Scott Bair

How rookie Brandon Parker earned respect of Raiders vets right away

How rookie Brandon Parker earned respect of Raiders vets right away

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have high hopes for Brandon Parker. They used a third-round pick thinking the athletic tackle can be a long-term solution on the offensive line.

The North Carolina product wasn’t thinking about the future this spring. Parker was focused on learning a new system, working with new position coach Tom Cable and endearing himself to new teammates.

That last goal isn’t always easy, especially on the offensive line. Rookies are tested and pushed early regardless of position. Offensive linemen want to see you stand up for yourself and protect your own. That is, after all, their primary job description.

Parker did that on the first day of last week’s minicamp, pushed back against defensive lineman Fadol Brown in an exchange that evolved into a post-rep scuffle.

Coaches didn’t love it. It distracted from practice and a two-minute drill. Brown was penalized and ejected from practice for fighting. The offense got some extra yards by penalty and kicking a field goal.

The linemen, however, were pleased to see Parker refusing to back down.

"Brandon stood up for himself,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “That was really cool to see. You always want to see that, you worry about a guy’s toughness. He’s a tough kid. He’s been playing well. He’s really intelligent. Really smart.”

Veterans test newbies. Parker made a good impression there.

“That’s a positive impression you want to leave,” Parker said. “You want to show the veterans that you’re not afraid of anything, and they you’ll go to battle with them like they’ll go to battle with you. It’s more a matter of gaining respect than proving you’re the toughest guy out there.”

Scuffles don’t improve your standing with coaches. Studying hard, executing well and flashing athleticism certainly does, especially before the pads come on. That was Parker’s primary objective during the offseason program.

“I think I presented well,” Parker said. “I do a good job retaining information. I didn’t really have a whole lot of mistakes. The first couple days are a whirlwind and a faster pace, but after I got used to it and got my feet wet and started to show the veterans what I can really do, they kind of warmed up to me. It has been a smooth adjustment ever since.”

Parker has had hiccups along the way, including a mistake early in the offseason program. He expected Cable to come up and correct what went wrong. Somebody different came his way quickly.

“I looked back and Donald Penn was there and was one of the first to address me,” Parker said. “Having his experience and (veteran Breno Giacomini) on the team and around to give us technical pointers is great.”

Parker and first-round offensive tackle Kolton Miller received significant work during the offseason program, and were praised for their intelligence and athleticism. There’s plenty of development remaining, but the rookies seem to be off to a good start.

“They’re smart kids. They listen,” center Rodney Hudson said. “They’re learning and working and asking questions, which I think is always important for young guys. To ask questions about where they can do better, and both of those guys do that.”

Watching Geno Atkins has Maurice Hurst excited to earn role in Guenther's defense

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AP

Watching Geno Atkins has Maurice Hurst excited to earn role in Guenther's defense

ALAMEDA – Maurice Hurst is familiar with Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme and his role in it. That knowledge didn’t originate from the Raiders offseason program, or sleepless post-draft nights studying the playbook.

Hurst studied it first at the University of Michigan, focusing on one of planet Earth’s best at his position.

“I’ve been watching Geno Atkins since I was in college,” Hurst said Wednesday. “He’s always someone I’ve had my eye on.”

The veteran Cincinnati Bengal is an elite defensive tackle both stopping the run and pressuring quarterbacks as a three technique, working a scheme Guenther coordinated the last four seasons. Hurst shares similar size, traits and explosiveness off the ball, making Atkins a proper athletic role model. He's a good one, with 61 sacks and six Pro Bowls to his credit.

Time watching Hurst was extremely well spent. The Raiders drafted Hurst in the fifth round – a health issue torpedoed this first-round talent’s draft stock – and paired him with Guenther, who came to Alameda this offseason to coordinate Jon Gruden’s defense.

The Raiders certainly hope Hurst can be like Geno in time, because a dominant interior pass rusher is vital to Guenther’s scheme.

“(Atkins is) strong and he’s fast,” Hurst said. “Those traits translate well in the NFL. He’s able to be very disruptive and get after the quarterback. The three technique is the penetrator of our defense. You have to have someone like Geno to make the defense go. That’s a major part of Coach Guenther's scheme, and why he brought in me and (second-round defensive tackle) P.J. Hall. We have Mario (Edwards). We have a good group of guys who can do what he expects us to do.”

Hurst has immersed himself in Guenther’s scheme since joining the Silver and Black. The Michigan man prides himself on scheme study and proper application in practice, but his head start may have helped. Having an inside man didn’t hurt. Fellow Wolverines defensive lineman Ryan Glasgow was drafted by Cincinnati last season and watched film with Hurst during the offseason.

“I had a pretty good idea of what the defense was like and what coach was expecting,” Hurst said, “from watching film with Ryan and talking to him on FaceTime.”

Hurst likes Guenther’s scheme, and his possible role playing three technique – lining up off the guard’s outside shoulder – for the Raiders.

“It definitely gets me amped up,” Hurst said. “The Bengals, their best player was their three technique. That’s the focal point of their defense, and that’s what Coach Guenther is used to getting, and what he has got his whole time in the NFL (with Atkins). He drafted Geno, and it says something for him drafting me and P.J. I think he expects a lot from us and expects us to fill that role he had with the Bengals.”

Hurst and Hall join Edwards as interior linemen with pass-rush ability. It’s unfair to heap expectations on a rookie and the Raiders won’t, but there’s optimism Hurst will make an instant impact.

He can’t make one right now – he hasn’t put pads on as a Raider – but believes he made a solid first impression during the now concluded offseason program.

“I handle those situations pretty well,” Hurst said. “I try to keep my knowledge of the game up, and I’m always on top of my plays. I’m making sure I always stay true to myself and stay true to the game by working hard and putting in a lot of effort. That’s what can set you apart, being reliable.”

Raiders offer rookies help adjusting to NFL life

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Raiders

Raiders offer rookies help adjusting to NFL life

ALAMEDA – Most Raiders are on summer vacation. Last week’s mandatory minicamp capped the offseason program, giving veteran players freedom to rest, relax or go find a white-sand beach.

Raiders rookies haven’t left Alameda yet. They spent the last few months learning about new coaches, teammates and schemes. This is week is all about everything else involved with being an NFL player.

The Raiders Rookie Academy started Monday and continues through the week, giving players a foundation of knowledge about everything from to financial planning to social media strategy.

Raiders player engagement director LaMonte Winston and manager Annelie Schmittel run a show designed to ease the transition from college life to real-world responsibilities that come with this unique, highly paid profession.

The league used to run these seminars as part of a rookie symposium available only to draft picks. Teams assumed responsibility a few years back, offering vital education to draft picks and pros who never heard their name called.

“I think the most efficient and effective way for every single club is to do it at your place, because you can design and tailor a program specific to your market,” Winston said Wednesday afternoon, following a seminar on dealing with media. “We can get more in depth about the Raiders history and where we live. We can also build camaraderie as a group. They’re all going through the same thing right now, and they can get through it more efficiently this way. You can focus more on your specific working environment, and that helps (players) absorb it much faster.”

This week is all encompassing. They spent Monday focused on Raiders life and tradition, with Derek Carr, Greg Townsend, Darren McFadden and Lincoln Kennedy, among others, as guest speakers. Tuesday focused on league policy. The NFLPA also stopped by. Wednesday was about financial planning and media strategies. Thursday will focus on positive habits, substances of abuse and mental health. Friday will include more financial discussion, leadership training and a trip to Facebook.

“It helps us understand what’s going on behind the scenes,” fifth-round defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said. “We’ve never had freedom like this, and we know there are responsibilities you have to take care of. You never had to worry about balancing a checkbook or anything like that. Having these meetings, and hearing from people who have done it before, helps you figure out what your future’s going to look like in the NFL.”

The Raiders added a new wrinkle to this year’s rookie training. They brought parents into the mix. The team flew 35 family members to Alameda for a bootcamp style seminar, offering a glimpse of NFL schedules and meetings, what is involved with life in the league and the outside pressures that come with it.

“We’re trying to help players transition to the NFL and this business as well as possible. You’re not coming into this league alone. Your family is a part of it. Your significant other is a part of it. Your friends are part of it.

“Players don’t relay all the messages to those close to them, and this is a way to include them in what’s happening with a player in the NFL.”

This week’s crash course is the beginning of the player engagement department’s involvement with rookies learning how to handle all that comes with being an NFL player.

“It is a holistic approach to life outside football,” Winston said. “It’s no different that working with new coaches and new systems. We have to lay it out for them, and then it’s extended into the season, when it becomes the Raiders Rookie Success program. … This is our preseason, so to speak. When everything cranks up (with training camp later this summer), it goes live. The education part of it is critical, and Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden really value it, or they wouldn’t support it.”