ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Three weeks after the team’s move to Las Vegas was approved by the NFL, the Raiders began preparations for the 2017 season with hopes of giving Oakland a winner before the team leaves town.
The Raiders started their offseason program Monday with more questions about what life will be like as a lame-duck in Oakland, and how they expect to be greeted in Las Vegas when they likely arrive in 2020, than about any offseason acquisitions or on-field concerns.
”It just feels weird right now,” said All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
It will be like that for a while still. The Raiders will play the upcoming season at the Oakland Coliseum and have an option for a lease for 2018 that they plan to exercise as well.
With their new $1.9 billion stadium in Las Vegas not expected to open until 2020, the team might need to find a temporary home in 2019. It will spend the next few years trying to bridge the gap between a fan base that feels deserted in the East Bay and one excited for a new team in Nevada.
”That’s crazy,” quarterback Derek Carr said. ”How do you keep playing somewhere you love and then you’ve got to go and have to play somewhere else that you’re going to have to love and love the people there just like we will?”
But for the players and coaches, many of whom may not even be with the team when it arrives in Las Vegas in three years, the immediate focus is on building on a 12-4 season that gave the Raiders their first playoff berth since 2002.
With most of the young core back, the Raiders are expected to be one of the top teams in the AFC again this season.
”In all honesty, it doesn’t matter yet,” Carr said. ”It’s coming, it’s big news. It’s exciting for our organization and for fans who are Raiders fans in Nevada and stuff like that. But at the same time, we have our fans here we need to take care of, and that’s really important to me. To take care of our fans here and make sure we enjoy our last times.”
In other news:
– Carr said he has completely healed from the broken left leg that ended his 2016 season early, forcing him to miss the season finale and Oakland’s playoff loss to Houston.
”I’ve been running, jumping, throwing, cutting, everything,” Carr said. ”I’m ready to rock, I’m ready to do absolutely everything.”
– Carr said he met with retired running back Marshawn Lynch when he visited the facility recently and would be excited to play with him if Lynch decides to come out of retirement and the Raiders can acquire his rights from Seattle. Oakland needs a big back after losing starter Latavius Murray in free agency.
”He’s one heck of a football player,” Carr said. ”I hope to play with him and those things. But I’m focused on the guys who are here today.”
– The Raiders have had preliminary talks with Carr about extending his rookie contract that expires after this season. Carr said he expects talks to heat up after the draft and hopes to have something finalized before the start of training camp this summer.
”The communication from both sides have been great,” he said. ”They’ve let me know where they’re at and what they’re trying to do. We let them know where we’re at and what we’re trying to do. It hasn’t been hard. It’s been easy.”