before breaking for the final time before the start of training camp.

Several players who sat out last week's OTAs are expected back, including defensive tackles Gerard Warren and Ryan Boschetti, both of whom were out with pectoral muscle strains. Tight end Zach Miller, left guard Robert Gallery and center Samson Satele, all of whom practiced on a limited basis last week, may also increase their workloads.

Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and running back Darren McFadden, who were out of town due to prior commitments, are also expected back.

Still no word on whether wide receiver Javon Walker (knees), who attended the workouts but did not practice last week, or cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and backup quarterback Jeff Garcia, will practice.

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