Raiders sign 3rd-round pick Bergstrom

The Oakland Raiders signed third-round draft pick Tony Bergstrom

on Saturday, two days before the team holds its first practice of

training camp.

The former Utah guard, the Raiders’ first draft pick of the

post-Al Davis era, was among a few dozen players who arrived at the

team’s facilities near the base of picturesque Napa Valley

following a lengthy bus ride from the Bay Area that took nearly

twice as long as usual because of traffic.

”I wasn’t about to miss anything,” said Bergstrom, the 95th

player selected in the draft. ”(The deal) was hashed out a long

time ago. I’m not about to be the first holdout of the new CBA as a

third-rounder.”

That dubious distinction could fall on the shoulders of fellow

rookie Juron Criner.

The rookie wide receiver is the Raiders’ only draft pick not

under contract. The fifth-round pick is apparently holding out for

a bigger signing bonus.

Criner still has some time to get something done before

officially becoming a holdout.

While the majority of Oakland players were scheduled to arrive

on Saturday, the official reporting day is Sunday when the players

will also be given a pre-camp physical.

The Raiders won’t hold their first training camp practice under

rookie head coach Dennis Allen until Monday morning.

For Bergstrom, it will be his first time in full pads since the

end of his senior season at Utah. Under terms of the Collective

Bargaining Agreement, teams are restricted from holding any

full-contact drills during OTAs and minicamps.

”I’m eager to strap it up,” the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Bergstrom

said. ”A lot of the improvement comes when you put on pads. It’s

hard to do a ton when you’re just in helmets.”

The 25-year-old Bergstrom is heading into his first NFL training

camp feeling pretty about things. He’s made a pretty smooth

transition to guard after spending most of his time at Utah playing

tackle, and his wife recently gave the birth to the couple’s second

child.

Bergstrom is also expected to push veteran Cooper Carlisle for

the job at left guard. Carlisle was Oakland’s starting right guard

for the past five years before moving to the left side to make room

for newcomer Mike Brisiel.

”Being in a left-handed stance feels a lot more natural right

now when I get down and run or whatever,” Bergstrom said. ”It’s

getting there.”

Getting to Napa proved a bit of a task for Bergstrom and his

teammates, most of them undrafted rookies. The trip from the Bay

Area, which normally takes 45 minutes, lasted nearly twice that

long as the two buses carrying the players inched through the

traffic.

”I’m not used to the California traffic yet,” Bergstrom said.

”I think everybody kind of got on with a nervous tension, then

about 20 minutes into the bus ride everybody was just wanting to

get off the bus.”

Veterans such as Sebastian Janikowski didn’t have to take the

bus. The Pro Bowl kicker Janikowski drove up on his own and showed

up holding a suitcase in one hand with a golf bag draped over his

right shoulder.

Brisiel and Jared Veldheer were also among the early arrivals.

Brisiel, who signed with Oakland in the offseason after spending

six seasons in Houston, still had Texas plates on his all-black car

as he pulled into the parking lot behind the Marriott Hotel where

the Raiders stay during camp.

Allen and members of his staff took a brief tour of the two

practice fields the team will use at the junior high school located

behind the hotel but the Raiders coach did not talk to

reporters.

Players were expected to continue to trickle in throughout the

evening. The deadline for reporting is at breakfast on Sunday.