With a little bit of urging from Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, second-year wide receiver Henry Ruggs might finally roll up his sleeves and give everyone a peek at all the muscle he’s added after an offseason devoted to getting bigger, stronger and more explosive.
“Show those guns off” is how Carr put it.
Ruggs wasn’t ready for all that on Wednesday when he took to the media podium after practice clad in a long-sleeve shirt. Nevertheless, it was impossible not to notice the 13 pounds Ruggs added to his frame between last year and this year, or how much more confident he looks flying across the practice field.
All of which is part of a detailed plan to remake his body in a way that enables him to handle the drastically different physical demands of the NFL. It’s the difference between relying on his speed to simply blow past defenders like he did in college to now having to physically fight through or past bigger, stronger NFL defenders.
“It’s a man’s game now,” Ruggs said. “I’m not the biggest guy, but I have to get to where I can compete with grown men now. So that was one of my biggest things that I hammered home. Getting bigger, eating all the time and just hammering down in the weight room.”
The objective is to be a much bigger part of the Raiders’ offense after reeling in just 26 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns during an up and down rookie season last year.
“Just taking on a bigger role and being that go-to guy for not only my room but for the offense and for the team,” Ruggs said.
Carr, the trigger man of the Raiders’ offense, sees that Ruggs has changed not only physically but mentally.
“I think that Henry is getting into a place that … he wants it,” Carr said. “He’s going to, not ask for it, he’s going to go show you. It’s exciting.”
Crosby a leader
An increasingly regular sound at Raiders practice is the voice of Maxx Crosby, especially when the defensive line gathers for individual work. Crosby has not been shy about spending his time between reps encouraging and instructing teammates.
It represents a change for a player who respectfully deferred to veterans over the first two years of his career and is now much more comfortable speaking up and leading.
“I just want to be the full version of Maxx Crosby that I envision myself being,” Crosby explained. “So just being a leader, I think that’s a role that I feel natural at. I feel I can be a positive influence.”
Morrow glad to be back
Linebacker Nicholas Morrow had options in free agency, but as he pondered his future he kept coming back to the relationships he’s built with his Raiders teammates.
“It’s more important than I thought,” Morrow said of the ties that convinced him to return to the Raiders on a one-year deal. “It’s always cool to be a part of something that’s already been established. But when you have a chance to grow and you’re in the muck with it, and you’re fighting for it, it means a lot to you.”
For the first time in his career, he comes to camp as an established starter after a breakthrough season last year in which he came up with a career-high 78 tackles.