When the Raiders report for training camp next week, Donald Penn will be one of the team’s foundation pieces.
At 34, Penn is a rock at left offensive tackle and the prime protector for quarterback Derek Carr’s blind side. Entering his 11th NFL season, Penn is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he helped Oakland’s offensive line become one of the league’s best, and he’s entering the final year of his deal with the Raiders that will pay him more than $7 million in 2017. In 2016, the analytic website Pro Football Focus graded Penn as the 12th-best tackle in all of pro football.
But as Penn prepares for another NFL training camp, he’s even more excited than usual, because of the rise of the Raiders – after a 12-4 season they’re being talked about as Super Bowl contenders – and the addition of running back Marshawn Lynch, who could give the team one of the best running attacks in the league.
And, there’s this: Penn has four receiving touchdowns in his career, and with one more, he’ll set a record for most TDs caught by a player over 300 pounds, notes NFL.com’s Tyler Horka. Penn has caught two TD passes since joining the Raiders in 2014. For a tackle, he’s shown excellent hands and an ability to get open around the goal line, becoming a secret weapon for an offense loaded with receiving options.
Often, Penn likes to get into the informal pass-catching sessions with quarterbacks and receivers in training camp and regular-season practices, to show off his hands and let everyone know he’s available for receiving duty.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Penn said of TD No. 5, according to Horka, who had a long interview with Penn posted on NFL.com this week. “I would love to set the record. That would be something. That would be nice. That would be sweet.”
But Penn says his primary focus for 2017 is to help power Oakland to an NFL title. After so many seasons playing for struggling teams, to get to a Super Bowl is his motivation. And, he says, this year’s team has the talent to do it.
“I really want to win now, because I don’t plan on playing much (longer),” Penn told Horka. “I want to win a Super Bowl. That’s really one of the only reasons I’m still playing now. It’s not for the money or anything like that. It’s to win the Super Bowl and get a Super Bowl championship.”
Penn said he believes he has two to three years left in his career.
He and his teammates are set to report to training camp July 27.