Today's practice was probably the most interesting of the entire camp so far. And it was right from the start you got hints that it was going to be that way. The music was old school hip hop without a single song played having come out in the past decade. The coaches were preaching "Let's get to work!" right from the beginning.
The energy was high, as was the intensity.
In the very first team session, it got heated, most notably when Ben Heeney got into it with a lineman, the result of which was Penn coming over and launching Heeney off the ground and throwing him several feet. This caused most of the offense and defense to get into the scrum.
Ultimately, it was Derek Carr who came over to break it up.
"That's my job," said Carr. "I got the red jersey on, so if they can't hit me, I shouldn't hit them. To me, I like the chippyness, I love the competitiveness. They're not doing it just because they don't like somebody. You know, they're doing it because maybe someone got the best of somebody. Or maybe they played a little too hard and we don't want to hurt anybody."
"There's a fine line when you get professional athletes out here. A lot of guys are trying to make the team, a lot of guys are fighting for spots. There's always going to be that fine line. Where do you draw it? If you don't go hard enough well, then they [the coaches] think ‘Maybe he doesn't play hard,' now he's out. They [the players] don't know."
Where the line must be drawn is when chippyness turns to fights, which Carr says just can't happen. He is on the same page as his head coach in that regard, knowing that lack of discipline will bite the team in games.
"That stuff to me, it's not about the fights and people getting hurt which I don't want. If that happens during a game, that's a penalty, that's ejection, and we can't lose one person. That's why if I'm the peacemaker, absolutely, I'll take that role. Now, I'll let them go to a certain extent, get back in the huddle and go kick their butt. But, when it comes time where it's 30 seconds on the clock, now there's 20 seconds on the clock, because [Head] Coach [Jack] Del Rio won't stop the clock, he's going to let it run and we have to get the play off. So, it trains us for the games, but if I'm ever in there yelling at people or trying to get them back in the huddle, that's why. Because, I don't ever want it to cost us something that we've worked hard for."
The fights would get worse though. Later on, all 5-8, 207 pounds of Jalen Richard came to blows with 6-2, 250-pound defensive end Damontre Moore.
But as intense as they are on the field, these Raiders are as lighthearted and playful off of it.
That attitude literally played itself out at the podium between Khalil Mack and Derek Carr.
Mack led out saying "Gotta hurry up before the chosen one gets done over there, y'all". He was asked about that a bit into the session just as Carr was on his way over to the podium, jokingly telling the reporter "He's on his way, matter of fact. You have to hurry up". The reporter then asked about Carr's development as a leader over his career in Oakland.
In the middle of Mack's answer, Carr came up and stood with the media listening to him. Mack's tone changed a bit, as you can imagine, now that he was talking about Carr with Carr standing right in front of him.
"He's always been a smart, humble, God-fearing leader," Mack said. Then with Carr standing a few feet in front of him, nodding with a smirk as Mack's smile grew bigger. "You can't do nothing but respect that guy. Knowing that he comes from where he comes from, Fresno. All-world, he's a heck of a player and I respect him a lot."
Carr took the next question, asking "Who's your favorite quarterback.
"My favorite quarterback?" he pondered. "It's really Aaron Rodgers," he said, barely getting it out before bursting out laughing along with the entire media swath. "I'm playing. My favorite quarterback is D.C. all the way."
Carr had an instant comeback, saying he was all about Von Miller, which drew even more raucous laughter from everyone.
Mack left two bananas at the podium and Carr asked him if they were his. He said yes and Carr asked him if he could have one, so he gave took one and passed Mack the other over the heads of the cameras.
First question was a lighthearted "So, how much better is Von than him?"
"No. No," Carr responded to more laughter. "Not getting there. Not going there. Von has hit me one too many times and I don't want Khalil to hit me too. That's just a mess, so I'm staying away from that one."
I honestly have never seen a Raiders team that has more fun together than these guys. It's really something to behold. As much as this team is giving us to like on the field, there is plenty to like about these players off of it. It starts with Carr and permeates the entire team.
"Yeah, that's me just being me," said Carr of his playful attitude. "When I go in there, it's the same thing. I'm talking trash, messing with guys, domino table, which they can't beat me at. (laughter) So, I'm always talking trash. You know, so, we just like to have fun. Coming out here should be fun, it really should be. If you're not having fun out here, we're probably doing something the wrong way. That's where you see guys get emotional, that's where you see guys express themselves because they're having fun and they feel open enough to express themselves. Once we learn how to control that, we can't let it get out of control, but if we can control it and have fun, it's going to be a lot of fun this year."