Raiders minicamp observations: Luani shows playmaking ability

Raiders minicamp observations: Luani shows playmaking ability

ALAMEDA – Shalom Luani has a nose for the football. That was his calling card at Washington State, and certainly an attraction when the Raiders drafted him early in the seventh round.

“That guy is a playmaker,” general manager Reggie McKenzie said shortly after the draft, a statement supported twice in Wednesday’s minicamp practice.

He had an athletic interception of Connor Cook that could’ve been returned for a touchdown in a game situation. He was on the second-unit defense later in the practice going against the first unit when he came out of nowhere and broke up Derek Carr’s long, lofted pass.

“That was just me knowing my assignment and knowing what to do on the field,” Luani, who played at Community College of San Francisco. “You have to show the coaches that you’re picking up the system and that you can make plays.”

Luani had eight interceptions, 11 passes defensed and three forced fumbles in two seasons at Washington State. Attacking the football comes naturally to the young player.

“It’s instincts and knowing exactly where to be,” Luani said. “I can sense when a play can be made based upon how the quarterbacks react before the snap.”

That works on defense Luani will be counted on to make plays special teams as a rookie. Later-round picks generally earn stripes as a reserve and in the kicking game. That will be true for a safety working behind Pro Bowler Reggie Nelson, 2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph and second-rounder Obi Melifonwu.

Luani is ready for that challenge, to contribute heavily in the kicking game.

“Those kind of guys, what you do in the kicking game, and get noticed there, is a key way onto the roster,” special teams contributor Brad Seely said. “Then, hopefully you rise up and you play for us in the kicking game for one or two years and then you become a defensive starter or somehow, you just find a role for yourself and that's what he's trying to do right now. He's one of those guys that's really hungry, he's coachable and I'm really happy he's on our roster.”

Here are some other observations from Raiders minicamp:

-- First-round cornerback Gareon Conley was a spectator during Wednesday’s practice. He observed from the sideline without a helmet or shells, though he showed no signs of ailment. The Raiders are generally conservative with participation in the offseason program, preferring to sit players with minor ailments.

-- Punter Marquette King was flagged a few times last season for antics after his punts, something special teams coordinator Brad Seely doesn't love. 

"We’re not real thrilled with that, and he understands that," Seely said. "We had a stat the other day that there was five or six celebration penalties in the league, and two of them were on our punter. We can’t have that, and he knows that.

"We like guys to be themselves. Everybody has a mindset playing the game. Some are tight and others are loose. He fits well playing his way, but he has to stay within some parameters."

-- Head coach Jack Del Rio cancelled afternoon meetings and a post-practice weightlifting session in favor of taking his team to a bowling alley. This comes a week after the team went to a go-kart track. The rookie class has also been to the bowling alley once before during this offseason program. 

-- Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson had an excellent day playing with the first and second units. He had three touchdowns in practice and a few more catches working downfield.

-- The Raiders mixed up personnel groupings after they generally remained static during OTAs. Quarterback EJ Manuel ran the second team after being the No. 3 signal caller in previous workouts. He swapped units with Connor Cook. Cook threw two interceptions on the day.

-- Running back Marshawn Lynch was involved in several team drills on Wednesday, including interior runs where he showed characteristic burst and shiftiness.

-- Tight end Jared Cook continues to be a frequent target for Derek Carr this offseason, as that pair continues building chemistry.

-- In addition to Conley, offensive linemen Jon Feliciano, Austin Howard and Marshall Newhouse, defensive linemen Fadol Brown, Jihad Ward, Eddie Vanderdoes and Darius Latham missed practice.

Carr plans to spread new wealth after Raiders contract extension

Carr plans to spread new wealth after Raiders contract extension

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr isn’t one for extravagance. The low-key Raiders quarterback already has some nice cars, a house and some luxury items to his name, but signing a $125 million contract extension Friday morning won't prompt a spending spree.

Cornerback Sean Smith suggested he get a Bugatti. That’s a $1 million car.

“Yeah,” Carr said with a smirk. “That’s not going to happen.”

That isn’t the 26-year old’s style. Carr had a his own plan after signing on the dotted line.

“I’ve been eating clean,” Carr said. “I’ll probably get Chick-fil-A.”

That makes sense. This is a guy who celebrated his first NFL victory with a trip through a Carl’s Jr. drive-in.

There will be other purchases. His wife Heather will get something nice in the near future. His family, especially Heather and sons Dallas and Deker, will be taken care of for life.

After all that, Carr plans to spread the wealth.

“The exciting thing for me moneywise, honestly, is this money is going to help a lot of people,” Carr said. “I’m very thankful to have it, that it’s in our hands because it’s going to help people. Not only in this country, but in a lot of countries around the world. That’s what’s exciting to me.”

Carr and former Raiders running back Latavius Murray took a missionary trip to Haiti, an impoverished nation had a profound impact on the star quarterback.

“I’ve been down to Haiti and I’ve seen some of those struggles that they have and the kids there, and my heart just… I cry sometimes thinking about it,” Carr said. “So, just knowing that we can go down there and make a difference and help, those are the kind of things that the money makes me kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Because now we can really do some things to help a lot of people.”

He plans to support those in that area, in addition to global and domestic charities he has been involved with over the years. Don’t expect a press release accompanying every donation. Carr would rather keep those decisions private.

“I’m going to do my best to make sure no one knows what we do with it,” Carr said. “I’ll just say this, I can assure you that it’s going to help a lot of people. I’m not stingy. My business manager will probably be on me saying, ‘Hey man, that’s enough.’ I won’t get into when, how or why. It’s not all about that for me. It’s about making a difference. That’s what’s exciting for me is that we’ll be able to do that.”

Carr didn't want to 'take every single dime,' handcuff Raiders long-term

Carr didn't want to 'take every single dime,' handcuff Raiders long-term

ALAMEDA – Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a five-year contract extension Friday morning that will pay him $25 million in 2017 and $125 million over the life of the deal.

That’s a lot of scratch. Could’ve been more.

Carr received life-changing money. He didn’t want to handcuff the Raiders front office in the process.

“I just wanted to be a Raider,” Carr said Friday in a press conference. “It’s more than just a team to me. It’s family. The way it went down, it was easy. Both sides wanted it to get done, and it was about family members figuring out to get along. We figured out a way to do it so that we have the opportunity to sign other guys who are important to this organization. That was really important to me, not to just take every single dime that we could”

That list is long but it starts with homegrown talents Gabe Jackson and Khalil Mack. Jackson is up next, and could get locked up before the regular season starts. The Raiders have some time on Mack – his contract doesn’t expire until after 2018 – and Amari Cooper should be a keeper on down the road.

“The bottom line is we’re able to continue to move forward with it, keep all the players that we need to keep in the correct timing,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “This affords us to do that. We’re going to start on that ASAP.”

Carr got the deal he wanted. The 26-year old found market value and upped the ante for NFL quarterbacks a smidge while deferring some cash payouts – his big-time bonuses are broken up over two years -- to create windows of financial flexibility to sign other players. Carr’s percentage of the salary cap should decrease over time and won’t become an insurmountable burden to his employers. His deal won’t prevent the Raiders from keeping Jackson, Mack, Amari Cooper in time, or other vital veterans in house.

With Carr locked up, the McKenzie can work deals and the timing of them around his centerpiece.

Carr understands the NFL business and his role in the market, but he wants to maintain a competitive window as best he can and understands other guys will draw huge paychecks in the near future.

He’s scheduled to draw the NFL’s largest sum next season. A record $25 million is headed his way, though that total will decrease a bit in time and will certainly he surpassed by Matthew Stafford and possibly Kirk Cousins in the near future.

“I don’t care if they all do. We got our contract done, that’s all that matters to me,” Carr said. “The other thing that was important to me is that we didn’t worry about what other people were going to do or doing. I just wanted to get mine done and make sure that the team had, again like we talked about, flexibility to make sure my friends stay around.”

Carr was intimately involved in the negotiation process. Both sides said it was easy, wrapped up well before Carr’s training-camp contract deadline. Common ground was found in short shrift once talks warmed up – preliminary talks started months ago -- and a deal was ironed out that produced smiles on both sides once the deal was formally done.

Even after taking a relatively soft-line stance on dollars and the timing of payments – Carr could’ve been difficult all year and eventually forced a franchise tag – he’s still the league’s highest-paid player. His salary will now be compared with his stats. He was a second-round draft steal before. Now he’s a big-money player. In short, expectations will rise.

Carr insists it won’t add pressure to next year’s proceedings.

“You could give me a dollar, you could give me $25 million, it doesn’t matter,” Carr said. “To me, my No. 1 goal is to make sure that I give everything that I have to this organization. There’s no pressure. There’s no we’ll be on the 1-yard line and I won’t give it to Marshawn (Lynch), I’ll throw it. None of that stuff. I don’t care about the stats. That’s not my No. 1 objective. I don’t care if I throw 10 touchdowns next year. If we win every game, that’s all I care about.”