Pryor's suspension over, activation next?


Pryor's suspension over, activation next?

ALAMEDA -- Just because quarterback Terrelle Pryor's five game suspension to begin his NFL career is officially over does not necessarily mean the Raiders rookie will dress for Sunday's home game against Cleveland.The Raiders have been granted a one-game roster exemption by the NFL, the league confirmed late Monday afternoon, meaning Oakland can carry 54 players on the roster this week instead of 53. It also means the Raiders can have eight inactive players on Sunday rather than seven.Because if the Raiders choose to dress him and make him active for the Browns game, they will have to cut or place a current roster player on season-ending Injured Reserve."I think we're going to be in a really good spot as far as Terrelle Pryor is concerned," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said in his weekly Monday media conference.As part of his suspension for what the league described as "decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL draft," Pryor could not practice or travel with the team during the first five weeks of the regular season. He could only sit in on team meetings and work out individually at the team's compound.When the Raiders drafted him in the third round of the NFL's supplemental draft on Aug. 22, it was with the understanding he would be suspended the first five games of the season and he had no qualms about it at the time.But just before the season opener, on Sept. 9, Pryor announced his intent to appeal the suspension. Three weeks later, however, the NFL upheld its own decision and did not shorten the ban, which came to an end following the Raiders' emotional game at Houston on Sunday, their first game since owner Al Davis passed away on Saturday."Yeah, I'm real excited to see him," Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders said last week. "We had him for a few days in training camp. Of course, anytime you get a young player, he's been really upbeat. We're looking forward to seeing what he can do."Had he returned to school, Pryor would have had to sit five games at Ohio State for his role in a tattoos-and-cash-for-memorabilia scandal that ultimately cost coach Jim Tressel his job."He's taken to the offensive terminology and the system real well," Saunders added. "He's done a nice job of that. He's been working out every day. So, we're excited when he has the opportunity to join us as a player."Pryor got in three training camp practices and dressed for the Raiders' exhibition finale at Seattle but did not play.

"Suspension officially over," Pryor Tweeted. "I can't wait to join my teammates in practice. Great win Silver and black!!! 'Just win baby'-Al Davis!"

Raiders expect better from interior pass rush


Raiders expect better from interior pass rush

ALAMEDA – A large chip rests on Jihad Ward’s shoulder. That’s common for athletes, always on the hunt for motivation. Critics, detractors, those of little faith are easy and obvious targets.

The Raiders defensive lineman had options during a rookie season where he was thrust into full-time duty. Mario Edwards Jr. got hurt and never truly recovered, leaving last year’s second-round pick to play significant snaps. The heavy workload came earlier than the Raiders had planned, before Ward was ready. When Edwards Jr. returned late in the year, Ward was essentially shut down.

The Illinoise product took some flak for it. He listened, absorbed and was fueled. He’s comfortable with that process, and the motivation that comes with it.

“They’re just trying to hate (on) people trying to do what they have to do,” Ward said Tuesday. “Keep on pushing. That’s all. …There will be critics everywhere.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio openly criticized Ward’s position group. He said after last season that the Raiders had to upgrade their inside pass rush, that they need more quarterback pressure from guys not named Mack or Irvin. He was right. The Raiders had a league-low 25 sacks despite 18 coming from their star edge rushers.

Edwards Jr. got healthy and Eddie Vanderdoes came in the NFL draft’s third-round, adding power and speed to that group. Ward, Denico Autry, Treyvon Hester, Justin Ellis and Darius Latham all have a part to play inside, and Del Rio believes that unit will be more impactful this season.

“It definitely is a much deeper group than we’ve had. More athletic group than we’ve had,” Del Rio said. “I’m very encouraged by the early signs that I’ve seen in pads, throughout camps against a very good offensive line that we have. Another great test this week to evaluate these guys because we’re playing one of the better lines in the league.”

The Raiders play Dallas on Saturday at AT&T Stadium, where starters will play extensive snaps against the vaunted Cowboys offensive line.

“It’s a great opportunity to evaluate, develop, continue to push, but we feel like we’ve strengthened ourselves there,” Del Rio said. “It’s probably the strength of the defense right now.”

That’s a vote of confidence for a group that should be more effective if healthy. Edwards Jr. and Vanderdoes should front the effort, though Ward could be an impact player if he builds off a strong offseason program. Del Rio says Ward was “more decisive,” this spring, a product of being comfortable playing in this system and this league.

Then Ward suffered a setback. He felt a tweak in his foot during OTAs, one that proved serious and required surgery to repair. He spent training camp on the PUP list, and was finally cleared to practice on Monday. Ward doesn’t think the layoff killed offseason momentum. The comfort and confidence hasn’t left.

“Your first year coming here, you’re thinking too much,” Ward said. “Now it’s like ‘okay, I get it now.’ That’s how it is for all rookies. They just have to learn what’s going on, so I feel it. Everything is easier now, it’s my second years now. It’s regular.”


Donald Penn yet to report as Raiders return home


Donald Penn yet to report as Raiders return home

ALAMEDA – Raiders left tackle Donald Penn missed training camp holding out for a new, more lucrative contract. He missed Tuesday’s practice, the first back at the team’s training facility.

His protest began 26 days ago. The regular season is 19 days away.

Penn has worked out with top trainers and private offensive line coaches while away from the team, but still needs time to get back in the flow.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday that Penn is expected back this week. He wasn’t there for the first of three sessions when the Raiders will focus on the third preseason game at Dallas. It’s the last meaningful exhibition, with players down on the depth chart expected to populate the preseason finale versus Seattle.

Penn doesn’t necessarily need to play in a preseason game to prep for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener at Tennessee, but it could help.

Head coach Jack Del Rio wouldn’t address Penn’s status, or whether there’s a deadline for him to report and be ready for the regular season.

The Raiders have managed with Marshall Newhouse on the left and Vadal Alexander on the right. The pair has fared well, though the line will be significantly stronger with Penn back and a Newhouse/Alexander competition on the right.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie made it clear weeks ago that the Raiders wouldn’t talk contract until a player reports. Penn preferred a contract get done before showing up. Weeks were lost to that impasse.

Quarterback Derek Carr hopes it will end soon, and that Penn will come back to the team.

“It would obviously mean a lot, if that’s what he chooses to do,” Carr said. “He’s our teammate. We want all our teammates here. We want to work hard together. We want to be together and joke together. It’s more than just football. We want to be there in his life, with him.

"It would mean a lot. Obviously, I would love it.”