Raiders CB Conley Grateful for Renewed Health, Expecting to Play Rams

NAPA – Martavis Bryant streaked down the left sideline during Wednesday's Raiders practice as Derek Carr's volley went skyward.

Cornerback Gareon Conley matched the speed demon stride for stride, eventually reaching over Bryant's head to defended the pass. Both guys tumbled to the ground, and got up without a scratch.

That was good news for all Raiders involved, especially for a player on a good (and rare) practice run.

Conley practiced three straight days this week after a hip strain eliminated out the previous two, returning to a secondary that desperately needs him.

"It feels really good to be out there with my teammates," Conley said. "It had been a long time since I practiced in pads."

Conley hasn't done that much as a professional Last year's first-round pick missed his entire rookie minicamp and most of that season with a shin injury that required surgery.

Then a groin strain cut his 2018 mandatory minicamp short and this hip thing happened on training camp's first full-squad practice.

"The first day at camp I felt really good after my last injury, so getting another one was really frustrating," Conley said. "All the coaches and teammates kept me high. That definitely helped."

The initial prognosis brought him down a bit. He was supposed to miss four weeks but came back in half that. He poured effort into film study, putting himself in a different defensive back's shoes each day to stay involved.

Outside that, it was all rest, rehab and patience waiting to return. A return to game action should come in Saturday's preseason game at the L.A. Rams.

"I'm expecting to play," Conley said. "It's ultimately up to coaches, but that's my plan. …I'm definitely looking forward to that, playing against somebody else for the first time in almost a year."

It has been a while Conley played at Washington on Sept. 24, 2017, and later said he didn't feel right doing it. Conley's shin never got right until this spring, even during two cameos last year. He looked good in a Week 2 win over the New York Jets, but didn't play or run well the following week.

He'll be able to get some seasoning this preseason, heading towards a 2018 campaign that will essentially be his first. The Raiders have high hopes for Conley playing alongside cornerbacks Rashaan Melvin, Leon Hall and Daryl Worley. He's excited about a coverage scheme that suits him well.

"Press man: it's a hard job for cornerbacks but simple on paper,"Conley said. "There isn't a lot of thinking. You just go out and do your job."

Assuming, of course, he can stay healthy. The key, in Conley's mind, is not thinking about recent injury woes.

"If you think about it, it's going to happen," Conley said. "You have to put it out of your mind. If you don't, it becomes more mental than physical. Once you think about it, you get hurt again. You can keep going down and down. You've got to stay (upbeat)."

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