Raider training camp Day 1: Team in flux

Today was the first day of training camp practices for the Raiders. This is an uncertain time since it is happening simultaneously with the re-signing period which will be followed quickly by free agency. It makes for some interesting uncertainty at several positions. Additionally, there were only 65 players on the field of the 90 player limit they will reach within the next few days.

The first of those uncertain position areas is the offensive line. The Raiders gave little indication who will be starting at each position along the line on Thursday. This is to be expected this early. But at this point, the Raiders don’t even have all of their personnel along the line.

This offseason, right tackle Langston Walker was said to be considering retirement. He recently came out and said that rumor was not true and he would like to return to the Raiders this season.

The team is reportedly interested in signing free agent offensive tackle Jared Gaither. But it appears Gaither got the same dollar signs in his eyes that Kwame Harris and Khalif Barnes got when they got the call. The Raiders are not desperate to sign him as they already have Jared Veldheer manning the left tackle position. They are certainly not looking to break the bank in free agency so he has not been signed. My guess is he won’t be signed by the Raiders. His back injury is a risk and the Raiders want him to sign a contract that is based on playing time. He wants guarantees he will not get from the Raiders.

Joseph Barksdale signed his rookie contract today. He was the final Raider rookie to sign a contract. He will be vying for that right tackle spot as well.

One of the more head-scratching revelations today was hearing that workout warrior Bruce Campbell had failed his physical. He had said he would be switching back to tackle this season. He was a right guard last season though he didn’t see the field in a regular season game and was inactive through the last half of the season. But that transition will have to wait. He was placed on the non-football injury list and was watching practice from the sideline.

Cooper Carlisle showed up for practice to the surprise of those who read the report by NFL Network that he had been cut. At this moment he is indeed still a Raider. I say “at this moment” because he carries a $2.5 million salary cap hit and the team looks to be moving on from him.

Daniel Loper appears to be the new starter at left guard until further notice. He replaced the departed Robert Gallery who has agreed to terms with the Seahawks where Tom Cable now coaches the offensive line.

One position that was not in doubt from word go was center. Stefen Wisniewski is the clear cut starter to begin camp and likely won’t relinquish it barring injury. He replaces Samson Satele who we have yet to see where he will be lining up. That is if he returns to the Raiders this season. My hunch tells me right guard. And, of course, backup center.

Another position in flux is receiver. Darrius Heyward-Bey stood on the sideline and is on the PUP list to start camp. On the flip side, Chaz Schilens is fully healthy. We will see how long that lasts.

In the meantime, the Raiders were attempting to replace one of them as starter. The team was said to be actively seeking a trade with the Bengals to acquire Chad Ochocinco. The outspoken receiver chose to sign with the Patriots instead as I am sure he has visions of putting up the kind of numbers Randy Moss did in his first season in New England.

In the offensive backfield, there was no Michael Bush and Marcel Reece as both are restricted free agents. I fully expect both will be on the field by Saturday at the latest and probably Friday.

Bush tweeted Thursday night “TODAY as been a long day. Had 2 workouts today played a round of golf n still no phone call. I feel like I’m back n the 07 draft again. Smh.”

For those unfamiliar, Bush was a Heisman hopeful and a solid first round prospect heading into his senior season. He would break his leg early on and never play another down of college football. On draft day he waited until the fourth round to get drafted when the Raiders came calling.

So yeah, he is a bit anxious right now.

On the defense, it was the secondary that was shuffled around.

Chris Johnson was also in that erroneous NFL Network report as having been cut. He too carries a sizable cap hit but it is expected that the Raiders will ask him to restructure his deal. If Nnamdi does indeed move on, CJ could be the new starter. That is of course, if the Raiders don’t nab Antonio Cromartie instead. That is another rumor that has been cropping up with regularity the past couple of days.

There are no more speculation and rumors out there right now about Nnamdi Asomugha and where he might land. Several teams are offering, but Nnamdi is not biting… yet. The Texans moved on and signed Jonathan Joseph for about half of what Nnamdi is thought to be seeking. The Bucs were rumored to be in the race simply because they have a lot of cap space but that was never really a good fit and the Bucs claim they were never interested in the first place. Now it is supposedly the Jets who are pushing the hardest along with the 49ers and now suddenly the Cowboys also in the mix (throw my arms up).

I have maintained that I believe Raiders are very much in the mix for Nnamdi. The fact that we have not heard anything about Nnamdi getting even close to a deal is a good sign. Also a good sign is teams like the Texans, who were considered the frontrunner for his services, giving up and moving on. It could mean that Nnamdi has a good offer from the Raiders and is seeing if another team can beat it. Let’s not forget the Raiders were prepared to pay him over $16 million this season had his contract not voided itself. With the new lower salary cap, he may not find a better deal than that.

There is also no buzz about Michael Huff which could mean he will be back, though the team has been reportedly pursuing Dashon Goldson of the 49ers. Without Huff (or perhaps Goldson) in practice, the Raiders tried Tyvon Branch at free safety and started Mike Mitchell at strong safety. That arrangement is likely temporary.

The only remaining starter among the group is Stanford Routt who was burnt for a long ball a couple times in practice — first by Louis Murphy and then Jacoby Ford.

Among the linebackers, Trevor Scott is on the PUP list and was watching from the sideline. He was openly disgruntled about the fact that the lockout was keeping him from rehabbing quickly and properly. Now he is being held out mostly as a precaution.

That last half of “The Lawfirm” of Howard and Morrison (Morrison was traded to the Jaguars last offseason), Thomas Howard, is now set to become a Bengal. The long time weak side linebacker was a free agent and had been buried on the Raiders depth chart.

Now it seems the linebacker corps will have to have a new nickname. With Rolando “Death Ro” McClain and Quentin “Groves Yard” in the mix, the theme works.

The third part of that group is Kamerion Wimbley who was named the franchise player this season. The Raiders are desperately trying to agree to a long term deal with him to take his cap hit down from $11.3 million this season. His deal is the key to re-signing Zach Miller as well as some of the other free agents. Once Wimbley is signed long term, the other free agents will begin to sign and then we can work on a nickname that fits with his defensive backfield mates.

Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour were in rare form. With Kelly it was quite literal. He was said to have been in great shape and that was indeed the case. As for Seymour, he created the biggest buzz at practice when he hit rookie running back Taiwan Jones with full force. They were not wearing pads, mind you. Seymour probably couldn’t feel any difference but Jones sure did.

But before you think Seymour was welcoming the rookie to the NFL, Seymour would later deliver a similar message to veteran running back Michael Bennett.

Also along the defensive line, Jarvis Moss is one of just two player re-signings that the Raiders have made. The other was long snapper Jon Condo. So you could say it has been pretty quiet on the signing front. Come tomorrow, all of that will change.

While things will heat up in training camp, more and more players will be making their way onto the field — some familiar, perhaps some not familiar. This is only going to get better.

Also see: Raider making money moves mandatory

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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