Raiders roster bubble players anxious for cut day: 'Anticipation’s pretty high'

Raiders roster bubble players anxious for cut day: 'Anticipation’s pretty high'

OAKLAND – LaTroy Lewis finished the preseason as a Raiders fan favorite. The undrafted edge rusher from Tennessee showed well in the exhibition slate, with three sacks, four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery returned 65 yards for a touchdown.

Flash plays. They matter to fans. Alone, they won’t earn a roster spot.

Coaches care about everything from practice reps to game play to fundamentals and reads largely invisible to the untrained eye. They also need certain skill sets to fit into specific personnel packages. They need special teams players. In short, making an NFL roster ain’t easy, especially for the unheralded.

Lewis came to Oakland undrafted from the University of Tennessee, determined to defy odds and earn a roster spot. He’ll know on Saturday whether he made it or not.

He could do no more following Thursday’s 17-13 exhibition loss to Seattle, but believes he maximized his audition in silver and black.

“I put together a body of work that I’m proud of,” Lewis said.

Head coach Jack Del Rio said Lewis has “taken advantage of the reps he had,” and put together a solid audition tape.

Lewis entered this experience with a unique mindset. He didn’t carry a chip common among undrafteds. He was thankful for an opportunity to show be could play at a professional level.

“I had to prove it to myself mentally first. Once I gained confidence in the system, I felt like I could perform at this level. I am undrafted but it wasn’t about proving everybody wrong. It was about proving (general manager) Reggie McKenzie right for taking a chance on me. That was my motivation every game, every practice, to prove him right.”

McKenzie and Del Rio have some tough decisions ahead. While most roster spots are accounted for, there’s room to be swayed a few times while forming the 53-man, or building a practice squad of reserves.

Lewis said he’ll stay out of his own head and in touch with family until roster cuts are announced. He isn’t the only one with a tense weekend ahead. Inside linebacker Nicholas Morrow, tackle Jylan Ware and cornerbacks Breon Borders and Antonio Hamilton are sitting squarely on the bubble. So are receivers Keon Hatcher and K.J. Brent.

Brent put together a solid training camp, taking significant practice snaps with the first unit. He improved his all-around game after spending last year on the practice squad, and could have a roster spot if the Raiders go against tradition and keep six receivers. He finished strong on Thursday, with four catches for a team-high 55 yards. It was his best statistical night. Though Brent showed well as a route runner with an ability to catch passes in traffic, whether he ends up on the squad remains uncertain.

“It’s a waiting game,” Brent said. “The anticipation’s pretty high. We all know what’s at stake. There’s no need to get to worried about it. Let the man above handle it. I controlled what I could control tonight. We’ll go from there and see what happens.”

Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order


Aldon Smith back in custody after police say he violated restraining order

SAN FRANCISCO — Former Oakland Raiders player Aldon Smith surrendered to police Friday on charges he violated a domestic violence restraining order.

San Francisco police said the 28-year-old Smith turned himself and was booked on three misdemeanor charges of violating a court order to stay away from a domestic violence victim.

Earlier this month, Smith pleaded not guilty to domestic violence and other charges and a judge issued a protective order prohibiting him from contacting the victim.

Police said Smith violated the restraining order earlier this week.

Smith’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, did not return a voicemail message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The Raiders released the linebacker days after his arrest on the domestic violence charges.

He had been on the suspended list since late 2015 for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse.

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”