NAPA (AP) — Oakland Raiders’ rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper arrived for the start of training camp looking to make up for lost time.
The fourth overall pick in the draft, Cooper didn’t get much practice time with second-year quarterback Derek Carr in the offseason because of a finger injury that prevented Carr from throwing much.
Both players did spend a few days outside of the minicamps and OTAs playing catch. But Cooper did not attend an extended voluntary workout when Carr invited the rest of Oakland’s wide receivers and tight ends to practice together away from the team’s facilities.
Now that training camp is starting, Cooper says getting a better rhythm with his quarterback is a critical step as the Raiders try to get back into the postseason for the first time since 2002.
“We’re just going to take it day by day and try to build each day,” Cooper said Thursday after checking in at the team hotel near the heart of the wine country. “I’m just going to take it day by day, try to get better each day and take advantage of every moment while I’m out there on the field.”
The Raiders had just one wide receiver, James Jones, catch more than 47 passes in 2014. Jones was released in May, two days before Cooper inked a $22.6 million, four-year contract.
General manager Reggie McKenzie and new coach Jack Del Rio made it an emphasis to upgrade the unit in the offseason.
In addition to drafting Cooper, Oakland signed free agent Michael Crabtree to a one-year contract. The Raiders should also benefit from the return of Rod Streater after he missed most of last season with a foot injury.
Cooper, however, is expected to be the centerpiece of the receiving corps.
Projected to be Oakland’s No. 1 receiver from the moment he was drafted, the former Alabama star went home after the Raiders’ final minicamp and worked out with several of former teammates and coaches.
While there, Cooper picked up a few words of advice from Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.
“I talked to him a little bit,” Cooper said. “He was telling how different the NFL is from college football. He was just telling me to stay the same player and same person I am.”
Asked about expectations that come with being a first-round pick, Cooper simply smiled.
“I don’t really feel any pressure to deliver at all,” he said.
Cooper was among a handful of players who arrived early in the morning. Players were put through a conditioning test, with the first full workout scheduled for Friday morning.
TJ Carrie, expected to push for one of the two open starting cornerback jobs, showed up on a charter bus and sounded anxious for the practices to begin.
A seventh-round draft pick a year ago, Carrie sounded optimistic when talking about Oakland’s prospects, but said it’s imperative that the team’s younger players make a big impact.
“The expectation for them is just as high as the veterans,” Carrie said. “The past draft classes have become more mature in their roles. The veterans are only going to continue to help us, and we definitely lean on them with their knowledge and expertise. It takes all of us as a whole to accomplish the goal that we want to accomplish.”