NAPA Not long after Darren McFadden removes his shoulder pads Friday night and takes the rest of the evening off, the true meaning of preseason football will be on display for a half-full stadium.
That's when Raiders players such as second-year running back Jeremy Stewart and rookie Deonte' Williams get the chance for moments they'll remember for the rest of their lives in a game that will be long forgotten by most anyone else.
Both players got their share of work Tuesday in training camp, with Stewart turning heads with a one-handed touchdown catch on a pass from quarterback Matt Flynn.
Williams has at times gained steady yards through the middle and is hopeful of producing as he has at every stop in his amateur football career when the lights go on at O.co Coliseum against the Dallas Cowboys.
"I think it's huge for a number of young guys to get into these preseason games," coach Dennis Allen said. "This is where you really prove that you're worthy of a spot on this roster. I think next month will break a lot of these guys."
McFadden and Rashad Jennings have gotten most of the training camp work, but chances are that McFadden's value is such that his preseason carries will lag behind the backs battling for spots on the roster.
Stewart, signed to the Raiders' practice squad last season after being released by the New York Jets, was elevated to the 53-man roster when McFadden injured an ankle. The former Stanford running back, in spot duty with Marcel Reece as the lead back, gained 101 yards on 25 carries in four games and caught eight passes for 62 yards.
"Every player going into the league feels like he can play, but I definitely feel like I validated it," Stewart said. "I think I got into the groove and got the hang of the speed of the game. I feel like I have a lot more confidence going into this season and want to build on that."
Stewart, 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, and Williams, 5-10, 213, are both scheme fits in terms of backs who prefer forging ahead to lateral movement.
At Cal Poly, Williams gained 1,547 yards and scored 12 touchdowns as a senior. He gained 1,037 yards at Sierra College, 950 yards at Northern Arizona and 2,447 yards as a prep star at Pleasant Grove High.
An NFL rule that prohibited Williams from attending organized team activities or the mandatory minicamp because his college class had not graduated he was the only player on the roster affected put him behind entering camp.
"That was probably one of the hardest things I ever had to deal with, knowing I had teammates out there and everyone was able to display their talents," Williams said. "I knew I had a lot of catching up to do, so I've had to put in overtime."
Rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden strained a hamstring during practice, left briefly and then returned for some more snaps. Allen ruled Hayden out of the game against the Cowboys.
"We'll re-evaluate where we are with him after that," Allen said.
Also ruled out were linebackers Kaluka Maiava and Miles Burris. Allen said he hoped to have more information about defensive tackle Pat Sims today. Sims has not participated in any of the Raiders' 10 training camp practices and, like Burris, is on the active physically unable to perform list.
With cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter out for the second straight day, Chimdi Chekwa again ran with the first team and impressed Allen.
"Chimdi's probably one of the most improved players on our team right now," Allen said. "He's earned the right to be in the mix. I'm anxious to see him go out and play preseason games and see where he's at."
Defensive tackle Stacy McGee returned to practice, and with the addition of free agent Ryan Baker, it gave the Raiders nine defensive linemen for the padded session. McGee looked fast during one-on-one drills in which he got the better of veteran center Stefen Wisniewski.