Programming note: Tune in to SportsNet Central tonight at 6, 10:30 p.m. and midnight for our latest Meet the Rookies segment with Raiders LB Miles Burris, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!
Raiders rookie defensive end Jack Crawford took one of the more unconventional routes to the NFL.
Living in London until the age of 16, Crawford was introduced to American football much later than most of the players selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. But that didnt stop him from impressing the Raiders enough for the silver and black to select him in the 5th round.At 6-foot-5, 274 pounds, Crawford is a physical specimen. But as much promise as Crawford displays physically, the Penn State alum still has a lot to learn.I really didnt start to learn the game and follow the game until I came to America. I came when I was 16 years old, originally a basketball player, I came over to New Jersey. I started to go to the high school games, and I used to be a rugby player too, back in London I always liked the physical part of the game, its interesting, and once you learn the rules to the game, its more exciting to watch than any other game. It was really just going to those high school games and thinking to myself, I could play this game.Crawford has since proven that he was made for the game of football, displaying skills at Penn State that caught the eye of Raiders management.Speaking to Reggie McKenzie, the general manager, he said the thing that stood out to him was my effort. Always running to the ball, chasing the ball carrier down, playing four quarters. He said Thats what we need on the Raiders, and he said that if I could bring that to the team that there would be a spot for me on the team.Physical abilities aside, Crawford is relying on the teams veterans to show him the way in other aspects of the game.Its a whole different level from college, and Im just really trying to step up to the plate and learn as much as I can from these vets, people like Richard Seymour and Matt Shaughnessy in front of me. Really trying to learn as much as I can when they come back so that I can elevate my game to that point and learn from the best.
The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.
They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.
Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.
“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”
While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.
The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.
“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.
"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”
Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.
Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.
Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.
“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”
Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.
“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”