It would appear that the hamstring soreness that sidelined Darrius Heyward-Bey during mini camps is a bit more serious than first thought. He sat out of practice this morning and the word around camp is that he is still bothered by the same injury.
The injury was originally said to be just some hamstring soreness along with cramps and fatigue. DHB was also just one of many rookies that suffered from the same problems. This is common when making the transition from college to pro until they get up to speed with the heightened conditioning at the NFL level practices.
But if it were simply some “soreness” then Heyward-Bey would have recovered and have been on the field with his teammates today.
Hopefully, the problem is not with his hamstring and something else entirely. Reporters can be like a sewing group sometimes so I will report back after the mid day press conference and interviews. It could be something as harmless as recovering from the hangover after an all-night drug and alcohol binge. I will go ahead and start that rumor now and correct it later if I am wrong.
Tom Cable spoke about Darrius Heyward-Bey not practicing and the injury:
“There is some soreness in (his hamstring) and we just don’t want to chance it so we’re going to leave it alone. But we should be ready to go next week.”
He reiterated that this was still soreness from the mini camp,
“A lot of times the draft’s over and they stop doing things and then all of the sudden you put them to work and they’re not quite ready for that work load.”
DHB also commented that it is indeed his hamstring and specifically his right hamstring that is giving him problems.
So much for my drunken, strung-out hangover theory. Just call me Chris Mortenson.
Jon Alston getting the reps
The starting strongside line backer position has been a revolving door (in more ways than one) these past couple of seasons. In fact, there were four different starters at the position just last season. But so far in camp, special teams guru Jon Alston seems to have the inside track on the job.
The Raiders are so desperate to fill the position that the team draft three players that all could compete for the job. Yet despite former starter Ricky Brown being healthy again, Brown has been working at middle linebacker while Alston has been getting all the first team reps at the strong side.
Alston also looks to have bulked up quite a bit during the offseason. And despite being bigger, he seems to not have lost any of his speed in the process.
“It’s part of he offseason program and we monitor that closely”, says Cable. ”He has gotten bigger but a number of guys have on this football team and been able to maintain their athleticism and their speed so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
This is a meteoric rise for Alston who wasn’t even a lock to make the team out of camp last season. But Cable chose to downplay the fact that Alston was getting so many first team reps:
“I think it is more trying to get Ricky (Brown) retrained at MIKE and he’s probably the one guy that can do that. In terms of real competition between Jon, Ricky and all those guys, that won’t come until (later) so don’t read too much into that right now.
“Jon’s doing well. Mike has helped that whole group in terms of getting them coached and understanding what we’re asking them to do and all that. We kind of knew going in that he would be a good third down backer. He really shows up on third down.”
Cable can try and downplay Alston starting any way he likes. Whether by saying that it is Ricky Brown shifting to MLB, giving credit to the coaching or by saying that Alston will be used only on third down. But the one thing he can’t downplay is Alston’s work on the field in these camps. He has arguably been the most standout defender on the field. And regardless of why that may be, the fact still remains. If Alston keeps up this level of play then it seems at this point that it is his job to lose.
Coach Sanjai Lal and the Knights of the Round Table
New Raiders receivers coach Sanjai Lal is preaching to the receivers that they are a team unto themselves. And one of his first attempts to accomplish this was by removing the regular classroom style seating and replacing it with a round table.
No receiver is more excited about it than fourth round draft pick Louis Murphy who had this to say:
“Our receiving unit changed around our meeting room to where it is a (round) table instead of just having chairs. Our whole purpose and goal of our offseason was to just come out and get unity. We become more as a group. No individualism because that is going to stop the whole team from going forward. If we all get on the same page and become a strong group, I think that we all can compliment each other.
“Coach Sanjai Lal said ‘we’re going to switch up the meeting room. We’re going to have a circle table so we could all look at each other and become more of a family.’ That’s our whole goal. No individualism, no ones (or) twos, just out here rotating and trying to make plays.
“Coach put out there if anybody wants to step up and say anything or whatever. Javon Walker does a lot of talking, a lot of teaching to us and I think we are coming a lot closer; like brothers. (Javon Walker) has been a big help. He knows the offense like the back of his hand.”
Darrius Heyward-Bey has also embraced the new meeting room set up and philosophy:
“I like that approach. When we’re watching film, we all can comment and we all can look at each other. Coach Sanjai let’s us comment on ‘that’s a (good) catch or if that’s a good play’ or not. If guys are staggered around, it’s kind of like you’re looking back and you can’t really get into it. But when everybody’s at a round table, it’s more like a conference. Everybody’s into it.
“The wide receivers; we’re all close. We joke around and stuff like that so it’s pretty cool.”