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Welcome to the NFL, rookie: Michael Mayer gets lesson from Maxx Crosby

Updated August 1, 2023 - 10:42 pm

Michael Mayer got a rude awakening to life in the NFL when the Raiders donned full pads for the first time in training camp Tuesday.

From one of the league’s best defensive ends.

Mayer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, got thrown around and knocked down by Maxx Crosby in multiple one-on-one scrimmage battles that appeared decidedly more designed than coincidental.

It was all part of a day that felt suspiciously intentional for its physicality and edge. In fact, it almost felt as if the Raiders were using the occasion to set a teamwide tone.

To Mayer’s credit, he never blinked. The promising tight end, nicknamed “Baby Gronk” by Notre Dame fans, immediately bounced off the ground after every thrashing.

It’s been a camp-long theme for Mayer, who has impressed the Raiders so much that they released veteran tight end O.J. Howard on Tuesday.

The clashes between Crosby and Mayer, who weren’t made available to the media after practice, were just one part of a big-picture directive being sent. After laboring through a six-win season in which their mental and physical toughness were questioned, the Raiders want to set a new foundation.

It started early Tuesday, from the first smash-mouth snap the Raiders took upon lining up in 11-on-11, when running back Ameer Abdullah was gang-tackled to the ground.

That’s a rare sight these days on an NFL practice field, but the session was all about honoring a standard.

“Bringing the same physicality, time and time again,” Abdullah said. “The team that can do that the longest typically wins.”

For all that today’s NFL has become, toughness is still a huge component.

“It’s NFL football,” linebacker Luke Masterson said. “It’s always going to be physical.”

The physical nature of the practice set the tone, but the play of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t go unnoticed. Signed in the offseason to replace longtime starter Derek Carr, Garoppolo bounced back with a crisp and efficient practice — spraying the ball across all levels of the defense — after a rough day Monday.

Garoppolo is quickly winning over the locker room with his play, personality and even-keeled temperament.

“A guy who’s the same if he throws a 60-yard bomb or an interception,” Abdullah said.

The Raiders say they need that from their leader.

“As the quarterback, everyone’s going to be watching you. You’re the guy,” Abdullah said. “Whether it’s the fans or his teammates. If you hang your head and you’re low in your low moments and high in your high moments, people kind of ride off that. A guy who is very steadfast is what this team needs.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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