NAPA (AP) — Two long catches and a touchdown in his NFL exhibition debut earned Oakland Raiders receiver Brice Butler plenty of congratulatory messages from friends and family.
His response: Ignore it.
Because as a seventh-round pick with little college pedigree, Butler knows that he is just one bad practice or game from transforming from summertime revelation to struggling to make the 53-man roster.
“I don’t try to let it get to me,” Butler said. “It’s just one game. I just have to keep working. If I play terrible nobody will remember last week. I just have to keep working.”
That’s just the reaction coach Dennis Allen wants Butler to have, saying that he hoped Butler wouldn’t read all the glowing reviews from a game where he had an impressive 40-yard catch and run followed by a diving 30-yard touchdown catch on one attention-getting drive.
That kind of performance has vaulted Butler into the mix for a roster spot on a team still searching for dependable receiving options.
“Make no mistake about it; he’s been a nice surprise,” Allen said. “When you get a seventh-round draft pick like that who’s really developed, that’s a good thing to have. But at the same time, I don’t want him reading too much of his press clippings and start feeling too good about himself. He’s still a rookie. He still has a long way to go, but he’s off to a nice start.”
Butler knows firsthand how quickly a player’s position can change. A Super Prep All-American in high school in Georgia, Butler went to Southern California and had 20 catches his first year and was named to the Pac-10 all-freshman team.
But his playing time dwindled the next two years when he combined for just 21 catches and he ended up transferring to San Diego State for his senior year. He caught 24 passes for the Aztecs on a team that ranked 111th in the nation in pass attempts.
That journey is one reason why Butler is more focused on his mistakes from Friday night than his successes.
“I honestly don’t think I played that good,” he said. “Until those couple of plays on that one drive I didn’t feel good about my play at all. I definitely have to work on it. Watching tape there was a lot of stuff I can work on. ... I definitely just have to build on it.”
Butler has the advantage of getting some outside help from his father, Bobby, who played 12 years in the NFL as a cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons.
Bobby Butler can help his son on the intricacies of the NFL game from the perspective of someone who made a career stopping wide receivers.
“Defensively, he tells me what he sees when he watches me run routes or he watches me in the run game,” Brice Butler said. “Offensively, he tells me what I should do to trigger different things from the corner and stuff like that. He’s always been like that with me. When he realized I didn’t want to play corner he has always been there on the side helping.”
Butler is on a similar path to the one teammate Rod Streater followed last summer. Streater arrived as an undrafted free agent from Temple who had just 19 catches as a senior.
But he quickly caught the eyes of his coaches with his good hands and route-running and had 39 catches for 584 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. Streater now has a starting role a year after making the team out of nowhere and is dispensing advice to younger players like Butler.
“We talk about it all the time,” Streater said. “He was a blocking guy and had almost similar stats. We instantly connected. I told him, ‘You just got to work and when you’re on the field, college is done now. This is the NFL. You get a new chance.’”
NOTES: Rookie CB D.J. Hayden returned to practice after being out with a tweaked hamstring but has not been cleared for contact following offseason abdominal surgery. Hayden will not play Friday but is on schedule to be cleared for contact after that and could play Aug. 23 against Chicago. ... LB Sio Moore also returned to practice, while CB Tracy Porter left early with an injury and S Charles Woodson got a day off.