Gareon Conley

Practice report: Raiders close camp with some unresolved issues

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AP

Practice report: Raiders close camp with some unresolved issues

NAPA – The Raiders spent 18 days in isolation at the Napa Valley Marriott, pouring complete focus into season prep. Head coach Jack Del Rio considers his team better for the experience.

The Raiders moved back to their Alameda facility after Thursday’s practice, the 14th of this training camp, ready to complete the preseason. The next milestone comes in Saturday’s exhibition against the Los Angeles Rams.

“I think we came in with a purposeful mind going after things, accomplishing things,” Del Rio said. “In terms of installation, in terms of situational awareness and those things, we’re coaching and teaching. I think we were able to work and get guys either back or really close to being back and I feel really good about the way camp went. It was a strong camp. It was very purposeful and very productive.”

The Raiders left relatively healthy, despite longer-term injuries to Keith McGill and Denver Kirkland. There were some issues unresolved during this time.

Donald Penn’s contract holdout continues after nearly three weeks. First-round pick Gareon Conley still hasn’t seen the field while dealing with a shin injury originally suffered in a June minicamp.

Jihad Ward, Ben Heeney and Cooper Helfet joined Conley and Penn as players who didn’t participate in a camp practice.

“I know the natural question is going to hit me on a couple of the guys. Obviously, one is not here, his choice. You have a couple of others that haven’t been able to join us at practice yet, and they’re working,” Del Rio said. “They’re doing everything we’re asking. They’ll come back when they can. Until then, we just move on. We’re looking forward to playing at home this week in front of our crowd. I’m excited about that opportunity to kick that off.”

QUICK SLANTS
-- The battle to be quarterback Derek Carr’s backup wages on, though Del Rio said EJ Manuel has a leg up at this stage. That supports what was seen in training camp, when Manuel took most every second-unit snap.

“I think the time we had here and the first game the other night, I think (Manuel) has done a little more, done enough to be in the second slot,” Del Rio said. “I think they’ll continue to alternate reps and both get opportunities to show us. I’m pleased with both of the guys. I thought both guys operated pretty darn well (on Saturday at Arizona).”

-- The Raiders concluded camp with a punt catching contest. Each phase sent a representative to catch a Marquette King punt, with pushups going to the loser. Interior lineman Jon Feliciano caught his volley. So did backup long snapper Andrew East. Defensive tackle Justin Ellis couldn’t corral three angled attempts, meaning the defense had to do pushups.

-- The Raiders held a glorified walk-through practice on Thursday, working in jerseys and shorts. They will hold a formal walh-through on Friday in Alameda before Saturday’s game at Oakland Coliseum.

Practice report: Conley locking in mentally while rehabbing injury

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AP

Practice report: Conley locking in mentally while rehabbing injury

NAPA – Gareon Conley ran Sunday for the first time in two months. The Raiders first-round cornerback remains on the physically unable to perform list with a shin injury originally suffered during a June minicamp. He wants to get back on the field. He just isn’t ready yet.

Missing training camp certainly sets back a dynamic cover man, but it doesn’t mean Conley can’t make an instant impact. While he hasn’t been seen on the practice field, the Raiders have been encouraged that Conley’s proving a quick learner and an inquisitive mind.

“We’d love to have him out there right now,” Raiders assistant head coach – defense John Pagano said. “When he’s out there, he’ll be out there. Until then, I think he got the reps he needed in OTAs. His mental game has picked up tremendously. He’s always asking questions, even more. It’s hard for a lot of injured players in this league to stand there on the sidelines and be able to just watch and look out there, but he’s always asking. He’s getting those mental reps.

"When he’s able to come back, he’ll be at a fast level. Injuries are part of the game, you deal with it and you just have to make sure, as a rookie, you’re taking those mental reps.”

Conley has been on the practice field with his position group most days, with a play sheet in hand to follow along. He has also lifted weights the past two days and worked on the JUGS machine Wednesday.

Nearly a month remains until the regular season starts, leaving Conley time to get back in the mix.

QUICK SLANTS

-- Cornerback Sean Smith took some reps with the first unit on Wednesday, though most of them came as an outside corner in the nickel package. TJ Carrie slid inside in those instances, and generally remained outside in the base defense.

Smith had his second straight quality practice, a sign he might be rebounding after a rough week where he practiced with the second unit and didn’t fare well at Arizona. The Raiders hope he can build on good work and be steadier in coverage.

“I think he’s growing every day,” Pagano said. “There’s always highs and lows in this game. You don’t want to make it, as we term, inconsistent. We’re always looking for the consistency. It’s how you build. It’s how you learn. It’s how you come off those things. There’s always room for improvement in the backend, in the front, all across our defense. There’s guys we’re asking them to go out there and make plays. Has he been improving at practice? Yeah. Then our job is to take that practice stuff and take it to the game field and have that consistency and that carry over to those types of games.”

-- Offensive line coach Mike Tice praised Ian Silberman’s play in a position switch to center. He has seen extensive reps there in camp, including a massive amount in the preseason opener at Arizona. Silberman will play some left guard in coming weeks to establish versatility and give him a shot to make the team.

-- Undrafted rookie Nicholas Morrow played with the first unit in sub packages, as the Raiders continue searching for coverage options in those personnel groups.

-- Jon Feliciano worked with the first unit on Wednesday at left guard. He will be a primary backup at every interior line spot. He is working back from a knee injury that kept him out until last week.

Del Rio hints at timing around Conley's return

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AP

Del Rio hints at timing around Conley's return

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Reggie McKenzie and Gareon Conley played a round of “he said, he said,” recently.

That isn’t a game NFL teams generally like.

McKenzie said on July 31 that the first-round cornerback was on the physically unable to perform list with shin splints, though he didn’t know the particulars.

Conley tweeted Thursday that he didn’t have splints.

That added some uncertainty to the nature of his injury, though it might just be a difference in terminology. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that Conley has a shin injury that is not shin splints.

Conley has posted about the mix up recently, saying on Twitter he wasn’t aware of what McKenzie said about the reports about his injury.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio addressed the issue after Saturday night’s 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

“There have been some questions about (Conley) and his tweet,” Del Rio said. “The biggest thing is that he’s working his butt off to get back. He’s doing everything we’re asking him to do. He’s been a model teammate, and he’s doing things exactly as he should be. He’s on the mend.

“…He’s going to be fine in a short amount of time, and that’s also a non-issue for me.”

Conley hasn’t practiced since the first day of a June mandatory minicamp, and has been on PUP since the Raiders have been in Napa. The No. 24 overall pick is expected to be the team’s nickel cornerback compete for a starting spot on the outside in the base defense.