ALAMEDA – Derek Carr took his helmet off after stretching and individual drills. The Raiders quarterback didn’t put it back on again.
The offseason program’s final practice was for the backups. Starters were spectators during team periods, as reps went to those needing it most.
Connor Cook and EJ Manuel assumed quarterback duties among the two active units, and continued a competition to be Carr’s primary backup.
It didn’t conclude Thursday, and should extend well into the preseason.
Cook has primarily run the second unit with Manuel orchestrating the third, though the pair have switched at times.
Cook’s more familiar with the system after a year in it. Manuel’s picking up since signing as a free agent in March.
“I think he’s come in and he and Connor are battling for the backup spot,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “They’ve alternated days, who’s working with the second group, who’s with the third group. They’ve alternated all throughout the offseason. We’ll continue that through training camp until we feel like someone’s earned that designation.”
The Raiders know too well the backup spot is vital. Carr went down in Week 16 last season and the Silver and Black never recovered. Cook and former reserve Matt McGloin struggled under difficult circumstances, and the Raiders never won a game without their starter.
Both quarterbacks had good moments and bad during offseason practices open to the media. Cook would seem to be a frontrunner, considering the Raiders traded up slightly to draft him in the fourth round last year. Manuel signed a contract with no guaranteed money this offseason, hoping for a fresh start after the 2013 first-round pick fell out of favor in Buffalo. He’s reunited with offensive coordinator Todd Downing – a former Bills quarterbacks coach – and enters a quarterback room that has had two and three guys on the 53-man roster under Del Rio.
The head coach likes his backup options, though there isn’t a clear hierarchy at this point.
“I think that room is strong right now, the quarterback room,” Del Rio said. “It’s a really healthy environment.”
Here are more notes and observations from Thursday’s minicamp practice:
-- Fourth-round offensive lineman David Sharpe received tons of work this offseason, with veteran right tackles Austin Howard and Marshall Newhouse missing time with injury. While pads are necessary when evaluating linemen, Del Rio was happy with Sharpe’s early work.
“He’s been bright. Has come in and joined a group. Fit right in,” Del Rio said. “He’s been very purposeful and working at learning the system and understanding how we do things. I think he’s growing from a technique standpoint with (offensive line coach Mike Tice). We think he has a bright future.”
-- Offensive guard/center Jon Feliciano went down hard and looked to suffer an apparent knee injury last week during OTAs. He was attended to by trainers for an extended stretch, but was able to leave the field under his own power. Del Rio said he didn’t expect Feliciano’s injury to be a long-term issue.
-- Cornerback Gareon Conley missed the last two days of minicamp, with an undisclosed ailment. Defensive linemen Jihad Ward, Fadol Brown and Darius Latham missed minicamp with injury. Howard, Newhouse and Feliciano also missed recent sessions, as previously mentioned in other notes.
-- Khalil Mack was given the professional 2016 Butkus Award on Wednesday by Dick Butkus himself in a private ceremony.
-- Receiver Seth Roberts, working on the punt teams this offseason, blocked a Marquette King offering during a special teams period. He could play more special teams this year, especially with Andre Holmes moved on to Buffalo.
-- King took lots of reps Thursday, and sent several punts booming into the opposing 20-yard line.
-- Cornerback Kenneth Durden intercepted quarterback Connor Cook, collecting a ball originally well deflected by Dexter McDonald.