Del Rio: Raiders 'diehards' should keep homefield advantage in Oakland

Del Rio: Raiders 'diehards' should keep homefield advantage in Oakland

PHOENIX – Jack Del Rio is an East Bay guy. The Castro Valley native and Hayward High product went to Raiders games as a child, and knows too well how loud Oakland Coliseum crowds can be. He helped create that home-field advantage decades ago, and appreciates it now as Raiders head coach.

The Black Hole and surrounding supporters were felt in losing seasons but last year especially, when the Raiders went 12-4 and won several games in dramatic fashion.

While the Raiders are currently sold out of season tickets for 2017, there’s some question about how the fans will react after owners approved relocation to Las Vegas on Monday morning. The Raiders plan to play in Oakland the next two seasons – they have team options on the Oakland Coliseum for 2017 and 2018 -- and would like to play there again in 2019 until a Vegas stadium is completed in 2020.

Will there be a bunch of empty seats? Will there be protests outside the stadium? Or will the opportunity to see a team with championship aspirations keep fans coming?

That remains uncertain, though Del Rio believes Raiders fans will continue supporting their club.

“I can’t answer that definitively, but I would say I doubt it,” Del Rio said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. “I think we have to play well and earn it. That’s where it starts. I’m banking on us doing well. If we do well enough, people will be excited to watch us."

Raiders owner Mark Davis has offered refunds to fans jilted by the move out of town, though those requests weren’t immediately high. There’s also a waiting list to buy season tickets if they become available.

There will be fans turned off after all this, and Raiders brass doesn't fault them for it.

“There is that element where a certain number where they’re disappointed to the point they won’t support us anymore. That’s understandable,” Del Rio said. “We’ll have to see what that number is. If it’s a lot, we’ll adjust that line of thinking. But I would be surprised if that’s the case.”

Raiders fans are unique, and have shown a willingness to travel for games regardless of record.

“We have some real diehards,” Del Rio said. “We draw globally. I’m sure there will be some who are angry and can’t get over it; that’s understandable. I think there will be a large contingent who are true Raiders fans, and it really doesn’t matter where they’re playing. They’re there and they’re fired up.”

Carr discusses contract negotiations with Raiders: 'These things take time'

Carr discusses contract negotiations with Raiders: 'These things take time'

Raiders general Reggie McKenzie plans to extend quarterback Derek Carr’s contract this offseason. That isn’t a new thing, something that has been in the works for some time. He re-affirmed that fact last week, citing his team’s commitment to work out a long-term deal likely the biggest in franchise history.

Carr was reportedly frustrated with the pace of contract talks after the NFL draft – they’re supposed to heat up this spring and summer – but said he believes a deal will get worked out before training camp begins.

That’s his deadline for an offseason deal, the point where he wants focus honed on football.

“I have an agent who is in charge of that and I am confident that he and Mr. (Reggie) McKenzie will work it out,” Carr, a Fresno State alum, told the Fresno Bee. “I am only focused on becoming a better football player and helping my teammates become better players.

“I have complete faith it will get done before training camp. These things take time. The Raiders know I want to be here; this is my family, and I know they want me to be their quarterback.”

The sides have discussed parameters of a long-term deal, with greater specifics to be ironed out in the future. Carr has long said he wants to be a Raider his entire career. The Raiders want him as the public face of their franchise. A new deal is expected by all parties, a sentiment that has never wavered on either side.

Carr is scheduled to make a $977,519 in base salary in 2017, the final year of his rookie contract.

Raiders offseason program intensifies as OTA sessions begin

Raiders offseason program intensifies as OTA sessions begin

The Raiders offseason program is five weeks old. Players have lifted weights. They’ve improved cardiovascular shape. They’ve done drills in position groups and discussed schematics. They’ve added rookies to a group now 90 strong.

On Monday, they can finally put on helmets. They still can’t wear pads or have full contact, but the Raiders can play 11-on-11. Receivers will be covered. Quarterback Derek Carr will throw into traffic. Generally speaking, the competition cranks up a bit.

The NFL collective bargaining agreement has strict mandates regarding offseason activity, and a period formally called “Phase III” allows for more realistic on-field football work.

The Raiders will conduct 10 OTA sessions over the next three weeks. The media can watch three of them. Tuesday is the first, with another in each of the next two weeks. These sessions are technically voluntary, though the Raiders generally hover around perfect attendance. Head coach Jack Del Rio prefers his team be unified in the offseason. Players know it and show up.

There is a mandatory minicamp from June 13-15 which wraps the offseason program and starts a quiet period that extends until training camp begins in late July.

These OTAs offer an opportunity for new players to learn the system, for adjustments to be made and for chemistry to be built heading into a 2017 season where expectations are high.