OAKLAND, Calif. — The Raiders have been practicing for five weeks.
For five weeks, quarterback Derek Carr has yet to throw a pass while wearing a helmet. For five weeks, no receivers have run routes with anyone attempting to cover them. For five weeks, none of the rookies have drilled against the veterans, so first-round pick Gareon Conley has yet to oppose Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Five weeks was long enough.
Time for OTAs.
Organized team activities will begin Monday at the Raiders’ facility. The training wheels were screwed on for the past month-plus, as players eased back into action, able to partake in only so many football activities under the restrictions outlined in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. Those restrictions now loosen up some.
Still, there can be no tackling.
Still, no player can wear pads.
But for the first time, helmets can be worn. Direct competition between different position groups is permitted. Previously, the offense could not line up against the defense in any capacity, able only to drill as a respective group. Beginning Monday, the offense can face the defense just as different special teams units — kickoff vs. kickoff return, punt vs. punt return and so forth — may share a field.
This allows coach Jack Del Rio and his staff to emphasize situational football.
Players will be asked to simulate different real-game scenarios, such as a two-minute drill. Meanwhile, the defense must foil that effort. An overall sense of competition accompanies those drills, part of the process to build players toward the July start of training camp in Napa, California, and eventually the preseason and regular season.
Ten OTA practices are allowed.
This week, the Raiders will practice Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; only Tuesday’s session is open to media. They are scheduled to continue OTAs on May 30-31 and June 2 next week, concluding on June 5-6 and June 8-9. Their spring wraps up with a minicamp slated for June 13-15.
Despite wide attendance, the past five weeks and all of OTAs are voluntary under the bargaining agreement. Each team’s June minicamp, however, is mandatory. The same football activities allowed during OTAs are allowed in minicamp.
It all starts Monday.
The helmets come on.
Michael Gehlken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.