Practice-squad survivor Ian Silberman getting noticed at center for Raiders

NAPA, Calif. -- One of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- stories in the Oakland Raiders offensive line room this training camp is about a third-string center.

Before making every single snap for the Raiders in their exhibition opener at the Arizona Cardinals, Ian Silberman had never played center in a competitive game in his football-playing life.

Silberman, a sixth-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2015, was converted to the position from guard by Raiders offensive line coach Mike Tice after backup center Jon Feliciano went down with a knee injury in OTAs.

“So we slid Ian in,” Tice said Wednesday.

“He ... did very well. Had one mental [mistake] and the mental he had, he stepped with the wrong foot. I’m very proud of him. He’s been a great story for us. He’s a tough kid. He’s a determined kid. He’s been cut before and he’s determined not to be released again.”

At 6-feet-5 and 305 pounds, Silberman is big for a center -- Raiders Pro Bowl starter Rodney Hudson is 6-2, 300 pounds -- and sure, celebrating a third-string player might not be the sexiest of stories.

But again, Silberman, who had never -- ever! -- played the position in a game, played all 54 snaps on offense and three snaps on special teams.

“I mean, I was hurting the day after,” Silberman said with a smile. “But mentally, it felt good. I was just worried about not snapping over the quarterback’s head the first play. But after the first play, it felt just like practice. So everything was smooth.”

Silberman said Tice was good at “slowing the game down and presenting it in an easy manner for guys to learn” in coaching him up. Versatility, Silberman said, would give him additional value and is key in his quest to make the Raiders’ initial 53-man roster.

“Playing guard and playing tackle, it’s all the same movements,” Silberman said. “But playing center, it’s just that one extra movement.

“Being a backup in this league and trying to find a way, you have to be as versatile as possible.”

Silberman spent one year with the 49ers and appeared in one game, exclusively on special teams, before spending time on the New England Patriots practice squad in 2016.

He signed with the Raiders' practice squad on Oct. 21.

Told of Tice’s words that he has “probably been the biggest story on the line the whole training camp,” Silberman raised his eyebrows.

“Oh, man, that’s cool,” Silberman said.

“Those are really nice words to hear from a coach. I haven’t had great relationships with coaches in the past, for whatever reason. But hearing that from a coach who I deal with every day, it’s awesome to hear that big-time praise.”

Silberman said he made “most” of the calls on the line in Arizona and, as a center, he watches film in a different manner. He has to know what just about every player is doing on every play, he said.

“It made me love football a little bit more because I got to learn the intricacies,” Silberman said. “I saw it as a challenge. I have to see the whole field. I like that challenge. I enjoy it tremendously. I think the challenge alone is going to make me a better football player.”

The Raiders break camp at the Napa Valley Marriott today, play host to the Los Angeles Rams in a preseason game on Saturday night and begin practicing at their facility next week.

Tice gave a schedule, of sorts, on Silberman.

“Right now he’s our No. 3 center and we’ll move him over to guard next week and let him play a little left guard and create some versatility for him and give him an opportunity to make our football team,” Tice said.

“He has good movement. He moves well laterally. He can run. Again, he’s determined. He wants to have an opportunity to make our team, and at center, it’s probably his best chance because we keep three centers at least. We’re real happy with Ian right now.”