The decision to give up the Raiders last OTA practice in favor of a 7-on-7 youth football tournament featuring local high school players was a great way to give back to the community. Every time the team brings these kids and their idols together is a day to celebrate, and the team could use a restful day after working hard on these OTA practices. Check out some of the great pictures from the “Raiders U” event that we already have posted.
This was a big commitment from the Raiders because there are only so many hours that the team is allowed to get together with the coaching staff. Giving up one of those sessions is no small thing, but giving back to the community is much bigger.
“Coach Gruden is an absolute wild man,” tight end Lee Smith told NBC Bay Area. “I can promise you, if anyone doesn’t want to give up football time, it’s him. For him to give up six hours of essentially time that we can be getting better and grinding and learning this new offense, to give back to the community, I can promise you it comes from a great, great place. It’s our first year, man. Those six hours could’ve gone a long, long way. We want to make sure all these kids have a great day and have something they’ll remember the rest of their lives.”
Though this was certainly a day to remember for all the lucky kids that got to participate, it could be a day for players to remember well too. It’s fairly common for teams to use an OTA day for other purposes. Usually it’s a team building event, like bowling (which the Raiders did last year).
This was a different kind of team building. This was a great way to remind the team of why they fell in love with football while influencing some young lives in a positive way.
It definitely brought Jordy Nelson back to his teenage days. He marveled at the way the teenagers handled the day surrounded by their favorite pro athletes. Things were different when Nelson was a teenager, there wasn’t this major influx of social media that brought the players so much closer to the fans.
“I was thinking, ‘If I was in high school and came out here … I would’ve been nervous out’ve my mind. Wouldn’t know what to do. It would’ve been kind of crazy,’” Nelson said according to Matt Schneidman of the Bay Area News Group. “I think they handled it well and were able to come out and perform.”
Another thing Nelson pointed out that was really interesting was the way it gave him the coaches’ perspective for a day. That is a byproduct of this whole thing really, the players got to see what it’s like from the other side.
“It’s stressful to be a coach, I was telling coach [Quarterbacks Coach] [Brian] Callahan, ‘I can’t do your job,’” Nelson said via Raiders.com. “Try telling someone to do something and then they don’t want to do it, so yeah it was stressful, we were losing our voices yelling at everyone. It was fun, a lot of excitement, you gain a little bit more respect for your coaches and the stuff they have to do.”
That’s not too shabby of an OTA day. They got to give back to the community first and foremost, have a fun and team building rest day, and received some perspective as to what the coaches go through each day. All in all, it was a pretty genius way to close out the OTA’s before mandatory mini-camp starts next week.