NFL Wire News

Raiders returner playing flag football


The Sports Xchange

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Oakland Raiders return specialists found themselves wearing flags — the first time since elementary school for most of them.

New special teams coordinator Brad Seely had returners wearing a flag on each side and one in the back. The idea was for the returners to show some elusiveness, as well as for on-rushing defenders to get proper positioning as if they were going to make an actual tackle.

“It’s as close as we can get to two-hand touch,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “We’re trying to be creative and work within the rules and teach leverage in tackling without actually doing that, without being physical.

“I think that’s a pretty smart way of going about it. It also allowed returners to develop some of their skill running the ball full speed without any collisions.”

Cornerback TJ Carrie, who returned kicks and punts last year, likes the idea.

“(Seely) definitely brought some spark there and I think we should continue doing that because proper entry angles are a key component of this game that you have to take advantage of,” Carrie said.

— Wide receiver Rod Streater, entering his fourth season after being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Temple, is embracing the idea of being one of the veterans along with Michael Crabtree on a youthful crew of receivers.

Streater caught 60 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 2013 but was sidelined last year by a broken foot in Week 3 and never returned.

“I just want to be successful,” he said. “I want to whole group to do well. Whatever I can do to help, whatever problems I went through and I can give advice to a young guy, I try and be there for him. That’s going to help us grow as a team and as a unit.”

Streater noticed a difference in the way offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave deploys his receivers. Instead of settling in as an outside receiver or in the slot, with primary responsibilities to one side, Streater said Raiders receivers will be interchangeable.

“I feel like it’s not just one guy that is going to lay outside, one guy playing inside — we’re all everywhere,” Streater said. “I think that’s going to be a big key for us this year in winning.”

— While Del Rio has publicly envisioned an offense that will do a little bit of everything — blend up-tempo with a four-minute scheme, run with power, throw the ball deep — quarterback Christian Ponder believes the Raiders’ true offensive personality will take care of itself over time.

“Because we don’t have the pads on, it makes things difficult to figure out what we’re good at and what we’re not good at,” said Ponder, who is running the first string while Derek Carr is sidelined with an injury to his throwing hand.”We’re going to try everything. We’re going to see what sticks.”

With experience playing for Musgrave at Minnesota, Ponder knows he will be flexible.

“Bill is a great offensive mind,” Ponder said. “He is a very intelligent guy. He’s a guy that listens. If players don’t feel comfortable doing something, he’ll throw it out. He doesn’t have a problem with that. We’re still trying to figure it out, and we have some time.”

–Carr isn’t the only projected starter who has been rehabbing during organized team activities.

Defensive tackle Dan Williams and linebacker Curtis Lofton, both signed to lucrative contracts in the offseason, have been out as well.

Del Rio’s policy is not to disclose injuries in the offseason. The Raiders have another week of OTAs and a mandatory minicamp June 9-11. At worst, both Williams and Lofton (as well as Carr) are expected to be full go for training camp.

— Del Rio said he hasn’t spent a lot of time processing the new extra-point rules, with place-kicks coming from the 15-yard line as well as live balls that can be returned for points.

“I’m going to spend a little more time thinking it through, talking with the staff,” Del Rio said. “I haven’t stopped to do that yet. Obviously penalties could make for a tough conversion. I like the part about the ball being live. Forever, it’s been, ‘just throw the ball up, it doesn’t matter.’ That coaching note goes out the window.”

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