There are only a couple of practices before the Raiders open the preseason against the St Louis Rams on Friday. One of those was Tuesday and it saw Clive Walford take the training camp field for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury in pre-camp warm-up.
Jack Del Rio said earlier this week that there will be no game planning for the preseason opener, that it will be used primarily to evaluate his players. The team was able to evaluate Walford all through the offseason but until today hadn't seen him in a training camp setting.
"I think he's a football player that had a really good spring and we look forward to getting our hands on him and getting him to work," said head coach Jack Del Rio. "But we'd like to avoid that yo-yo process where he's back and forth. So, hopefully we let it settle down and we can put it behind us."
With Walford's return, it's important not to throw him out there and do too much too soon. Late in practice, when the team went into team sessions, Walford was kept on the sideline along with Menelik Watson who also returned today after being out for several days. Del Rio said there was fatigue involved for them and he decided to pull the plug.
"Coach [Del Rio] still tried to hold me back a little bit, but it felt great to be out there with my teammates," said Walford. "I thought I was going to be far [behind], but once I got out there and I got the feel for it and knew my plays, I picked it right up. So we're back in action."
Walford admitted it was times like this that remind him just what the term ‘football shape' really means.
"Oh, man, it means a lot, because I thought I was in shape to actually run with the team, but I was a little bit behind in that category. But as practice kept going, I picked it up."
His status for the preseason opener is very much in doubt due to having been out for so much time. Watson shares that doubt, but hopes he can do enough in Wednesday's practice to see the field on Friday.
"I don't even know if coach is going to let me go," Walford said. "So I'm trying to work hard out there these next couple of practices. Hopefully, he sees I'm healthy enough to go. We'll see, man."
From the sounds of it, Walford's unlikely to see time in the game.
"It's about timing and all that," said Del Rio. "Bottom line is to have your horses make it to the race. I don't want to try and win the Kentucky Derby on a donkey. So we'll try to get our best guys to the finish line. So, it's important that we get the work but it's also important that we have them healthy. So there's a fine line, there's a balance there. We try to work hard and be responsible with them and make sure that they're able to take care of themselves."
As disappointing as it may be for those hoping to see Walford Friday in Oakland against the Rams on Friday, you should probably just let him sit that one out and be ready for the next one. Not worth the injury risk to such a valuable piece to this team.