ALAMEDA – The Raiders were stretching before Wednesday's practice when Donald Penn ran out to the field. He was greeted by hoots and hollers, as teammates welcomed the Pro Bowler back to the fray.
Penn missed training camp and two preseason games holding out for a better contract. The protest didn't get one, though a new deal is expected down the pike.
Players and coaches don't care much about that. They just wanted their teammate back, one vital to the Raiders' offensive production.
Penn missed 26 days, and reported with 18 remaining before the regular season starts. That's plenty of time to get in the mix and prepare for the Sept. 10 opener at Tennessee.
Penn started that work in practice, and will continue it with a few reps in Saturday's exhibition against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Penn worked out extensively while away from the team, but has work left to get up to speed.
"There's a difference between game conditioning and football conditioning and being in shape," Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said after Thursday's practice. "He's in shape. He's a veteran guy. He understands what he needs to do. So physically, he's in condition now. It's a matter of him going through the timing of getting his body in-sync with the demands of what we do. We'll ease him in, give him a little bit this weekend. We gave him a little bit through the week of practice and we'll be ready to roll."
Del Rio was asked several questions about Penn and kept each answer short. Adding Penn means the Raiders have more depth up front. The Raiders are happy to have him back.
"To me, it kind of is what it is," Del Rio said. "I don't get too emotionally wrapped up in that kind of stuff. I just coach the guys that are here. He's back. Glad to have him back and going to work."
Penn hasn't explained why he's back. He declined interview requests on Thursday afternoon.
Sources say Penn returned on faith, believing the Raiders would talk contract after he reported. He wants top 10 tackle money in 2017, something he might not get. The Raiders are expected to redo his deal, likely before the regular season starts. Exactly how much extra Penn gets remains in doubt.
He is scheduled to make $5.9 million, with an additional $750,000 in likely-to-be-earned incentives.
Penn's return also means Marshall Newhouse can focus completely on right tackle at position where he's expected to start. Vadal Alexander has played well there since training camp began, and could push the veteran in time.