After suffering through a 7-9 record and a busy off-season in which many veteran Raiders departed, Coach Art Shell is relieved to finally start a new season when rookies, free agents and some selected veterans begin training camp today at Oxnard.
From quarterback to safety, the Raiders will have a different look this year and Shell is optimistic about his team in transition.
“I’m more excited about this football team than any other one that I’ve been with since I’ve been a head coach,” said Shell, who has a 35-25 record in his three-plus years coaching the Raiders. “There is a feeling of freshness and newness about this football team.”
Heading the group of players expected to begin practice today is former New York Giant quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who was signed to replace Jay Schroeder, who is now with Cincinnati.
Other free-agent signees expected to practice are linebacker Joe Kelly (from the New York Jets) and offensive tackles Gerald Perry (from the Rams) and Ken Lanier (from Denver). They will be joined by running back Gaston Green, who was picked up in a trade with Denver.
One problem the Raiders might have is getting their six draft choices signed.
With the NFL’s new draft salary cap in effect, the Raiders did not have any of their choices signed as of Sunday night, including first-round pick Patrick Bates, a safety from Texas A&M.;
“This is a system that has never been used before, so it is something new to all of us,” Shell said.
Two players the Raiders have been negotiating with in recent weeks, wide receiver Raghib (Rocket) Ismail and quarterback Don Majkowski, were not in camp Sunday. Talks are planned to continue with both players today. . . . Veteran wide receiver James Lofton, a free agent signed from Buffalo, is expected to join the team when the veterans report Friday.