ALAMEDA (AP) — TJ Carrie admits he was a little apprehensive when the Oakland Raiders coaches came to him last week to talk about playing safety.
With good reason.
Carrie hadn’t played the position since high school, lining up exclusively as a cornerback for his four years in college at Ohio as well as his first season-plus as a pro with the Raiders.
But with starter Nate Allen sidelined by a knee injury and more depth at cornerback than safety, the Raiders decided to move Carrie to safety last week. It paid off.
“You’re definitely going to be hesitant because you’re going into a zone you haven’t practiced and aren’t comfortable with as much,” Carrie said. “But being athletes that we are, you’re able to adjust to the situation and understand they wouldn’t have put you back there if they didn’t think you had the skill set to do it. The more and more I practiced it last week I got more comfortable and I was able to go out there and provide some plays.”
With Allen out at least until November with a knee injury, Carrie could be seeing more time at safety in the coming weeks. He has practiced with the safeties during the open portions of practice this week and could play there again on Sunday at Chicago.
Coach Jack Del Rio said the decision will depend in part on matchups but he was pleased with how Carrie fared his first shot at safety and is happy with the versatility it gives the defense.
“He’s a smart, tough football player,” Del Rio said. “He has good cover ability, solid tackler. It was an opportunity to get him involved and get some other people on the field as well.”
The Raiders struggled in the secondary after Allen got hurt early in the season opener against Cincinnati. Taylor Mays was signed off the street and started the next game against Baltimore only to get pulled at halftime for Larry Asante.
Mays did not play at all on defense the next game with Asante serving as a reserve. With Carrie moved to safety, Neiko Thorpe took over as a starting cornerback alongside DJ Hayden and recently signed David Amerson came on as a reserve.
Carrie enjoyed the move although there was an adjustment in terms of learning which angles to take, what players to key on and the need to focus on the entire field instead of a smaller slice as a cornerback.
Making the transition easier was the fact that the Raiders have a coach and player who successfully made the same move in their careers.
Assistant Rod Woodson came into the NFL as a cornerback and was an All-Pro five times at the position before switching to safety midway through his career. He made All-Pro at his new position and played in two Super Bowls, solidifying a Hall of Fame career.
Oakland safety Charles Woodson made a similar transition three years ago in Green Bay. After being a top-flight cornerback and winning AP Defensive Player of the Year as a cornerback in 2009, Charles Woodson moved to safety his final year in Green Bay in 2012 and stayed there for the past three years with the Raiders.
Both Woodsons and safety coach Marcus Robertson, an All-Pro at the position himself, gave Carrie plenty of helpful pointers.
“They all have a lot of experience playing in the back end,” Carrie said. “I’m able to pick their brains and understand what I need to be looking at, what angles I need to be taking, how far my depth needs to be, all the little intricacies of the position. I can go to them and ask and they’ve been very helpful with that.”
NOTES: Pass rusher Khalil Mack was limited in practice by a hip injury. There was no additional information. ... DE Justin Tuck (knee) and S Charles Woodson (shoulder) were back on a limited basis. ... RB Taiwan Jones (foot), CB Keith McGill (foot) and DT C.J. Wilson (calf) did not participate.