It was finally time to get to the real action in camp after four days of monotony. Time to rattle some cages and really get some work in. Right?
Then why is it that all we can talk about is the fact that Darrius Heyward-Bey can’t stop dropping the ball? That was not supposed to be the subject of this practice. We should be talking about the release of all the pent up energy at practice culminating in perhaps a couple of scuffles and jawing in the trenches.
But no, instead all eyes are on a rookie that has been healthy all of two days of his first training camp dropping a few catchable balls.
Al Davis showed up at last night’s practice at which point DHB suddenly couldn’t catch a cold. Then after practice he was called over to Al’s golf cart for a little conversation. The presence of Mr Davis would certainly make anyone a little nervous, especially a rookie who is performing in front of him for the first time in a Raider uniform. We now know what big Al said to Darrius at that cart. Or at least we have Darrius’ version of the conversation.
“He just told me, we know how you play. We know you play in practice. Just keep doing what you do.”
This didn’t seem to calm the rookie receiver’s nerves because he was stone hands again today. And no one is more aware of it than Darrius Heyward-Bey himself.
“Just, you know, as a player, when you drop a ball, you get frustrated, you say, ‘Ahhh’, but you got to shake it off, go on to the next one. I wouldn’t say I’m pressing. I’m just trying to work through the kinks. That’s football, it happens. They tell me all the time, forget about that one. Move on to the next one. My teammates are probably the best in the world. They just keep motivating me.”
This frustration led to more drops which led to media questioning that was bordering on obsession. And it wasn’t just when DHB was at the mic. Everyone was asked to give their take on it.
“You know, I think it’s as hard as you make it on yourself”, explains Nnamdi Asomugha. “I think when you put that pressure on yourself, it can become very hard. If you know that you’re doing something that you’re used to doing and you were drafted at that spot for a reason, then I don’t think it gets as hard. For me, of course you know the position change, so I put a lot of that on me, so I think I made it a little harder on myself than it actually was, but for a guy like Darrius, I think it will be fine.”
The response from his teammates was unanimously positive. Everyone seemed to rally around their troubled new teammate. Many of whom claimed that the only controversy was solely that which the media created. Because as JaMarcus Russell says “that’s your job”. Yeah, that may be true and while the Raider Nation would like to see Heyward-Bey jump in and immediately prove all of his doubters wrong, that is asking a bit much of such a young guy. Especially a young guy who has so many eyes on him, many of which are outright expecting him to fail.
“Well the pressure’s tremendous” says Javon Walker. “Not from an athlete’s point of view because we know what he’s going through. The pressure comes from you guys. You guys write about him. Guys write about him, they say obviously his negatvies at first. We know what he’s going through so we’re not going to point them out. Our job is we tell them not to read any of the things that you guys are saying, he’s going to be fine. The pressure, he knows it because he wouldn’t have gotten picked where he got picked. He’s learning how to deal with it. He’s going to be a great person, he’s going to be a great one in this league.
“[Dropping balls] happens. This is football. As long as you can come back and know what you did on the previous or you can come back, shake off that last play and make another one. You’ll have ample opportunities so you don’t get down.”
JaMarcus Russell went on to say “Nobody gets counted for being a rookie anymore.”
And he’s right. With the amount of money paid to these rookies and the expectations placed on them, they are treated like fresh meat for scrutiny. For DHB, of course, there is the added pressure of being the first receiver taken ahead of All world receiver (and all universe douche bag) Michael Crabtree. Who, by the way has not caught a single pass because he is holding out for money well above his station. That dude needs to be put in his place something fierce.
But there are some positives. And you can see it in the way DHB comes off the line.
“I’m confident. I mean, like I said before, it’s football. You’re going to catch some, you’re going to drop some. I’m still going to come off 110 miles per hour. I’m still going to run past you, I don’t care who you are.”
Don’t believe him? Just ask All Pro corner Nnamdi Asomugha.
“Anytime he comes off the ball if you’re pressing him — first of all, he’s not a guy you want to press all the time because of his speed — but when you’re pressing him, anytime he comes off the ball, he comes off confident, like, “I know that I can run by you.” You can tell that from him so that can put fear in a corner. I think that’s going to help him in the long run…in the short run, actually. It’s going to help him soon.”
How soon? Now? How about now? Come on already!….Now?
Javon Walker is making his coaches and the media at practice drool with anticipation at his renewed sense of enthusiasm and confidence in his game. Not to mention some of the amazing catches he is making in practice.
“I feel like back in ‘06 my first year in Denver. I don’t feel nothing no more. I’m excited. And also, to see those receivers out there making plays and then to get back out there and join with them. They’re making me work harder so I can get back out there and help then out with the things they are doing.”
It appears that he has put his past incidents where they belong; in the past. And in the meantime he has also put his physical pain behind him. And knowing what he is capable of, this better not be a false alarm.
It appears there is a bit of a heated competition going on for the starting right corner position. Stanford Routt was the starter two seasons ago and he was passed up by Chris Johnson when DeAngelo Hall was sent packing. Now we have two guys that both feel like they have proven themselves as the worth starter. Let the games begin.
Nnamdi Asomugha was asked about the two corners opposite him are responding to the open competition.
“They’re responding well. I think Chris has been a little more upset than Stanford because Chris came in after DeAngelo and felt like he proved himself worthy of starting this year, so — but it lit a fire in him too, so he’s been playing a lot better, he’s got a little more intensity than we expected at this point, but Stanford has been playing great too so, we’ll see. Now that the ball is involved, we’re gonna’ see a lot more plays and see who’s really ahead of the other.”
For the record, Chris Johnson is far and away the rightful starter. But hey, open competition should mean just that. And Cable has preached that at nearly every position this offseason. Even those that have players that have proven they deserve to start.