Mack: Players shouldn't waste 'lottery ticket' during Raiders summer break

Mack: Players shouldn't waste 'lottery ticket' during Raiders summer break

ALAMEDA – The Raiders are officially on summer break. Their offseason program wrapped with a Thursday afternoon minicamp practice, an easier affair where top units rarely left the sideline.

Reserves got extra work. Healthy starters remained that way.

The Raiders concluded nine solid weeks of strength and conditioning, positional work, OTAs and a three-day mandatory minicamp.

Head coach Jack Del Rio believes his team made great strides this spring. Now he doesn’t want any setbacks. He told them so Thursday before setting them free until training camp in late July.

His message, as relayed in a post-practice press conference: “You have to take ownership of this time in the next five weeks to do the right things. Getting ready, get your body ready. Recharge your batteries a little bit. But two, stay out of trouble. Be safe. Make good decisions. That’s what we expect of our guys all the time, but just a reminder. This time of year, more occurrences than ever happen this time of year. Just don’t take any liberties. Don’t take any chances. Don’t take anything for granted. Appreciate where we are and the opportunity that we have and remember that it’s all about the team.”

The general issued clear, direct instructions. His defensive captain reinforced it.

Khalil Mack applied some peer pressure, making sure his guys understood the importance of being responsible.

“When you think about it you have a lottery ticket in your hand,” Mack said. “I tell all the defensive guys that, I take all of the defensive line that. You have a lottery ticket in your hand. You can’t trick it off on doing something stupid in the town messing with this and that. It’s all about being focused and remembering that lottery ticket that you got in your hand is that opportunity that you have to play and do great things and represent your last name.”

Raiders players have done a good job of that in recent years. They haven’t had an arrest since Kory Sheets in 2013. Another clean sheet would help carry positive momentum toward the offseason.

Continues health would also do that. The Raiders have a few players on the shelf. Marshall Newhouse, Austin Howard, Jihad Ward, Darius Latham, Jon Feliciano and Gareon Conley have missed practice recently, but Del Rio didn’t hopes to have the entire roster healthy for the start of training camp.

“Hopefully, yeah,” Del Rio said. “If we have a productive next five weeks, I think that’d be the case.”

Raiders trio of 2019 NFL first-round draft picks all take a tumble

Raiders trio of 2019 NFL first-round draft picks all take a tumble

ALAMEDA – The Raiders enjoyed Sunday’s 23-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on its own. It was a morale boost for those working tirelessly to prepare, and that much was clear in a festive postgame locker room.

The Silver and Black’s draft positioning didn’t appreciate it. It didn’t like the Dallas Cowboys or Chicago Bears winning, either.

All three Raiders first-round draft picks got worse Sunday. Picks earned from the Khalil Mack (Chicago) and Amari Cooper (Dallas) trades are taking significant hits from winning streaks brought about, at least in part, by guys the Raiders traded away.

That’s a rough turn all the way around, especially after ceding the No. 1 overall pick to the 49ers.

Here’s a look at the Raiders draft order after Week 11’s action:

No. 2 overall (Last week: No. 1)
How it was earned:
The Raiders didn’t fall far, but adding more wins with the NFL cellar tightly packed could spell trouble for the Raiders being able to choose the player at the top of their draft board. They need a pass rusher something fierce.

Winnable games on the Raiders remaining schedule are hard to find, but they could steal a few more before the season ends. Stranger things have happened.

Not many, but some.

No. 16 overall (Last week: No. 14)
How it was earned:
The Cowboys crawled back to .500, and could surge down the stretch in a wide-open NFC East lacking quality teams now that Washington quarterback Alex Smith is done for the year.

The Raiders want the Cowboys to start losing, and Dallas needs more trademark team turmoil to get that done.

No. 25 overall (Last week 23)
How it was earned:
The Bears are posing a real problem, and proving why the Raiders were a bit hasty in dealing Mack before the regular season started. Believing Chicago would be bad was part of the reason why Mack was traded to Chicago, though Mack made the Bears defense excellent.

The Bears are steamrolling toward the playoffs, and possibly an NFC North title, meaning this draft pick could stay low.

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is holding Derek Carr to high standards


Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is holding Derek Carr to high standards

Jon Gruden and Derek Carr disagree. It happens quite often in fact, in meeting rooms and practice fields and, yes, even on the sidelines during a game.

Fans got a glimpse during Sunday’s 23-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, when cameras caught the Raiders head coach and quarterback in a heated exchange.

All parties shrugged it off without second thought, other than to insure it didn’t show fractures in their relationship. That last part probably was unnecessary, given Gruden’s history of being hard on his quarterbacks and so expressive that the viewing audience knows exactly how he feels.

Gruden has said several times that he has failed if he can’t get Derek Carr going strong. Carr’s 2016 season showed what he’s capable of, though a return to that form has proven elusive save a few flashes.

[RELATED: No sweat after argument]

All the offensive injuries and all the losing haven’t helped, producing more bumps in the road than Gruden or Carr would like. Gruden still believes Carr can produce well in this scheme, and his expectations remain sky high.

“I think he has the ability, I tell him, to complete every pass he throws. I mean that,” Gruden said in his Monday press conference. “He’s got that kind of arm talent and I am going to continue to raise the standards for him. I thought he threw a fly ball (Sunday) to Jalen Richard, I thought it landed out of the end zone and I let him know about it, that he was out of bounds. I just think he’s got as good an arm talent as there is and I want to try and hold him to those standards. I think deep down somewhere, he appreciates that."

“As we continue to get better around him, with our pass protection, if we can ever get some continuity at wide receiver it’d be nice. I think he has got a chance to really be special.”

Gruden insists that his criticism is constructive, even when Chucky comes out to play. That certainly isn’t unique to Carr. Gruden produced colorful sideline discourse with Rich Gannon and Chris Simms and Jeff Garcia and most every other quarterback on his rosters. 

“I’m a big cheerleader sometimes,” Gruden said. “I’m very positive a lot of the time. Every once in awhile, I think you have to make your points in some different ways. Sometimes raising your voice ... I look ridiculous to some people, but I want urgency. I want to have some urgency to get things right. It doesn’t mean I’m always right, either. Derek pointed that out to me yesterday. So be it.”

[WHITE: Gruden's passionate speech]

Passionate back-and-forth isn’t uncommon. It also isn’t a bad thing. It might even be good when Carr fires back, as someone who is putting his stamp on how Gruden’s scheme gets run. Carr generally listens and responds to commands from a superior officer, but definitely has a voice in what’s happening with the offense. Frustrations should boil over for a team that has performed so poor, with just two wins on the season that have both come down to the wire. Volume increases when that happens.

“I don’t have a ‘no yelling’ sign on the sideline,” Gruden said. “Things happen. We get excited down there. I get excited when we get a first down. Get excited when you work on something all week and it doesn’t work out. I get excited when he makes big plays, too. That’s just part of football. I think cameras can catch things sometimes that maybe make things look a little bit peculiar, but that happens.”