ALAMEDA -- He was the first-ever draft pick of the Reggie McKenzie-Dennis Allen Era and, after nine games of his rookie season, Tony Bergstrom will get a look at playing right tackle for the Raiders this week.Bergstrom's purported break comes with veteran starter Khalif Barnes, who has been out since Week 2 with a groin injury and ensuing procedure, set to begin practicing Wednesday and second-year player Willie Smith struggling mightily of late."I feel like Im ready and Im just kind of waiting for that opportunity and Im just filling in wherever I can help," Bergstrom said. "Whatever I can do for this team Im happy to do."The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Bergstrom has played a total of three snaps all season, on special teams, and that was in Week 6.And after playing tackle in college at Utah, he was converted into a guard after the Raiders took him with a compensatory pick at the end of the draft's third round, No. 95 overall. Since the season began, though, he was getting more work on the outside."Obviously, playing tackle in the NFL is a whole different monster than playing in college," Bergstrom said, "so it took a minute to get used to that but Im feeling good there."It helps being able to see, especially seeing guys you play with all day and how they handle the competition out there. Being able to do that is better than watching film being able to see how your own guys play out there. Every game has been a learning experience for me. Ive tried to use it as such."An added bonus if Bergstrom does see time on the Raiders' O-line on Sunday? He'll play against brother-in-law Paul Kruger, an outside linebacker for the Ravens."Im not hoping one way or the other," Bergstrom said. "Obviously, Im always looking for my chance. I wouldnt see it as that way. Itd be hard. But you have to do your best. Just another nameless face out there."But would he cut-block his brother-in-law?"Oh," he said with a sly smile, "Id cut him."
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.”