NAPA, Calif. (AP) - Oakland coach Tom Cable insists he is not concerned about wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, even as the
Raiders' first-round draft pick struggles through the first few days of training camp.
Heyward-Bey dropped four passes on Monday in Oakland's first full-contact practice, one day after dropping a trio of throws as owner Al Davis looked on.
"He understands his job is to catch footballs and for him it is just a process of gaining confidence and getting comfortable every day at this level," Cable said. "And he is doing that by leaps and bounds. I am really not worried about it. He is just pressing. He just wants to impress you. That is what it is."
The seventh overall pick in the NFL draft, Heyward-Bey has been the most closely watched player in Oakland's camp this year. He missed the team's first practice while his agent hammered out the details on a five-year deal that will guarantee Heyward-Bey at least $23.5 million, then joined the team for a light workout later that same afternoon.
On Monday, Oakland donned full pads but the results weren't what the offense had been hoping for. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell missed open receivers on a few throws, backup Jeff Garcia sat out with a strained calf muscle and Heyward-Bey had more drops than he did catches.
After practice, Cable pulled his young receiver to the side for a quick pep talk. At the end of the brief discussion, Cable patted Heyward-Bey on the back as the former Maryland star headed for the locker room to get treatment on the hamstring that sidelined him during the offseason.
"I wouldn't say I'm pressing, I'm just trying to work through the kinks," Heyward-Bey said. "That's football. It happens. They tell me all the time, 'Forget about that."'
Russell knows a thing or two about scrutiny and trying to do too much as a rookie. Drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in 2006, he missed all of training camp in a contract holdout and played sparingly his first season while the criticism increased each week.
Oakland's third-year quarterback said it's important for Heyward-Bey to not listen to what is being said or written about him.
"He's very anxious to succeed," Russell said. "I don't know anyone who's not going to be anxious to succeed, but I told him make it easy for yourself. Sometimes you jump for passes you don't have to. The ball's going to be in places where you expect it to be so just run through your routes and do what got you here. Those guys know you can catch so go out there and show them."
Heyward-Bey did make two nice grabs, hauling in a 20-yard completion from Russell on a crossing route. After catching the ball, Heyward-Bey quickly accelerated and split through a trio of defenders on his way to the end zone.
"I'm still thinking, because it's still fairly new, but I'm out there trying to run full speed, trying to show the coaches what I can do," Heyward-Bey said. "They want us to go out there, and run as fast as we can, come off the ball hard, and that's what I'm doing."
Still, Russell knows the questions about Heyward-Bey won't stop until the receiver starts making plays. He also hopes the rookie avoids the temptation to try to do too much too soon because of the growing criticism.
"At times there are because everybody is asking the question, 'What is he going to do?"' Russell said. "Hey, you've got to go out there and relax yourself and be poised just go out there and make plays. He's there to make 'em. Now he's just gotta go out there and do it."
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