This year it’s supposed to be like the Raiders have two extra draft picks with 2017 top pick cornerback Gareon Conley finally returning from his lengthy absence with a shin injury and second round safety Obi Melifonwu also returning to the field after two stints on injured reserve his rookie campaign.
One of the two has returned. After seeing limited duty through much of the team’s offseason program, Conley was on the field with the first team defense.
“It was great to see Conley out there. We’re counting on him, we need him. But to see Rashaan Melvin and Conley and [Daryl] Worley competing is really exciting. But Conley’s special. He’s a top pick in the draft for a reason and I think from a confidence standpoint, he needs to get some work in out here.”
Conley’s shin injury lingered for nearly a year, keeping him out of training camp, and then was aggravated in his second game back early last season. Apparently now it’s Melifonwu’s turn to have the lingering injury issue.
It’s been six months since Melifonwu left with his second injury. And yet when the team took the field for their first OTA Tuesday, he spent nearly the entire practice planted on the sideline watching his fellow defensive backs in team drills.
“He doesn’t look close to me at all,” Jon Gruden said of Melifonwu’s chances of participating in team drills anytime soon. “I’ll leave it at that, he doesn’t look close to me at all.”
Gruden would obviously like to see what Obi can do on the field, but that will have to wait.
“He doesn’t look ready to roll yet. I don’t let anybody practice without being ready to go physically, but he doesn’t look like he’s 100%, so... Haven’t seen much of Obi. Except in the training room.”
Gruden didn’t appear at all happy about Melifonwu not being ready to go. He didn’t dance around Obi’s status or give false hopes the way the last coach here would have. Saying he’s not close would suggest that we may not see Melifonwu full go until training camp. But perhaps Gruden’s words will motivate him to be ready by mandatory minicamp in mid-June. We’ll see.