ALAMEDA – Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr said he takes 99.9 percent of all practice snaps. He thought about making it an even 100, but wanted to give himself some margin for error.
“Once we break training camp, I’m taking 99.9 percent of them because that’s what I feel I need to prepare to play the game,” Carr said during his weekly appearance on 95.7-FM. “I say (99.9) because I don’t remember not taking a rep, (but I might’ve) so I don’t want to lie.”
Backup Matt McGloin took most remaining snaps. That doesn’t leave much for fourth-round rookie Connor Cook, a developmental prospect never expected to see the field this season.
Carr should’ve taken every game snap this season, and is tough enough to do so. He played through a dislocated and apparently fractured right pinky. He couldn’t play through a broken fibula, which called McGloin into action. Then ineffectiveness and a sore shoulder threw McGloin on the shelf and Cook into the fire against Denver.
“I thought that Connor played with great poise,” Carr said. “…I told Connor, ‘you’re going to make mistakes. You’re a rookie. So just go out and play with confidence.’ I thought he did that, and that he did a good job.”
He did well enough to earn a start in Saturday’s playoff opener at Houston. Much has been written about his poise and physical tools. Those traits are only showcased after proper prep.
Finding the right volume is key this week.
The Raiders won’t engage in a nonstop cram session prior to playing the Texans. Head coach Jack Del Rio jokingly confirmed that Cook is allowed to leave the team facility, and doesn’t have to set up a tent on the practice field.
Coaches will prep hard, but don’t want to overwhelm.
“We’ll do the best we can to prepare him,” Del Rio said. “The great thing about it is he’s been here, been in our system, mentally been engaged in what we do and how we do it all year. I’m sure he’ll lean on the majority of that.
“There’s only so much you can catch up all at once. At the end of the day, you don’t try and have him go around the clock here. He wouldn’t be at his best. We’ll manage the process of preparing him and giving him what he needs. We’ll get ourselves ready to go play.”
The Raiders are making the best of an adverse situation.
Raiders left tackle Donald Penn said he hadn’t heard Cook’s voice in a huddle before last week. Cook said he hadn’t thrown to Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree much outside of “routes on air” in individual drills.
That’s normal for No. 3 quarterbacks in the NFL, who are rarely active on game day. The goal is to prepare guys in practice who are going to play. Giving an unquestioned starter like Carr maximum reps is common, with backups rarely getting physical work.
When Cook said last week he was running plays he hadn’t practiced against Denver, he wasn’t making excuses. He was merely stating facts.
He had seen them on film and knows what checks and reads to make, even without much practice time.
He’ll benefit from a week’s worth of first team work and take as much as possible from it.
“It should be good to get as many reps as possible in practice and some on the side not during team periods,” Cook said. “Getting more and more reps will help. I’m looking forward to that.”
There are some challenges getting a backup ready to go at a moment’s notice, especially for a do-or-die game, but coaches try to prep for that each day. Cook proved to be a willing student.
“I demand out of all the quarterbacks that they know the game plan,” quarterbacks coach Todd Downing said last week, before McGloin’s start. “That goes for Connor as well. Now Connor doesn’t many reps during the practice week and hasn’t had much time in the first-team huddle, but Connor is a student of the game and has done a great job learning our system. I don’t anticipate any learning curve for him … because he has prepared as the starter all along.”
Cook is the starter now, and walks into a difficult situation determined to embrace the moment.
“I’m going to go out there,” Cook said, “let it all hang out and have fun with my teammates.”