Raiders Arrive At Training Camp With Top 2 Draft Picks Notably Absent
NAPA (CBS/AP) – There were two notable absences when the two buses filled with rookies, undrafted free agents and other young players arrived at Oakland Raiders training camp.
While most of the players have arrived for a one-month stay in wine country, Oakland’s top two draft picks were not on the buses from the team facility on Wednesday.
First-round pick cornerback D.J. Hayden and second-round pick offensive lineman Menelik Watson are the only members of Oakland’s 10-player draft class who have yet to sign their contracts.
With practice not starting until Friday, there is still plenty of time to get those deals done without the players missing any work, although it remains to be seen whether Hayden will be able to practice right away even if he does sign a deal.
Hayden’s offseason got cut short when he needed surgery in late May to remove scar tissue from the abdominal region. That operation came months after a near-fatal practice injury that ended his college career at Houston early.
Hayden was rushed into surgery last November for a tear of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart, after a collision in practice. Doctors had to cut through Hayden’s sternum to save him. The injury is 95 percent fatal in the field, according to doctors, and is most commonly associated with high-speed motor vehicle accidents.
The Raiders still selected Hayden 12th overall with their first first-round pick since 2010 after doctors cleared him to resume playing football. The team said at the time of the offseason surgery that Hayden was expected to be back for camp but nothing will be official until after he signs his contract.
The rest of the rookie class has signed, including fourth-round quarterback Tyler Wilson, who finalized his deal on Tuesday and got to camp with the rest of his teammates a day later.
“I knew it was going to be worked out,” Wilson said. “Glad we got that finished. Now it’s about moving on toward camp and figuring out a way to win games. So, that’s the exciting part. We’re all ready to move forward and get things going.”
The Raiders are in the second year of a major rebuilding project under general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen. Most of the roster has been overhauled since they took over following the 2011 season and much of the focus has been on shedding big contracts and former high picks who failed to work out in Oakland.
About 40 percent of Oakland’s salary cap will be dedicated to accelerated bonuses for players no longer on the team, leaving little money for stars or depth. But the players remain optimistic about the team’s situation.
“I think coach Allen and Mr. McKenzie have done a great job in this offseason, and I think we’ve done a great job in this offseason in the OTAs and minicamps,” offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom said. “I think all the pieces are there now and it’s just a matter of getting them working together in the right way in this camp.”
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