- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders opened the first of three voluntary OTA sessions Tuesday with a helmet-and-shorts practice open to the media. Following are 10 observations (the Raiders have a new ‘blind-eye’ policy against reporting certain things) from the session ...
Linebacker Kevin Burnett, who started last season at weakside linebacker, was not in attendance. Might the drafting of Khalil Mack at No. 5 overall have had an affect on Burnet being the only "healthy" name player to not be at the opening practice of OTAs? So why wasn’t he here? "Because it’s voluntary," coach Dennis Allen said. "I’ve had communication with Kevin this whole time and, again, this is a voluntary camp. Players can make their own decisions and they’ve got families and things in their personal lives that they’ve got to make sure that they take care of so I’m not concerned about that at all."
Asked if strong safety Tyvon Branch could see time at cornerback, Allen smiled. "You know, I like versatility."
Allen acknowledged he would consider putting veteran Maurice Jones-Drew out there to field punts. "We’re considering anything," he said. "That’s what this time of year is for, so yeah, we’re going to look at a lot of things." For what it’s worth, Jones-Drew has returned 15 punts in his career for 133 yards, an average of 8.9 yards per return.
There is no depth chart, according to Allen. "To be honest, we really don’t have No. 1s, No. 2s, No. 3s on the depth chart," he said. "We’re out here practicing football. All that stuff, by the time we get to the first game, that will all take care of itself." And yet, there definitely seemed to be first-team units.
D.J. Hayden looks like a different player, and that’s what the Raiders want out of the second-year cornerback. It behooves Oakland for Hayden to claim one of the starting cornerback spots, perhaps opposite Tarell Brown, with Carlos Rogers playing the slot.
Juron Criner. Remember him? The third-year receiver who put on a show at his rookie camp and then his first OTAs two years ago before disappearing had several tough catches and impressed in traffic down the sidelines. He is going to have to stand out significantly to make the roster this season, it would appear.
The closest Allen would come to saying who was a true No. 1 was, again, quarterback Matt Schaub. A year ago at this time, the Raiders quarterbacks were Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor, Tyler Wilson and Matt McGloin. Now, the foursome is made up of Schaub, McGloin, second-round draft pick Derek Carr and veteran Trent Edwards. "Yeah, I think we got a heck of a quarterback room, I really do," Allen said. "Really, I think we’ve got four quarterbacks that can help this football team."
David Ausberry, who might have been running with the first-team offense were there No. 1’s, looks like a physical specimen at tight end a year after being lost for the season in the second exhibition game with a shoulder injury. "He was a guy that we had some high hopes for last year," Allen said. "He’s a guy that, again, he’s got talent and he’s got ability, especially as a receiving threat. He’s a nice piece to the puzzle and hopefully he’ll continue to develop and hopefully he’ll stay healthy and we’ll be able to use him this year."
Defensive lineman Antonio Smith, who underwent what was termed a "minor" medical procedure by general manager Reggie McKenzie after a weight room mishap, was not on the field for practice.
It would appear as though Sio Moore, who started at strong side linebacker last season, could move to the weakside -- Burnett’s old stomping grounds -- with Mack moving in at the SAM. "I’ll start off by saying this: We’re going to take a look at a lot of different people in a lot of different areas because we have a lot of new players on this football team," Allen said. "As we get a better feel for these guys and get an opportunity to work with them, we’ll settle in more on positions as we move along. But I think initially, we are going to take a look at a lot of people in a lot of different areas.