Oakland Raiders linebacker Miles Burris at 2012 mini camp (photo by Levi Damien)
Raiders starting weak side linebacker, Aaron Curry, has been out with a knee injury since OTA's and has been placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. In his place, rookie linebacker Miles Burris has been filling in. And the extra time working with the starters has been a valuable experience for him.
Not only is he getting a chance to share the field with the best players on this team but the team and the coaches get an accurate judge of what kind of talent they have in this young defender. In addition, work with the first team means more work overall.
"Definitely, the more reps I can get, I'll take," said Burris. "It's really good and beneficial for me as far as bringing me along quicker. Just being immersed out there with the first team and having to get a feel for the game more. It was a good time."
"Just happy to come and play wherever they need me and get as many reps as I can. I know they're all really valuable but it's something that's definitely brought me along a lot quicker as far as the learning curve goes."
A learning curve is what every player on the Raiders defense is going through right now. There is an entirely new defense installed in Oakland and it means hitting the playbook hard to stay up to speed. He who falls behind is lost. This goes doubly so for the linebackers who have a lot of duties to perform while calling out the plays and making sure their teammates are aligned correctly.
It has been three months since Burris was drafted and a month since he last took the field for minicamp. And like most of his teammates, he has spent the better part of the past month with his face buried in the playbook. All that work paid off, however, once he hit the field for the first day of training camp on Monday.
"[I feel] a lot more comfortable," said Burris. "I made sure to stay studying and the book, the notes that I took from OTA's and minicamp, I took that home and was studying that every day. Just from the reps that I got there as well it did bring me a lot farther than where I expected to be and I felt pretty comfortable out there today."
As camp goes along, the coaching staff will be adding to the defensive playbook but for now they are practicing what the coaches have been preaching "multiplicity through simplicity."
"It's just install all over again," said Burris. "Just try to make sure that by the time the first game comes, everybody's got it down and everybody's experts at it.
"Just gotta go out there and play your game every play. I made a couple mistakes, gotta shore those up and get in the film room and study and figure out how to get better.
"I think right now just the pass game [I need to work on]. There's a lot of ins and outs to the pass coverage. What we're playing and also what the offense is giving us. And a lot of that comes from experience and reps and a lot also comes from the film room and studying your playbook."
There is no telling when Curry will be back to practice. A player on the PUP list in camp can be activated at any time. When he does, the coaches will get a nice comparison between the linebacker the team traded for last year and whose contract they restructured this offseason and the new regime's first defensive draft pick.