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Raiders training camp day 10 wrap: Neiron Ball plays inspired football

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It was a bit more of a low key practice out there today without a lot of full on team sessions as there had been in previous camp days. It was the first of two practices this week before the Raiders have their first preseason game this Friday against the Rams.

Injury updates: The day off on Monday yielded some positive results on the injury front with both Clive Walford and Menelik Watson returning to the field. Walford had yet to see a training camp practice and Watson had missed the last few practices. They participated in all drills, but were held out of the final team session of the day. Also returning was undrafted rookie running back Michael Dyer.

Still on the Non-football Illness list is Rod Streater. Also still out were Sio Moore, Roy Helu, and Lee Smith.

Observations:

The team had a special guest today. His name is Andrew Holmes and two years ago he was just a healthy young kid who loved to play baseball. Then he suffered a Brain AVM which was the same condition Raiders rookie linebacker Neiron Ball suffered from a few years ago.

The Raiders were made aware of Andrew and invited him to camp to meet and hang out with the player on his favorite team who went through the same ordeal. Andrew definitely a Raiders fan too, as evidenced by the brace he wears on his leg which is designed with Raiders shields covering it. That brace now has a few Raiders autographs on it including Ball and Derek Carr.

For Andrew, Neiron Ball is an inspiration -- living proof that he can recover fully from his condition and even thrive. But as inspiring as Neiron is for Andrew, the feeling was mutual.

"I'm just overwhelmed," said Ball. "That was an inspiration to me. You would think that I'm an inspiration to him, but he's an inspiration to me. He was just all happy and it makes me happy. . . Just to meet him, it made me feel so good."

Ball gave Andrew his gloves and passed around a Raiders football to be signed by the entire team. The two seem to have struck up quite a friendship. Andrew lit up when he talked about getting to take a selfie with Neiron and the two even exchanged phone numbers.

I told Andrew about how Neiron said he was an inspiration to him.

"That's really awesome," Andrew beamed. "It's good that we can bond over that."

"It's really cool to be out at the Raiders training camp. It's my first time and I've got to experience a lot."

Andrew said he's getting stronger every day, but still has a lot of work to do to get back to his "regular self."

Premium rush: Neiron Ball strip sack

While Ball was inspired off the field today, he was playing inspired on it. Just prior to the end of practice, he got in the backfield and stripped Christian Ponder of the football, then he scooped it up and ran back with it. A great way to end a great day for the rookie linebacker.

Catch of the day: Michael Crabtree mismatch

A lot of credit goes to Derek Carr on this one as well. Due to a defensive switch, Crabtree ended up being covered by linebacker Malcolm Smith. Carr saw the mismatch immediately and threw a laser over the middle to Crabtree who caught it in stride for a long touchdown play.

Pick of the litter: Malcolm Smith better match-up

The play just before the Crabtree long touchdown catch on him, Smith perfectly defended a short pass attempt from Carr to Mychal Rivera who came a few yards off the line and turned to face the quarterback. Smith read it and came up to bat it down. That's a more appropriate match-up for Smith than covering a wide receiver.

Also getting passes defended were SaQwan Edwards and Jonathan Dowling, both on Christian Ponder passes.

Stepped up: Brice Butler

Butler had been among the players who needed to step up and make some noise this camp and today he did. He ran great routes today. One particular catch, he went on a tight slant, Ponder got it to him over the middle, and Butler was gone for what appeared to be a 50-yard touchdown. It's good timing too as he looks to earn some playing time Friday in a push to make this roster.