Carr doing better job taking care of ball for Raiders

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              Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr removes his helmet straps as he walks off the field in the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Baltimore. Baltimore won 34-17. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
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ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr feels much more relaxed in Jon Gruden’s offense than he did at the beginning of the year.

It’s too late to salvage the Raiders’ season but for a team that is 2-9 and in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick next year, baby steps are important.

For Carr, whose future as the team’s franchise quarterback is no longer a certainty, it is even more critical.

“I just think he’s a really good decision-maker,” Gruden said Wednesday. “He’s never been one to throw a lot of picks. I think he realizes right now winning the turnover battle gives this team right now the best chance to win. He’s done a great job taking care of the ball.”

Carr has not thrown an interception in the last ix games, the longest stretch of his five-year NFL career.

That’s a significant turnaround after Carr was picked off eight times in the first five games, making him an easy lightning rod for criticism from media and fans and, at times, from Gruden.

“Just trying to figure the offense out, feel things out, being too aggressive, trying too much to help us win,” Carr said of his early turnovers. “That’s always been a problem I’ve always tried to hold back on. With coach Gruden coming in I’m so aggressive and fired up all the time. We’ve learned to mellow that out a little bit so I can do better for our team.”

Carr’s last interception came Oct. 7 when San Diego defensive end Melvin Ingram picked him off in the end zone on a 1st-and-goal play from the 1.

Since then, Carr has been much more efficient taking care of the ball. During the six-game stretch, Carr has passed for 1,186 yards with six touchdowns. He failed to throw a touchdown in three of those games but completed 63.8 percent of his throws and compiled a 94.7 passer rating.

A more patient approach in the pocket, Carr said, has been the key.

“Just doing my best to take care of the football to put our defense in good situations,” Carr said. “Taking care of the football so it’s easy on our offense so we’re not playing from behind and things like that. Just trying to do my best that way. When it comes to throwing interceptions, just making good decisions to put our team in the best situation.”

Carr’s interceptions early in the year were part of a problematic offense that has been among the NFL’s least effective for most of the season.

The Raiders are 24th in overall offense and 18th in passing heading into Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Carr has spent much of the season playing behind an injury-riddled offensive line and an equally banged up receiving corps that lost its best weapon when Amari Cooper was traded to the Dallas Cowboys.

Carr declined to use that as an excuse but acknowledged the changing roster has made it difficult to get the passing game in rhythm.

“Having continuity is a huge thing,” Carr said. “We’ve got some receivers right now that it’s the first time out there with them. We’re still learning certain coverages, certain routes that are good for them and for me throwing to them. It’s not like Crab’s back and Coop’s back for years. We’re learning each other. It’s going to bode us well in the future. It’s going to be nice but right now there’s growing pains.”

Notes: Tight end Jared Cook was named recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. . Linebacker James Cowser and wide receiver Johnny Holton were signed to the practice squad.