NAPA – Derek Carr has said he doesn't need much preseason work to prepare for games that actually count.
That's a plus for the Raiders quarterback. One drive might be all he gets.
Head coach Jon Gruden said his surefire starters might be done playing in the preseason, even with two exhibitions left.
The preseason finale's never played by major contributors. The third preseason game often represents the most extensive action starters see, but that might not be the case Thursday against the Green Bay Packers in Winnipeg at IF Field. The venue has artificial turf, and houses a CFL team and a professional soccer club, with both franchises currently in season.
"We're looking into the surface that we're playing on, and we're not sure how much we're going to play our starters," Gruden said on Saturday. "We don't have 22 starters in ink yet, either. There are going to be guys vying to become starters, but some of the frontline guys will be very limited in the next two weeks."
That includes Carr, running back Josh Jacobs and receiver Antonio Brown, just returning after suffering frostbite on his feet. The starting Raiders offense was efficient in Thursday's win over Arizona, quickly scoring a touchdown its only drive. The top defense played four series and shut the Cardinals down, getting in quality work as a unit.
If the playing surface in Winnipeg is a cause for concern, expect Gruden to play it safe with his roster's best.
Preserving health in the preseason was underscored by Friday news that the Chargers lost Derwin James for at least three months. The Raiders are already without right guard Gabe Jackson for the season's first quarter at least. They don't want to put any other big names at unnecessary risk.
There's logic behind shutting Richie Incognito down in games, and backing him off some in first-team work. He has to serve a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, and the Raiders will start preparing his replacements for early-season action.
"We've seen him enough," Gruden said. "He's played enough football. I don't think we need to see him pull on power anymore. I think he's good."
Jonathan Cooper's the front runner to play left guard at this stage, though Denzelle Good (back) came off the physically unable to perform list on Saturday and will challenge Cooper if he can get ramped up over the preseason's final few weeks.
"We're going to ease him back in," Gruden said. "That's huge for us. With Gabe injury and Richie's situation, it's good to have Denzelle close to returning."