Remember Louis Murphy?

murphy_louis_panthers.jpg

Remember Louis Murphy?

At first, the trade was met with a bit curiosity. Even if it made sense.

After all, Louis Murphy, it could be argued, was the Raiders' most productive and dependable wide receiver over his first three NFL seasons, a stretch that included JaMarcus Russell under center.

But 14 games into his trade to Carolina for an undisclosed conditional draft pick on July 23 -- reportedly a seventh-round selection -- both the Panthers and Raiders see it as a win-win deal. The Panthers have a speedy threat to come off their bench and the Raiders have a draft pick to continue their re-build with a slew of young pass catchers.

"Louis Murphy has done a great job for us, he really has," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday. "He’s really helped us in terms of our deep ball threat. When Brandon LaFell went down with an injury, he stepped in and became our No. 2 receiver and he has been a good vertical threat. He's made a couple clutch catches for us the last few weeks. It’s good to have him here."

Murphy has played in all 14 games for the Panthers thus far, starting five, and has 21 catches for 274 yards (13.1 yards per catch) and a touchdown. Officially, he is listed second on the Panthers' depth chart, behind five-time Pro Bowler Steve Smith.

"He likes it," said Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, selected in the same 2009 draft as Murphy, who is from Florida.

"It’s closer to his hometown, so that’s good. They won three games in a row, right? There you go. So, I guess he’s happy."

Actually, the Panthers have won two in a row, and three of four. But the point is made.

In three seasons with the Raiders, Murphy, a fourth-round draft pick, averaged 30 catches for 457 yards and three TDs.

A freak collision with teammate Marcel Reece at Denver in 2010 resulted in a bruised lung and seemed to alter his fate in Oakland. Before the injury, Murphy had 55 receptions for 858 yards (15.6 yards per catch) and five touchdowns in 23 games. In his ensuing 18 games, Murphy caught 35 passes for 513 yards (14.7 yards per catch) and did not have a TD. Sports hernia surgery following the 2011 NFL lockout also slowed Murphy, as did an injury during offeason activities this past spring.

Perhaps a change of scenery was necessary, especially with the Raiders drafting another wideout in Juron Criner last April and finding a diamond in the rough in free agent Rod Streater.

Because who could have seen Streater becoming just the seventh undrafted rookie to catch at least 33 passes in a season since 2000?

"I talked to (Murphy) last night for about an hour," said Heyward-Bey. "I talk to him every other week, every couple of weeks.

"It was weird at first, but it’s been awhile so you just adjust. It’s just like high school; you’re friends in high school and then you go to college. You don’t see them as much. But we keep in touch."

Obviously, the Raiders would prefer to not see him making plays Sunday. Or the other guy the Raiders traded to Carolina this offseason -- offensive lineman Bruce Campbell, for running back Mike Goodson.

"We’re not going against each other personally, so it really doesn’t matter," Heyward-Bey said of Murphy. "It’s just going to be good to talk to him before the game, talk to him after the game and stuff like that."

Penn still haunted by only sack allowed in 2016; 'That play sticks with me'

Penn still haunted by only sack allowed in 2016; 'That play sticks with me'

Editor's Note: The above video is from Dec. 24, 2016.

Donald Penn was nothing short of awesome last season. The veteran Raiders left tackle proved impenetrable, allowing just one sack and 27 quarterback pressures in 676 pass-blocking snaps.

He ranked high among the NFL’s best left tackles at 33, engulfed a career renaissance that began after joining the Raiders three years ago. Penn made the Pro Bowl. He was a vital piece of a 12-4 team that helped the Raiders reach the playoffs.

He hasn’t reveled much in that. Penn’s driven by opportunities missed, and one mishap that haunts him still.

Penn locked horns with Indianapolis linebacker Trent Cole off the left edge during a Week 16 contest against the Colts, and slipped as he was tracking his man away from the pocket. Penn’s feet got tangled and the big man fell. Cole remained upright, darted in and sacked quarterback Derek Carr.

It was Penn’s only sack allowed all season. And Carr got hurt. He suffered a broken fibula that ended his season and realistic hopes of a Raiders playoff run.

Nearly five months have passed since that fluke play. Carr is healthy and a full participant in the Raiders offseason program. The Raiders offensive line might be better after allowing a league-low 18 sacks last season.

There’s plenty to be excited about as the Raiders enter OTAs and a mandatory minicamp. Penn can’t help but lament that isolated incident when Carr went down.

“You have to be an athlete. You try not to think about it too much,” Penn said Tuesday. “You wish you could go back and get it back. I’ve taken that same set I don’t know how many times, on the same field and never just slipped out of nowhere. I’m not going to put it on myself. I should have been able to do something better. You know me, I’m never going to blame the slip for happening. I should have blocked him and held on to him and taken him down with me. That play sticks with me.”

That isn’t all bad. It fuels Penn to continue growing as a player, even at 34 coming off an excellent Pro Bowl season.

“I’m going to try to do what I can do better and make sure it never happens again,” Penn said. “I’ve never gotten a quarterback hurt in my life since I’ve been playing. That was a first. That’s something I take pride in. I’m going to try my hardest to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Penn wants a different ending to this season. Last year the Raiders lost the AFC West crown and a shot to win the team’s first playoff game. Penn suffered a knee injury the following week that kept him from playing in the postseason.

The goal is to realize vast potential now that the Raiders offense is back healthy again.

“I’m all about karma and stuff like that,” Penn said. “Maybe (God is) trying to tell us that this is our year. We have to put in the work to get it. I know D.C. is happy, I’m dang sure happy to get him back. We’re growing and masterminding this offense trying to make it as explosive as possible.”

 

Raiders OTA observations: Conley, rookies must earn their stripes

Raiders OTA observations: Conley, rookies must earn their stripes

ALAMEDA – Rookies have been immersed in the Raiders system most of this month, but still have a lot to learn before training camp begins this summer.

There’s significant work ahead this spring during OTAs and mid-June’s mandatory minicamp, and young players will do so from the second and third teams. Even the highly touted ones.

First-round draft pick Gareon Conley played slot cornerback with the second unit and outside cornerback on the third during Tuesday’s OTA open to the media. It’s a position the slick, speedy cover man will vacate posthaste, but the Raiders prefer rookies earn their stripes.

“All of our young guys are going to earn their way,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We have a good football team. We’re going to let them earn their way. We’ll let them compete. We’re early in the competition, so we’ll just go through the offseason and continue to get (Conley) involved and get him reps. These guys will ascend and take their positions as they earn it. We’re really happy with the way he’s started.”

The Raiders didn’t feature a single rookie on their first units Tuesday. Second-round safety Obi Melifonwu, fourth-round offensive tackle David Sharpe and middle linebacker Marquel Lee were featured on the second unit.

Here are some other observations from Tuesday’s OTA sessions.

-- Del Rio said Marshall Newhouse had the inside track to be the team’s starting right tackle. The versatile veteran worked there with the first team, joining a front five otherwise intact from a season ago.

-- Second-year pro Connor Cook, who switched from No. 8 to No. 18 this offseason, ran the second offensive unit. E.J. Manuel worked with the third team.

-- Inside linebacker Ben Heeney worked on a side field with a trainer during Tuesday’s practice, as he continues to rehab from surgery to repair an ankle broken early last season. Jelani Jenkins also did side work after practicing on Monday.

Cory James and Tyrell Adams worked with the first unit at inside linebacker.

-- Veteran running back Marshawn Lynch was limited to individual drills for a second straight day as the Raiders ease him back into football activity.

-- Offensive lineman Austin Howard is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, and only practice during individual drills.

-- Cornerback Sean Smith had offseason surgery, but was a full participant in Tuesday’s session.

-- Third-round defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes remains away from the Raiders complex due to an NFL rule preventing players from schools still in session to work with their teams. He won’t re-join the squad until training camp. Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow is in a similar spot, but will return next week.

-- Edge rusher Shilique Calhoun played last season at 250 pounds, but looks decidedly bigger now. He told the team website he’s up to 270 pounds.