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News » Oakland Raiders Inside Slant 2009-05-15

Oakland Raiders Inside Slant 2009-05-15

Oakland Raiders Inside Slant 2009-05-15
Darrius Heyward-Bey found out during his first weekend in the NFL that bring the No. 7 pick in the NFL draft brings an extra helping of scrutiny.

An eye-opening first day in which Heyward-Bey caught both intermediate- and deep-range passes, looked sure-handed and as fast as advertised gave way to a second day with problems holding on to the ball -- including three consecutive drops.

By the fifth and final practice, Heyward-Bey and his sore right hamstring watched from the sideline, and most of the attention centered on the drops and the injury, while a successful first day seemed to recede into the background.

"I expected this, I definitely expected it," Heyward-Bey said of his professional initiation. "But you're a rookie. You learn as you go."

As for the injury, Heyward-Bey was able to laugh it off.

"Just tightened up -- running too fast, I guess," he said.

Raiders coach Tom Cable appears to be tiring of repeated questions about the worthiness of Heyward-Bey at No. 7 overall. Most analysts had the Maryland wideout available late in the round and criticized the Raiders for not trading down or failing to select higher-rated wide receivers Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech or Jeremy Maclin of Missouri. And if not a receiver, simply grabbing Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe, who went No. 8 to Jacksonville, would've been applauded by draftniks.

During the first two practices, Heyward-Bey looked smooth and fast in both drills and team sessions. The highlight came when he adjusted under a 40-yard pass from No. 3 quarterback Bruce Gradkowski for a big gain. The ball was underthrown, and Heyward-Bey managed to look off a defender without giving the play away and make a very difficult catch.

"Those are the kinds of things people said and wrote he couldn't do," Cable said. "You saw it for yourself. Those are the reasons we took the kid. He's going to be a really fine player for us and we'll just let it play itself out."

Heyward-Bey even lined up as a starter on his first snap, opposite second-year man Chaz Schilens and ahead of Johnnie Lee Higgins, who ended last season as the starter.

At this point in Heyward-Bey's development, it was largely symbolic.

"It meant something to me because if he's going to be that guy, then he's got to be pushed, he's got to be forced into it," Cable said. "In terms of what we're doing installation-wise, it's not so much that he couldn't handle it."

Said quarterback JaMarcus Russell: "He had good, sure hands today. You see a lot of new guys come in and use their chest (to catch the ball), and he didn't do that."

Day 1 gave way to the drops on Day 2 -- including three in a row at one point.

Cable said Heyward-Bey wasn't the only rookie who was a little worn out, both mentally and physically.

"You saw them in the first phase, when it was all exciting and new, and they're going like gangbusters," Cable said. "The next day, there's more offense put in, it's still just as fast and now they're a little more tired. The way they learn and fight through it is an important part of the process."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 15, 2009

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Jay Richardson Name: Jay Richardson
Position: DE
Age: 24
Experience: 2 years
College: Ohio State
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