ALAMEDA -- Darrius Heyward-Bey returned to the practice field for the Raiders on Tuesday and said he felt "close" to normal after missing last week recovering from a concussion and neck strain."Just out there, running routes, catching the ball a little in practice," Heyward-Bey said."Weve got a plan for me, and today was step No. 1 and I feel pretty good."Heyward-Bey said he plans on playing after the bye week, at Atlanta on Oct. 14. He was injured against Pittsburgh on Sept. 23 when he took a helmet-to-helmet blow from Steelers safety Ryan Mundy in the end zone. No flag was thrown on the play by the replacement referees but Mundy was fined 21,000 for the hit.Last year, Heyward-Bey was carted off the field in Minnesota after a blow to the helmet, but he played the next week."But that was a lot more of a neck injury than a head injury when it came to that one," he said. "For each person individually its different. Everybody works differently, everybody is a different personality so (I've) got to look at it that way."Im not going to miss a beat when I get back. Im just going to be the same guy, working hard and trying to make plays."Heyward-Bey has nine catches for 98 yards and one touchdown in three games.He also said the Raiders offense is "close" to clicking."Were one cut block away, were one cut away, one block down the field," he said. "We showed a little bit of it against Pittsburgh and we had a little bit here and there. You just have to keep grinding. If you give up on things youll never see if its good or not."So I asked him if he was surprised the offense was struggling this year after being a strong point last year. "I mean, when you have any new offensive scheme, it will be a little bit of a struggle," Heyward-Bey said. "Last year was last year, this year is this year. Look at some of the teams that went to the playoffs and are starting off rough. Its football. Its going to be good or its going to be bad. Were just a team thats trying to get it going."
OAKLAND – All eyes shifted to the Raiders sideline Saturday night when the national anthem played.
Yep, Marshawn Lynch took a seat. No shocker there. He did the same thing last week, and while he hasn’t addressed it specifically, the action is linked with other anthem protests bringing attention to mistreatment of minorities in the United States.
Bruce Irvin stood with his brethren but raised his fist, as he did several times last year.
Derek Carr stood right the sideline, and put his arm on Khalil Mack’s left shoulder. That gesture wasn't happenstance. It carried a message. It wasn’t, Carr insists, meant to protest anything.
“We’re not doing anything like that,” Carr said after a 24-21 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Coliseum. “We wanted to show the kids that look up to me, look up to him, white kids, black kids, brown kids, blue, green, it doesn’t matter. All be loving to each other. We’re best friends and we’re loving to one another.”
“The only reason we did that was to unify the people that look up to us because obviously you see what’s going on in the world. Obviously everyone pays attention to the national anthem nowadays. We just said that obviously this was the best time to do it while still honoring this country because I love this country. We’re free to live here and play this game but we’re also free to show that we love one another.”
Mack isn’t one to rock the boat. He and Carr wanted to make a statement without ruffling feathers, something that would remain positive while addressing racial issues prevalent in the news today.
“It’s discussed a lot,” Mack said. “It’s one of the things I feel passionately about but I just don’t like the tension that comes with it. But at the same time, just using our platform for positivity is what’s important to me.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Downing put an arm on fullback Jamize Olawale and echoed the Carr-Mack message. We’ve seen similar signs of unity across the league. Philadelphia defensive end Chris Long, son of former Raiders pass rusher Howie Long, put an arm around Malcolm Jenkins while he protested. Seattle center Justin Britt put an hand on Michael Bennett’s shoulder while he sat for the national anthem.
Those actions drew attention. Carr and Mack do the same.
Their star power increases the volume of their message. Carr’s an MVP candidate and the league’s highest-paid player. Mack is the reigning defensive player of the year. When they do something, people pay attention. That was their hope on Saturday, when they cameras would be aimed at them.
Carr and Mack are good friends off the field, and want to be an example of unity despite different races and backgrounds.
“I think that’s the message, the only message we were trying to get out,” Carr said. “Any kid, any family, any adult that follows us and looks up to us we knew their eyes would be on us and we wanted to show them for a white kid and black kid that grew up in different neighborhoods can grow up and love one another and be best friends.”
OAKLAND – Raiders cornerback Sean Smith had a rough week. He’s losing grip on a starting spot, but that concern pales in comparison to mounting legal issues that put him in a Los Angeles County jail Thursday morning.
He was formally charged with felony assault and battery for beating his sister’s boyfriend on July 4 in his hometown of Pasadena, surrendered to authorities and was released on an $80,000 bond.
He was back in the East Bay to play Saturday’s exhibition against the Los Angeles Rams, where he was a third cornerback entering in sub packages. Smith had two tackles and a nice pass defensed in the end zone.
Smith’s legal issues shouldn’t stop him from playing and practicing with the team in the near future. He has an arraignment sent for Sept. 29, where will plead not guilty and fight the charges levied against him.
“We’ll let him battle what issues he has legally,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I don’t have much to add to it. You hear the story of him defending his sister, and things occurred that have been taken issue with, so he's having to defend himself right now.”
An NFL spokesman said the league is looking into the matter, but didn’t have further comment at this time. It’s possible the league could place Smith on the commissioner’s exemption list, an option for players charged with violent offenses. He would essentially go on paid leave if that were the case. Smith will make $9.5 million in guaranteed money this season.
Smith will battle TJ Carrie and first-round cornerback Gareon Conley – he remains on the PUP list with a shin injury – for playing time in the Raiders defense. He practiced better last week, but must show consistency to get back in the team’s good graces.