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Raiders rookie may miss first preseason game

Clive Walford is rearing up to play his first NFL snap.

He’d like it to be during Friday’s preseason debut against the Rams, but the odds of that happening don’t seem terribly high.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said:

“You have to do the wise thing to bring them back. To make sure they’re healthy when you bring them back. I feel like we were smart about the approach.”

Walford has been out with an undisclosed injury since the start of training camp, but was healthy during organized team activities and mandatory mini camp.

Quarterback Derek Carr heaped praise in Walford’s direction earlier in the offseason, and all indications were that the rookie tight end would play a large part in Oakland’s offense.

That’s still true, though it’s just not as soon as the team would like.

Walford says he’d like to play and will do everything he can to see some reps, but conceded that he was slow to pick up things right away in his first practice back with the team on Tuesday:

“I thought I was going to be far (behind), but once I got out there and I got the feel for it and knew my plays, I picked it right up. So we’re back in action.”

Walford is listed behind probable starter Lee Smith and primary backup Mychal Rivera, and Del Rio says waiting it out and making sure Walford is healthy outweighs added reps before the regular season begins:

“He’s a football player that had a really good spring and we look forward to getting our hands on him and getting him to work. But we’d like to avoid that yo-yo process where he’s back and forth. So, hopefully we let it settle down and we can put it behind us.”

Walford hasn’t been given the final word, and Del Rio probably won’t give any indications before Walford takes some preseason reps, but the rookie wants to get out there:

“I don’t even know if coach is going to let me go. So I’m trying to work hard out there these next couple of practices. Hopefully, he sees I’m healthy enough to go. We’ll see, man.”

Training Camp Notes

Rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. has been showing why the Raiders fell in love with him the way they did, selecting him 35th overall in the 2015 draft.

He’s shown out in 1-on-1 drills, and though defensive line coach Jethro Franklin has made it a point to clean up some of the fundamentals that Edwards lacks, the rookie has been nothing else than willing.

When he was drafted, Raiders officials noted the 2013 National Championship game as a big reason why, Edwards dominated former Auburn and current offensive tackle Greg Robinson.

He’s been showing that same ferocity at camp, and working hard to find a role with the starters.

Still out with undisclosed injuries: RB Roy Helu Jr. and WR Rod Streater. No clear timetable has been established for the return of either, though it’s possible both return after the first preseason game on Friday.

Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.

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