NAPA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders are past the midway point of training camp with some of the same issues they had when it started.
Left tackle Donald Penn remains a holdout, hoping to increase his salary from $5.8 million to something closer to $10 million, a salary befitting a Pro Bowl tackle as well as the blindside protector for quarterback Derek Carr.
Cornerback Gareon Conley, the No. 23 overall pick expected to provide an immediate lift to the secondary either as a nickel back or starting corner, is still on the physically unable to perform list because of shin splints.
Conley missed the last two practices of the mandatory minicamp, and assuming it was the same injury, the rookie has been afflicted for more than six weeks.
That’s two key players that have yet to take a snap, which coach Jack Del Rio chooses to characterize as opportunity rather than adversity.
“Somebody’s out, whether it be Donald (Penn) or Khalil (Mack), he’s not out there for whatever reason,” Del Rio said. “There are opportunities for the guys behind them. They’re going to get reps.
“That’s part of the positive spin if you look at it that way — when one guy’s had something happen that’s misfortune, another guy gets an opportunity that might not be there.”
The Raiders have had their share of injuries, none of which Del Rio said are serious, although his policy is not to disclose specifics, but appear to be much as they were advertised in the offseason.
Through the first nine training camp practices, the Raiders look the part of an offensive juggernaut, with quarterback Derek Carr looking to build on a near-MVP performance in his third season, and with Marshawn Lynch aboard to stoke the running game.
Carr is recovered form his broken right fibula and is making more plays on the run than he did a year ago when healthy.
Lynch, meanwhile, hasn’t missed a practice and while they’re watching his practice reps, it’s a far cry from the Seattle days when he was a sporadic practice participant.
“He’s been doing a great job, working wisely,” Del Rio said. “We’re bringing him along. We’ve been smart about it the whole offseason. He’s doing the things we’re asking him to do. He’s fully committed. I like the way he’s progressing.”
The Raiders brought in John Pagano as assistant head coach and charged him with fixing communication issues in the secondary, which led to an NFL-high 61 plays of 20 yards or more in 2016.
The defensive backs insist that by talking out problems beforehand and learning to think like one another, things are already better. Del Rio seconds the notion.
“I think we’re a long way ahead of where we were last year,” Del Rio said. “I think the communication has gotten better and will continue to get better. I see it. I hear it. I watch it. There’s a lot of good work being put in.”
In all, Del Rio sees progress heading in to the preseason opener Friday in Arizona against the Cardinals.
“When we start playing games, we want to be putting it all together,” Del Rio said. “The biggest thing is to keep making progress, keep growing. We’ve been getting a lot of reps out here, getting a lot of exposure, different concepts.
“Our system is being installed as we’re in camp and we’re getting close to where we’re done installing and then we’ll start refining.”
Quarterback Derek Carr, having put together three big statistical seasons, wasn’t shy about articulating his goals going forward.
“Win a Super Bowl, and not just one, but multiple,” Carr said. “That’s not just for me, that is for our city, our fans, for my teammate, these coaches, all of us that are away from our family.
“The hours we put in, I’ll never forget when we won that game my rookie year versus Kansas City. We won one game and we were 1-10, and to sit there and watch everyone celebrate, there’s nothing like it. I just sat there and enjoyed it.”
Cornerback Sean Smith, who signed a four-year, $40 million contract before the 2016 season, was dropped to second team in recent practices in favor of TJ Carrie and wasn’t present in the nickel, with undrafted free agent Breon Borders getting some reps with the first-team.
Smith struggled early in his first year with the Raiders, and was even benched for a time in the opener after giving up a 98-yard touchdown play to Brandin Cooks.
Del Rio said he was “rolling through” with other players as well and didn’t want to make Smith’s status an issue.
“I wouldn’t make it about one guy, I really wouldn’t,” Del Rio said. “I know that’s how (the media) does it, but that’s generally how we do it here.”
Generally, though, Del Rio said contract status was not an issue.
“I told the guys when we opened, `I don’t care how you got here. It doesn’t really matter if you’re undrafted, a high pick, a low pick or if you’re a veteran,'” Del Rio said. “We want to make it competitive. We want to make it real.”
Defensive end and tackle Mario Edwards Jr. (hamstring) came off the non-football injury list and didn’t seem overly concerned with missing the first few days of camp.
Edwards is being counted upon to help with an interior rush and has played 16 of 32 games because of injuries after being a second-round pick out of Florida State.
“I don’t get too high with the high, too low with the low, I stay pretty even-steven,” Edwards said. “It’s an obstacle, but I’ll get over it. I’m ready to go.”
Edwards plans on justifying the faith Raiders coaches and management have put in him to be a force up front. But Edwards said he has plenty of help.
“Definitely, I believe that,” Edwards said. “We have great guys we drafted this year as well, so the great thing about it is you don’t just pinpoint Bruce (Irvin), (Khalil) Mack, me or any of the guys.
“We have new guys that can rotate. I agree with what they’re saying, but we have guys that can rotate in as well.”
NOTES: S Keith McGill left a recent practice on crutches with what the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported was a broken foot. … CB Gareon Conley remained on the physically unable to perform list because of shin splints. … S Obi Melfonwu has missed the last four practices because of an undisclosed injury. … DE Khalil Mack was given a day off from practice Tuesday. … DT Eddie Vanderdoes missed practice because of a cyst behind his knee. … T David Sharpe missed practice with an undisclosed injury. … T Jylan Ware missed practice with an undisclosed injury. … C-G Jon Feliciano remains on the physically unable to perform list following knee surgery.
… DL Jihad Ward remains on the physically unable to perform list following foot surgery.