ALAMEDA – Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley participated in his third practice since mid-June on Thursday afternoon.
A shin injury suffered in minicamp stole an entire training camp and preseason. He didn’t run for two months. The ailment counts as a significant setback for the No. 24 overall pick.
The Raiders hoped Conley would make an immediate impact, but that’s extremely unlikely considering his lack of prep time heading into Sunday’s regular-season opener at Tennessee.
This was a guy many thought could start right away in the base defense, or be a slot corner at least. Injury has likely delayed all that. He was taken off the physically unable to perform list Aug. 29 and hasn’t played a professional game.
He’s back practicing now, but there’s a lot that goes into getting a rookie ready for primetime. That’s even true for a talent like this. The Ohio State product is working through that process, albeit later than the Raiders had hoped.
“The few practices we’ve had, he has looked really good,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. “He has to work off the rust a little bit; he’s trying to get his footing right. It’s been a while, so he’s got a lot of work to do.”
Rust has accumulated. How long until it’s knocked off?
“I don’t know,” he said Thursday. “You have to ask the trainers. You have to play ball a long time and get a lot of practice in. This is a team and a game with the best athletes in the world. You have to get a lot of work in.”
Players and coaches alike have praised Conley’s attention to detail and work in meeting rooms. He has been hailed as a good teammate. Getting a rookie ready for the season can be rushed, but not overlooked.
Getting fully back into football shape – don’t forget, he didn’t run for two months – and working through natural rookie hiccups is required before Conley can make the time of impact originally expected.
“You have to combine the practice work with stuff going in the classroom,” Norton said. “You have to talk to other players and watch film. There are so many things that have to be combined to be a really good player that young players have to put together. He’s working through that now.”