ALAMEDA – Gareon Conley enjoyed his Friday. The Raiders’ first-round cornerback got a chance to practice individual and team football drills for the first time since Ohio State’s season ended in January.
The pre-draft process dominated most of Conley’s winter and spring, hoping to use individual workouts, meetings and the NFL scouting combine to elevate his draft stock.
Conley’s football-focused world got complicated last month, when he was accused of sexual assault during an April 9 incident in a Cleveland hotel room. The allegation went public the week of the NFL draft, making him TMZ fodder just days before the biggest moment of his athletic life.
It didn’t send his draft status into a tailspin. The Raiders selected a top-15 talent 24th overall and remain confident he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
That belief hasn’t made Conley’s life easier. He met with Cleveland police on Monday about the accusation and submitted a DNA sample. Conley hasn’t been arrested or charged with anything, but police are conducting an investigation and a Cuyahoga County prosecutor will review the incident.
He’s thrilled to be in Alameda for this weekend’s rookie minicamp, which offers respite from his legal issues.
“It’s tough to think about,” Conley said after practice. “I try not to think about it, and just worry about what I’m doing out here right now. Being out here makes it way easier. Football is a stress reliever for me.”
Right now, it’s only temporary. Conley isn’t sure when his legal issues will be resolved, though his lawyer told NFL Network the matter could take 6-8 weeks to review.
Conley said his meeting with Cleveland police was productive, calling it “another way to prove my innocence.”
“I feel like it went good,” Conley said “There isn’t much to say about that. We just have to find out what happens after this.”
This weekend, he’s focused on football, learning how to function well within the Raiders organization. Coaches had him play outside cornerback and in the slot, where the Raiders have a glaring need. Conley rotated out and in the last few games of last season, and said he can easily play both spots.
“I felt comfortable at both, actually,” Conley said. “Most of it is man, so either inside or outside, that’s what I played this past season, so it was comfortable at both spots. “It’s just a mentality and I feel like on the inside, it’s a game of leverage. Outside is more just man-to-man techniques. Inside, you have to be outside leverage or inside leverage depending on your help, so I feel like people who learn that will be able to play both.”
The Raiders believe he can play both spots, which will be a great benefit if he’s as good as advertised in coverage.
“Gareon is, we think, a talent. I think he can play inside and outside,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We’ll see what the best combination for us is. Just let him come in and compete.”