NAPA, California — After months of practicing in shorts and shells, the Oakland Raiders finally got the chance to put on the pads.
The Raiders held their first padded practice under new coach Jack Del Rio on Sunday, a milestone that excites players ready to get back to the physical part of football after an entire offseason away from it.
"You get tired of playing patty-cake football and pillow fighting," left tackle Donald Penn said. "Get some pads on and hit. That's when you see who the real men are, who's really tough. Everybody can look good in shorts. Pads show you what everybody has got. I love the first day."
With contact limited under the collective bargaining agreement, teams are not allowed to practice in pads during OTAs, minicamp or an acclimation period at the start of training camp.
The focus up until this point had been on technique rather than physical play so there was still a bit of rust that needs to be worked off in camp. Del Rio said the Raiders looked like a team in its first day in pads.
"As coaches you know what you want it to look at in the end," Del Rio said. "We're just focused on teaching and growing and developing and all those things. Energy was good but we're a long way from being clean and still have work to do."
While the first padded practice didn't feature any physical Oklahoma-style drills with defenders taking ball carriers to the ground or other full-contact, the mood at practice changed for the players.
Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton said he still gets excited for this day even in his eighth season in the NFL.
"When you put the pads on, it's real football," Lofton said. "The energy level, the intensity, everything increases that much more."
Pads and contact also sometimes lead to heightened emotions and scuffles between players. But practice for the most part was incident free for the Raiders with the exception of a small run-in between running back George Atkinson III and safety Jonathan Dowling.
"You don't want to let the emotions get too high," Lofton said. "You want to be right on the line. There's going to be fights but at the same time you don't want that because when it gets to be season time, that will cost yards and maybe lose games. We just have to keep cool heads."
NOTES: Among the players who stood out were WR Michael Crabtree and RB Michael Dyer. Crabtree has made acrobatic catches each day of practice. Dyer, an undrafted rookie, has taken advantage of the extra opportunity with Trent Richardson inactive and broke off one long run. ... WR Brice Butler returned to practice after sitting out Saturday. ... WR Rod Streater, RB Trent Richardson, TE Clive Walford, WR Trindon Holliday and DT Stacy McGee remain sidelined.