NAPA – There's a dead period in the NFL calendar from mid-June to late July, where football activities cease.
That's typically when players go find a white sand beach and recharge. There was time for that, but football remains on the mind. That's the case for all who stay in top shape to prep for a training camp's rigors. Raiders quarterbacks and receivers, however, took it a step farther.
They found several occasions to meet at local parks to refine chemistry, route running and ball placement that would help them hit the ground running here in Napa.
Such meet-ups aren't rare, but this summers efforts were heightened with Jon Gruden's varied, at times complex offensive scheme new to all.
"I would say that we were just more calculated," Carr said after Friday's training camp practice. "We were more on top of reaching everybody, making sure we worked with everybody, making sure we were still pushing the envelope. To play here, it's not easy mentally. To play here in this system, it's not easy. And so, you can't go a whole summer break and not talk about it, or you're going to show up and be lost on Day 1."
Friday was the first full day of school, and that summer work in local parks and universities paid off.
"Our guys today, we were checking some things, we were making certain calls that you usually don't make until Day 4," Carr said. "But, it's good to see. We have to. We're already behind. We haven't been together but a couple months. We had to do those things, so we definitely worked hard together, the guys bought in to spending some time with us and then we played some golf too, so that was good."
These summer meet-ups aren't always easy. Carr held one at his family's Bakersfield training complex entering the 2015 season, but they're typically less formal. Carr stayed in the Bay Area or the Central Valley. Backup EJ Manuel worked a lot at USC and in Los Angeles.
Everyone found time off on the schedule, but made summer school a priority.
"A lot of the guys they live other places and I'm not one to take anyone from their family," Carr said. "Because I would not do that, so I don't like doing that. But, a lot of guys stayed close and we had a few spots where Connor (Cook) was working, EJ (Manuel) was working and I was working. We had different guys in those areas where we were working with them."
Chemistry will be built during the three weeks spent in Napa, where players live together and focus on football. Carr has a solid foundation with an overhauled receiver corps – Amari Cooper might be the only mainstay with significant playing time – thanks to a productive offseason program and private workouts done away from coaches.
Most of that work, however, comes without coverage. That'll get tighter in Napa and the preseason, especially when pads come on and the Detroit Lions visit for joint practices Aug. 7-8. That will be vital getting skill players and quarterbacks to execute the scheme well.
"We want to see everybody around him play to his level, really," Gruden said. "They must be comfortable with different speeds. We're going to come out of the huddle, we're going to use the no-huddle, we're going to change gears a little bit. Give them a little bit of freedom at the line of scrimmage. If he changes the play, everybody has got to know what to do. We need to get everybody wired in on the same page. That's a big challenge. Get his feedback on what he likes. Do you love this play? Do you like it? Do you dislike it? Do you have a complete understanding of it? That's a big part of the next (few) weeks."