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Raiders report: Derek Carr proud of teammate’s progress

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr remembers the first conversation he had with Lester Cotton in 2019 when the undrafted rookie free agent approached him with a question back when the franchise was still in Oakland.

Cotton inquired of the veteran signal-caller what exactly he would need to do to one day become a starting guard lining up in front of him.

“I was like, ‘What a question,’” Carr recalled on Saturday. “You can look back and see who we had there and know it was going to be hard for him.”

He seems to have accepted the challenge.

Cotton has always had talent, but there have been lingering doubts about his conditioning and commitment. The 26-year-old appears to have made a strong impression with the new coaching staff and has been working consistently with the first-team offense.

“I wasn’t here with him, so I’ve heard different things obviously, but I’m using my experience and my exposure to him now to really form our evaluation and our opinions of everybody here,” coach Josh McDaniels said earlier this week. “The Lester Cotton that I know from this offseason and now going into training camp, he just works hard. He’s been in condition. He’s gotten stronger. He did a tremendous job in our offseason program. … so he’s earning the opportunities that he’s getting and again we’ll see where that goes.”

That figures to be consistent playing time and could even be a starting spot at right guard. It would be quite an accomplishment for a player who has been cut at the end of each of the last three training camps by the Raiders. He was brought back to the practice squad in 2019 and eventually played one snap on special teams in a regular-season game.

Cotton didn’t play after he was released in 2020, but was back for training camp in 2021 and eventually got cut again. He did come back to the practice squad last season and was able to see five snaps on offense and six on special teams over the course of four games.

Now he will look to significantly increase those numbers.

“I told him when we were walking to the car the other day that I am so proud of him,” Carr said. “Because through the cuts and the re-signings and the new schemes and all of this and all of that, you have done nothing but put your head down and worked your butt off.”

Brief scare

John Simpson, who has been taking the majority of first-team reps at left guard, went down in practice on Saturday with what appeared to be a noncontact injury.

He tried to get up and walk off the field, only to go down again. Simpson was helped to the sideline by his teammates, but only missed about five minutes of practice before reinserting himself in a drill and finishing the session.

Outside linebacker Chandler Jones missed his second consecutive practice, though no reason has been given. His former backup Kyler Fackrell was placed on injured reserve Friday, so Malcolm Koonce and Gerri Green got plenty of reps.

Running back Brittain Brown and cornerback Darius Phillips were also absent on Saturday. Safety Roderic Teamer and defensive end Clelin Ferrell continued to miss practice after leaving the field on different days earlier in the week.

Hairy subject

Pro Bowl punter A.J. Cole expressed disappointment this week over Carr’s decision to stop growing out his hair.

“Every time I see him it seems to get shorter, which is not how hair works,” Cole said. “I think he’s been getting haircuts behind my back and I don’t love that. I ask him every day if he feels good about it, if he looks himself in the mirror and feels good about his hair, and it seems like he does right now. So I’m happy for him.”

Cole said he takes solace in the team’s signings of Brandon Bolden and Mack Hollins, who have grown their hair to impressive lengths.

It’s not likely Carr tries to start competing with those manes anytime soon.

“A.J. asks me about it every day,” Carr said with a laugh. “He says hair is supposed to go the other way and mine just keeps getting shorter. I’m like, ‘A.J., I think that ship has sailed.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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