BRADENTON, Fla. -- Equal parts recalibration and rejuvenation, the Oakland Raiders’ week-long stay in Florida -- after last week’s loss at the Buffalo Bills and before Sunday’s game at the Miami Dolphins -- had a certain training camp feel to it.
The players have all been under the same roof and shared every meal together at a posh resort in Sarasota, when not practicing and working out at the IMG Academy.
Then might there be a danger of players blowing off too much steam in South Beach come Saturday night, what with so much downtime before a Sunday night game?
“Well, we’ll fill up a lot of it,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said following Friday’s practice. “We’ll have meetings and walkthroughs and what not. We’ll be ready to go. It’s a business trip. We’re here for business.
“We don’t leave (for Miami) until late tomorrow and we get in later. We have meetings tomorrow night and walkthrough in the morning on Sunday. So, we’ll keep them busy.”
A year ago, the Raiders stayed here between games at the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and they won both on the way to a 10-2 start. But after falling to the Bills, 34-14, Oakland has lost five of six and sits at the midway point with a record of just 3-5.
Raiders owner Mark Davis is not exactly thrilled, though he did offer encouragement to players as they passed him in the hotel lobby this week.
And the players, well, let’s just say they have been a tad sheepish in approaching Davis.
“It starts with our owner allowing us to be able to do something like this,” said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, “to be able to have everything that we need from the facility standpoint, from the treatment standpoint, a training standpoint. Obviously, the rooms are nice, we’re sleeping in good beds. The food is right there prepared for you, so there’s no time wasted there. We’re eating the right things. I mean there’s so much, but it starts with him allowing us to be able to do this. It starts also with a vision from Coach Del Rio saying, ‘This is what we need to do in order to maximize our bodies and our minds for Sunday.’
“Doing it a second time, I loved it the first time. It’s... like a minicamp again, where everyone is eating together. Everyone is going out to dinner together. Everyone is together, and it’s nice to not have to drive in traffic for a week.”
NaVorro Bowman has experience with these week-long stayovers between games, having gone through it with the San Francisco 49ers. But Youngstown, Ohio is no Florida.
“I believe it gives the team some time to gel together,” Bowman said. “When we have adverse situations, we’re able to stick together and not go home and focus on other things. We all have that loss on our minds and I think being here is getting us back on track and getting us ready to go to win this game.”
Besides the amenities that come with the daily life of an NFL player, the Raiders also tried out Cryotherapy tubes to help with injury rehab.
And yes, some would say the Raiders offense has been in deep freeze all season. But that’s a different story for a different day.
For now, it’s all about the Raiders trying to rediscover what Del Rio called the team’s “mojo” before it is too late, and Oakland is reduced to merely playing out the string.
And yes, there are already whispers about the Raiders doing the IMG week again next year, perhaps ahead of a potential international game in London.
The Raiders, though, are simply taking it one day at a time, one game at a time, while trying to put together a streak that resembles the 8-1 run they went on last year that began in Jacksonville.
“Yeah, it really was (a productive week),” Del Rio said. “I thought we had, Wednesday and Thursday, probably two of the better practices we’ve had in a while just in terms of the intensity. So, good hard work, backed way down today and obviously tomorrow. And then, we’ll be ready to roll Sunday night.”