The Raiders voluntary minicamp has completed. The three-day session was the first time the Raiders new coaching staff were able to take the field and practice with their players. There are quite a few new additions to the team, but to this staff, everyone is a new face.
It's an exciting time. New head coach Jack Del Rio was hired back in January which means he has been preparing for nearly three months to see his new team take the field and they could get down to the business of seeing what kind of talent they have and preparing for next season.
"It's been awesome to get going," said Del Rio following Thursday's practice. "We had two weeks in the classroom where you can't go out on the field. It's a little frustrating as a coach. You've got these players here and they can't go throw on their own field, they have to go to a high school somewhere to get together. But we've battled through that part of it, and now from here on out, we'll be able to get on the field with the players and develop some of the skills."
"It's a good beginning for us building relationships with the players. I'm a big believer in us having relationships with our players. Them understanding that we're here every day doing everything we can to help them be better at what they do and help us be better."
Del Rio has made a lot of changes since he came on board with the blessing of Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie. One of the top priorities was giving the facility a makeover. That meant new expanded weight rooms and equipment all the way down to new carpeting throughout the building.
"Everything we touch, we want to be better," Del Rio continued. "Every area that we have a chance to improve, we want to improve it. Anything that we see that doesn't look like it fits, we want to make sure that we adjust and get it right. We're attacking everything. In meetings with the players, we want to make sure that we're attacking the meetings. The way we train our players, the way we feed our players, the way we educate our players, all of it. It's all a part of it. The environment that they come in to every day, we want them to be proud of where they pull up and go to work every day. Where we work out, where we meet and all those things, it's important. They spend a lot of time here every day."
The players first saw the newly redone facilities earlier this month when offseason workouts began. At that time it was only the players, with no coaches, and no drills.
This week began the instruction and evaluation portion. And thus a-whole-nother kind of excitement. It's about taking that good feeling and building toward something.
"I expect us to come to work every day and give everything we have to our number one goal, which is to win our division. So for me, in everything we're doing when we come to work every day, it's to work with a purpose. It's to go after each and every day, to not ever get in the position where you're just coming in and punching the clock, [but] where you come in here and you're accomplishing something, you're growing, you're learning, you're learning something about your position, you're learning a technique, you're learning how to study your opponent - whatever it is - you're training your body."
There was a notable difference in how practice was run during this minicamp session. Most notable - music. There was music playing throughout practice, and it wasn't just Thursday. According to the players, they had music every day of practice.
The purpose was two-fold. First the coaches wanted a more up-tempo practice. Second, to simulate crowd noise.
"Well, it's really not a ‘Jack Del Rio practice,' it's a Raider practice. Certainly, things that I did as a player, that I've done as a coach, that other coaches have been exposed to, they're all basically a part of the thinking in how we put it all together. We don't get a lot of these opportunities to get out on the field, in particular during this time of year, during the offseason, so a lot of thought has gone into what we want to accomplish and what we hope to create out there. So we're just out there executing that right now, but it's a combination of an awful lot. But it's the Raider way."
At the end of the minicamp, Del Rio left his team with these words:
"Good start. A lot of work to do. Expect to be challenged. Come in here with great energy every day. Be ready to commit yourselves. Be accountable to each other."
Next time he sees these players on the practice field will be just over three weeks from now at the start of OTA's. The next time the Raiders coaches will take the field for practice they will see a bunch more new faces at rookie minicamps two weeks from now.