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Raiders looking for leaders

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Some thoughts from the Raiders’ OTA session Monday:

I found it interesting that Oakland coach Dennis Allen is putting a huge premium on finding leaders on both sides of the ball. Allen said identifying leaders is “huge” in the big picture.

Oakland is a young team that is going under a major rebuilding movement. The team lost several veteran players and Allen is looking for some players to emerge as leaders to guide the roster, Allen calls it “peer pressure.”

Allen sees free-agent pickup linebacker Nick Roach and veteran fullback Marcel Reece as potential leaders. I agree with Allen. The importance of leadership cannot be discounted. If this inexperienced roster is going to make some noise, it’s going to need strong on-field leadership.

  • Allen said cornerback D.J. Hayden, the team's first-round pick, is still on target to return for the start of training camp in late July. Hayden, who watched practice Monday, had surgery last week to remove scar tissue in his stomach, stemming from a life-threatening heart surgery last November. Allen called the situation “unchartered waters,” but he said the team remains confident Hayden should be fine once camp starts.

  • Receiver Jacoby Ford (hamstring) and defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi (ankle) did not practice Monday.

  • Cornerback Tracy Porter was noncommittal on whether or not he is going to give up No. 24 to Charles Woodson. Woodson wore the number in his previous Oakland stint. He is wearing No. 2 in practices, but the NFL doesn’t allow defensive back to wear single digits. Porter said say the number exchange is up for discussion. Translation: Woodson will have to pay up if he wants No. 24.

  • Allen was asked about punter Chris Kluwe not being able to attend a Washington D.C. event for gay rights. The event is being held next week during the team’s mandatory minicamp. Allen said Kluwe knows his focus has to be on making the roster. It was an expected answer from a coach and frankly, it’s the right answer. Players need to focus on the team during the season. Kluwe is a pro. He knows that.

  • As for Kluwe’s competition, Marquette King, Allen said consistency is the key for the strong-legged youngster. Kluwe is the favorite to win the job because of his experience.

  • Allen said the overall production of this week’s media-open session was much better than last week’s open session.

  • Allen expects free-agent picks ups Vance Walker and Pat Sims to improve the team’s run defense.

  • Allen said he wants to further the importance of special teams this year as he moves into his second season as the team’s head coach. Allen praised the experience and ability of new special teams coach, longtime NFL assistant Bobby April. Allen thinks improved depth at linebacker and in the secondary can help on special teams.

  • Allen categorized the tight end position as being “wide open” with every tight end on the roster having a legitimate chance at significant playing time. Allen said if an interesting veteran becomes available at some point, Oakland could show interest. On paper, it is one of the team’s weakest positions.

  • Allen expressed excitement about improvements in both the secondary and at linebacker. As he has all offseason, Allen praised this team for “loving football.” He really likes this group of players.

  • Tony Bergstrom, a third-round pick in 2011, was back working ahead of 2011 undrafted free agent Lucas Nix at left guard. Nix was working ahead of Bergstrom last week. The battle should continue all summer.

  • Undrafted free-agent receiver Conner Vernon continues to look good. He might have a shot to stick with the 53-man roster.

In other AFC West notes:

  • New San Diego pass-rusher Dwight Freeney isn't with the team in OTAs yet. Coach Mike McCoy said he expects Freeney in soon. The team is having a mandatory minicamp next week.

  • Denver running back Knowshon Moreno did some light work as he returned from a knee injury he suffered in the playoff loss to Baltimore.