Raiders return to work
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – The Oakland Raiders began trickling back to work Tuesday as the team headquarters reopened to players for the first time since the end of the 18-week lockout.
Offensive linemen Jared Veldheer, Daniel Loper and Alex Parsons, tight end Brandon Myers and safety Jerome Boyd were among the players seen driving into the facility.
“I’m super excited,” Veldheer said a few hours later. “It feels really good to get back. Can’t wait to get back in the swing of things.”
Players were allowed to work out, meet with coaches, take physicals and get playbooks. But with many of the Raiders players living out of the area and training camp set to start Wednesday in Napa, the bulk of the team was expected to report to the team hotel in wine country for the first training camp under new head coach Hue Jackson..
The coaching staff underwent a few changes in the offseason after Jackson replaced Tom Cable. Now the new staff gets the first chance to work with the players. Veldheer had only talked briefly with new offensive line coach Bob Wylie before the lockout was lifted.
“This is the first time I’ve been able to meet person to person. Talked a little bit about the philosophy that he has, the Xs and Os and where we’re going to go tomorrow basically,” Veldheer said. “I’m just very optimistic from where we finished last year, as far as No. 2 in the run, and I want to keep building off that, just be the No. 1 rushing team in football and then firm up our pass protection and really build a line that can stick together for a while.”
Veldheer, who became the starting left tackle as a rookie, put on 15 pounds during the offseason and now weighs 325 pounds. He hopes that will help him match up with bigger pass rushers.
“I just felt I was pretty skinny last year, playing out there compared to a lot of guys,” he said. “I really put a focus on being able to put some good weight on and get myself to the physical standpoint where I need to be to hold up better versus the bull rush, to be firmer on run blocks. I think I’ve got this chance with this time to accomplish that.”
The Raiders also got the chance to begin negotiating with free agents. Oakland did a lot of work on potential free agents before the lockout started in March, signing deals with defensive linemen Richard Seymour and John Henderson, linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, cornerback Stanford Routt, safety Hiram Eugene, backup running back Rock Cartwright, backup quarterback Kyle Boller and Loper.
The most prominent free agent remaining is Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who is unlikely to return after Oakland gave Routt a $31.5 million, three-year deal in February and drafted a pair of cornerbacks in Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke.
The biggest question will be whether the Raiders can retain free agent tight end Zach Miller, who has led the team in receiving each of the past three seasons. He had 60 catches for 685 yards and five touchdowns last season and was selected to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Starting free safety Michael Huff is also a free agent but might not be back after Oakland signed Eugene before the lockout.