NAPA — As much as coach Jack Del Rio and his staff prefer to concentrate on the players actually on the field, the biggest stories nearing the midway point of the 2017 training camp are about two who have yet to take a snap.
Three observations from Saturday’s practice, the seventh of 15 on the grounds of Redwood Middle School behind the Napa Valley Marriott:
1. No Donald Penn, no Gareon Conley: The Raiders’ starting left tackle and a first-round draft pick who likely would be a starter if healthy have yet to make their imprint on the 2017 team.
Penn remains a holdout, and according to an NFL Media report, has been working out with Hall of Fame lineman Jackie Slater — a co-offensive line coach for the Raiders in 2006 —and plans on going to St. Louis to train with Orlando Pace.
That means Penn figures he’ll be out awhile longer until general manager Reggie McKenzie comes up with something well beyond his scheduled salary of $5.8 million, or that the information was leaked for additional leverage.
Only McKenzie and The Alliance Management Group, the agency that represents Penn, know if there have been any meaningful contract exchanges or any exchanges at all. McKenzie told reporters Monday, “We don’t talk contracts unless a guy is here.”
In the meantime, projected right tackle Marshall Newhouse has gotten all the first-team snaps on the left side, with Vadal Alexander on the right.
David Sharpe, a fourth-round pick, missed his second consecutive practice with an undisclosed injury.
That meant Jylan Ware, a seventh-round pick, played as the backup right tackle and undrafted free agent Chauncey Briggs played on the left.
Conley is under contract, but still a spectator as he recovers from shin splints, a condition that has affected him for more than six weeks.
If Conley was healthy, he’d probably be in the starting lineup, considering that returning starter Sean Smith spent his second day in a row working with the second team with TJ Carrie practicing with the first team.
However, Conley hasn’t even been spotted working with the athletic training staff near the field house, which is often the final hurdle to getting back on the field.
At this point, it’s hard to see either man being available to face the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday, and while they’d love to see Penn and/or Conley on the field before camp breaks on Aug. 17, it’s not a slam dunk.
2. Special teams a work in progress: The Raiders lost five core special teams players off a team that was pretty good in terms of kick coverage. Brynden Trawick, Daren Bates, Andre Holmes and Nate Allen departed in free agency, and Taiwan Jones was released heading into training camp.
All were good enough to get snapped up by other teams.
“We have to find new guys,” special teams coach Brad Seely said. “We have suspects and prospects. We’ll see what happens once the games start. When the lights come, on sometimes they change.”
The leading returning special teams tackler is Johnny Holton, a wide receiver who could be counted upon heavily.
Holton figures he learned a lot from the core five.