Warszawski: Pressure of first NFL practice comes as 'relief' to Derek Carr (video)

The Fresno BeeMay 16, 2014 

— Let the record show that Derek Carr's first practice play as an NFL quarterback resulted in a fumbled snap.

Uh oh.

Just don't blame nerves. If anything, the former Fresno State record-setter felt a palpable sense of relief Friday during Day One of the Oakland Raiders' three-day rookie mini-camp.

"There were no nerves -- football is fun," Carr said in his first group interview with media covering the Raiders.

"I tell ya, I was excited to get back and finally play football instead of getting in your underwear and running the 40. This is a lot more fun."

Carr was among eight Raiders draft picks, 15 undrafted free agents and a host of tryout hopefuls -- including ex-Bulldog kicker Kevin Goessling and ex-Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick -- to participate in a two-hour practice. General Manager Reggie McKenzie and owner Mark Davis were both in attendance.

The Raiders' sprawling facility is tucked into a glossy office park adjacent to the Oakland Airport, so even whistles and yells sometimes get drowned out by jet engines.

San Francisco Bay is nearby, too, with views stretching to the surrounding hills. But the Raiders' three practice fields are surrounded by a chain-link fence draped with tarpaulin, which eliminates both distractions and prying eyes.

After the inauspicious start, Carr quickly settled in and showed off the attributes that made him Oakland's second-round pick, No. 36 overall, in last week's NFL Draft.

Dressed in a red practice jersey worn by all quarterbacks and kickers, black shorts and tights and a silver helmet with his last name taped to the front, Carr displayed the strong arm and accuracy familiar to so many Bulldogs fans.

The 23-year-old also did some of the little things he is known for, like lining up receivers and offering encouragement.

He's only a rookie but already acting like a leader.

"I'm not trying to be anything that I'm not," Carr said. "I'm just here to encourage guys -- trying to make it easier on him. If someone drops a ball, then it's 'Great route.' That's just the way I was raised."

Carr arrived in the Bay Area on Thursday for his team physical and other administrative tasks. He was issued a familiar uniform number -- No. 4, same as at Fresno State -- along with a playbook.

He and Southwick spent hours memorizing and going over plays, until late in the evening.

"They throw a whole new playbook at you," Carr said. "The main thing is just throwing it to the right spot. There's so much that goes into one play, more so at this level than in college. I can't believe it. But it's been fun to learn. It's something that I enjoy."

And, no, it didn't feel weird teaming up with a formal rival. Well, except when Southwick spotted Carr's duffel back in the back of a team vehicle.

"I threw my Fresno State bag in there and he kind of looked at me funny," Carr said with a grin.

Carr's passes had noticeably more zip on them than Southwick's. He also broke off a few long runs. (There was no tackling, and no one wore pads.) During special teams sessions, the two quarterbacks worked on footwork with offensive coordinator Greg Olson and position coach John DeFilippo.

Raiders coach Dennis Allen said he thought Carr performed well on his first day.

"It's hard to really get a great feel for the player when you only see him on tape," Allen said. "But to get him up close and personal, to see him live, you get a better feel for who he is. He's exactly who we thought he would be."

Carr comes in third on Oakland's depth chart behind starter Matt Schaub and Matt McGloin, a second-year player out of Penn State who started six games last season.

McGloin is the only holdover after Oakland jettisoned Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor during the offseason. Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Texans, was acquired for a fifth-round pick.

Schaub already has reached out to Carr with a kind offer of assistance. Other veterans have given advice over everything from the playbook to where to live.

"I could not ask for a better situation," Carr said. "I love where I'm at."

So far, the love affair appears to be mutual.

"We're very fortunate he fell to us in the second round," Allen said. "He's very bright, he's got a great skill set as a quarterback and we're looking forward to working with him."

After months of draft scrutiny, Carr did sound happy to finally be on an NFL team instead of auditioning for 32 of them.

Before stepping onto the field for the first time as a pro, he allowed himself a moment of reflection.

"The moment for me was when it was finally time to practice," Carr said. "It wasn't a 'pinch yourself,' it was more like a relief. Finally, I just get to concentrate on football. ... That's what I love to do."

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6218, marekw@fresnobee.com or @MarekTheBee on Twitter.

The Fresno Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service