After all, the Raiders had let Veldheer walk to the Arizona Cardinals and Saffold, who was to be Oakland’s first big-splash free-agent signing to replace Veldheer at left tackle, was injured, according to the Raiders’ doctors. And Saffold went back to the St. Louis Rams.
Penn? He was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a day after the Raiders turned Saffold away.
“I look at it like this – everything in life happens for a reason,” Penn said last week. “And Oakland called me quick. My family was happy. They wanted me closer and I wasn’t ready to play right tackle yet.
“Being able to play with this [offensive] line and this team, we have a lot of chips on our shoulders.”
Penn grew up in Southern California a huge fan of the then-Los Angeles Raiders, so he saw the opportunity to wear the colors of his boyhood idols as a sign, of sorts. And the Raiders wanting him to protect the quarterback’s blind side, rather then be put out to pasture, so to speak, at right tackle more than piqued his interest.
The 6-foot-4, 340-pounder will be entering his eighth season. He was a Pro Bowler in 2010, when Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson was running the Buccaneers offense.
“Donald has great feet,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s really good and has been really good in pass protection, and so that was one of the things that we looked at. Not to mention the fact that [Olson] has had an opportunity to work with him and kind of understand him a little bit and what the buttons are that you have to push to kind of drive him a little bit.
“I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen out of Donald and I’m hoping for a big year out of him.”
Penn figures to be one of four new starters on a rebuilt Raiders offensive line, with rookie Gabe Jackson expected to compete for the left guard position, new acquisition Austin Howard making the switch from right tackle to right guard and last year’s second-round pick, Menelik Watson, being groomed to take over for good at right tackle.
Center Stefen Wisniewski would be the anchor -- again.
“I like where we’re at,” Allen said. “I like the versatility, I like the depth. It’s all about using this time … meshing together as a unit. The one thing that we didn’t have an opportunity to do a lot of last year was get the same five guys working together and I think that’s important, especially at that position because all five guys at that position, the offensive line, really have to work as one. They have to all see the picture the same exact way because the picture changes once the ball snaps.
“I’ve been pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish offensive line-wise and I like where we’re at.”
As does Penn, even if the Raiders are more than a month away from putting on pads and actually hitting each other.
Besides, a projected line of Penn, Jackson, Wisniewski, Howard and Watson would average 6-4, 326 pounds.
“We’re going to be a physical offensive line,” Penn said. “We’re going to play like the old Raiders … we’re not going to get stupid penalties or stuff like that, but we’re not going to take anything. We’re not going to take any stuff.
“We’re going to run the ball and we’re going to run the ball and run the ball, until they stop us from running the ball … we’re going to dictate the tempo.”