As Derek Carr recovered from his football-related leg injury over the past few months, he found himself gauging progress in more universal terms.
“The best part was getting off the crutches, because then I could be a human again,” the Raiders quarterback said. “Just picking my kids up and taking them to their room – little things like that made me appreciate what I have so much more, as if I didn’t already.”
With the Raiders convening at team headquarters for the start of their offseason workout program Monday, Carr provided an update on his improvement from the broken right fibula that abruptly ended his season last Dec. 24 and doomed the Raiders in the playoffs.
“I feel great,” he said. “I’ve been running, jumping, throwing, cutting, everything. I’m ready to rock.”
Carr was an MVP candidate when he went down late in the fourth quarter of a Week 16 win over Indianapolis. In retrospect, he is “truly blessed that it wasn’t worse.” After weeks spent in a walking boot and regaining strength and movement in his lower leg, Carr was a full participant in the team’s conditioning session Monday.
He watched plenty change for the Raiders over that time. They parted ways with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave despite finishing second in the AFC last season in points and total yards per game, promoting quarterbacks coach Todd Downing to replace him. Carr threw for 3,397 yards and 28 touchdowns in Musgrave’s offense last season.
Last month, Carr watched as NFL owners voted 31-1 to approve the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas by 2020. Knowing the team will play at least one more season in Oakland, Carr released a statement immediately that expressed his feelings on being torn between two homes, future and present, a tone he again struck Monday.
“For me, I really had to concentrate on, in all honesty, it doesn’t matter yet,” Carr said. “It’s something that’s coming, it’s big news, it’s exciting for our organization and fans that are Raider fans in Nevada. But at the same time, we have our fans here that we need to take care of.
“To take care of our fans here, make sure we enjoy our last times – what is it, two years, three years, who knows? But that’s my focus is to make sure I’m giving everything to this city that I can.”
While the rate of NFL roster turnover means many current Raiders likely won’t be part of the move to Las Vegas, Carr figures to be a main attraction. In his three NFL seasons, the 26-year-old has helped lead the franchise’s resurgence from an 0-10 start his rookie year to 12-4 and the team’s first playoff appearance in 14 years last season. And he should soon reap the rewards of that improvement.
Carr is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and the Raiders have made extending their franchise quarterback a priority for this offseason. Carr said his agent, Tim Younger, and Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie have been “talking about this for months,” laying a foundation for what should be a substantial contract.
“It’s been easy,” Carr said. “Reggie sat down and talked to me. It’s not like some divide or anything. We’re a family, so we’re just trying to figure all that out.
“Reggie said he wanted to do it after the draft. They’ve been talking a little bit to build it. I’ll let them handle it. Hopefully it just gets done before training camp, ’cause once training camp starts I won’t even answer my phone if it has to do with that.”
At that point, Carr will be immersed on the field, having put an eventful offseason behind him. Earlier this month, Carr made a foray into Las Vegas as a presenter at the Academy of Country Music Awards. He tested his leg by playing pool basketball against linebacker Khalil Mack (“I held him to no points,” Carr said, grinning).
He even dabbled as a recruiter on the day Marshawn Lynch visited Raiders headquarters. Lynch, the former Seahawks running back, is widely expected to come out of retirement to play for his hometown team. Carr said he would welcome the addition.
“He’s one heck of a football player, and I hope to play with him,” Carr said. “But again, I’m focused on the guys that are here today.
“Anybody would say, ‘Add a good player to our team, absolutely.’ Cause as we’ve seen, it can go like that for somebody, so you always need more good players. But with that said, I’m focused on who’s here. I want to take this group and win the Super Bowl with this group that’s here. And then as we add pieces we’ll hug ’em up and bring them in just as a family, and treat them the same way we do all of our other teammates.”