Normally, flags dangling from players’ waists aren’t seen at an NFL practice.
Saved usually for the schoolyard to protect from tackling injuries, red flags were hanging from Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray, and other Oakland Raiders players as they fielded punts during Organized Team Activities Tuesday, with defenders ripping them off to kill the play.
Head coach Jack Del Rio said jokingly:
“It’s the closest thing we can get to two hand touch. … No, were just trying to be creative and work within the rules and teach leverage in tackling without being physical.”
The flags were brought in by new special teams coach Brad Seely, who joins the Raiders from across the Bay after four years as special teams coordinator for the 49ers.
Projected starting cornerback T.J. Carrie said he wasn’t accustomed to using flags, but sees how they can help the team improve on the field:
“The biggest difference in this level more than any other level is learning how to play and hold yourself up in space. … You are practicing the majority of the time without pads. Going up for the ball, deep balls, proper angles, taking the right position are key components to this league.”
Carrie said Seely’s decision to use flags was a breath of fresh air:
“The flags give you a great understanding of if your angle is right and if you can play without reaching or lunging. The flags were an element of the game that are very key. Coach Seely did a good job with that one. We had a lot of fun with that.”
Kick returner is a competitive spot this year after the Raiders drafted Florida returner and wide receiver Andre Debose in the seventh round. No one seemed too big for returning duties though, as star rookie Cooper, Trent Richardson and projected starting tailback Murray all took a shot at returning duties.
Carrie said the competition raises everybody’s game:
“Iron sharpening iron. Day in and day out, it’s a good competition battle. Me, having played the position last year and these young guys coming in to compete to make sure your not comfortable, in a sense. I’m excited for the guys we’ve brought in and how effective we can be in the return game this year.”
Carrie was last year’s starting punt returner, though he may not find himself in that role this season. Carrie is expected to be the No. 2 corner alongside D.J. Hayden, replacing last year’s starters Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers. With that on his plate, he could be expected to focus more on learning from veteran defensive back Charles Woodson and new defensive backs coach and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.
“I almost have a book of notes that I just grasped from them two. … Some previously from Charles last year, but now having both Woodsons this year. You have a sense of every question you can imagine asking they have the answer to.”
With Carrie and Hayden expected to start at corner, Debose is an early candidate for returning duties, showing agility and blazing speed in Raiders practices. Debose owns the University of Florida record for most kick returns for touchdowns with four, which also ties an SEC record.