NAPA, Calif. — Raiders coach Jon Gruden couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present Saturday than the one he got on the practice field.
His star wide receiver, Antonio Brown, participated in the team’s two walk-through sessions — there was no practice — on his coach’s 56th birthday. And to put more icing on the cake, Gruden said he thinks Brown is ready to start practicing.
“He took all the reps today in our walk-through, showed great retention,” Gruden said.
Brown returned to training camp Tuesday — a day after losing his helmet grievance — but didn’t practice. He traveled with the Raiders for their exhibition game Thursday at the Arizona Cardinals and, despite his frostbitten feet still healing, participated in pregame warmups before a 33-26 victory.
Brown wasn’t made available for comment Saturday. But quarterback Derek Carr was, and he agreed with Gruden, saying he hasn’t noticed anything that would hold Brown back from participating fully.
The receiver missed 11 of the Raiders’ first 12 camp practices while recovering from his foot injury and settling his helmet issue. Given the complexity of the Raiders’ scheme, Carr was impressed with the way Brown remembered the offense from the offseason program.
“The man’s recall is unbelievable,” Carr said. “He came in and had no mental errors. And in this offense, that’s not easy to do. And you could tell Antonio’s been studying, because he came out and didn’t miss a beat.”
Carr added that Brown’s presence gives him a more realistic picture as he surveys his options.
“I can get to all my checks and do all that kind of stuff like I’ll do during the season,” Carr said.
With Brown back, Carr said he and Gruden will have a lot to discuss for receiving options in one-on-one situations with wideout Tyrell Williams and tight end Darren Waller also factoring in.
Carr and Williams displayed their connection Thursday, as the former Charger came down with a 27-yard reception on the left sideline during the first-team offense’s one drive. On Saturday, Williams said it was nice to make that play in a game setting.
“Really just a go ball — just give me a chance, just throw it up in that area and try to come down in make that play,” Williams said. “I have a lot of confidence in myself to make that play, and I think DC has the same confidence in me.”
Brown’s presence should aid everyone on the offense, but Williams said that while he was away, the team’s younger players benefited with more playing time.
“When anybody goes down — whether it’s injury or anything — someone’s obviously going to be able to take those reps,” Williams said. “The more reps you get the better.”
That has made the back end of the wide receivers group tougher to predict as the Raiders approach the end of preseason and roster cuts.
“If you watch us play, you’re seeing just about every receiver make a contribution,” Gruden said before issuing a challenge — jokingly — to the team’s general manager. “(Mike) Mayock’s going to have to have his boxing gloves on — we’re gonna have some fights about this roster, probably.”
— The Raiders took offensive lineman Denzelle Good off the physically unable to perform list Saturday. Gruden said Good would be eased back into action, and he took about 25 snaps during the walk-through.
— The team addressed a need for more depth on the offensive line by re-signing guard/center Cameron Hunt. Hunt was with the Raiders for the 2018 offseason program and preseason and was on the roster for the final three games last season.
— Gruden said the Raiders have seen enough from offensive lineman Richie Incognito, and with his two-game suspension to open the season looming, other players probably will be worked in at starting left guard.
— Gruden said he’s planning on taking everyone on the team for Thursday’s exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He added that starters probably won’t play much in the final two exhibition games.