ALAMEDA — Donald Penn is back, but only time will tell if all is right with the Raiders world.
Penn practiced for the second time Thursday after ending his 26-day contract holdout. There is no indication the Raiders have increased Penn’s salary from his scheduled $5.8 million.
Following practice, Penn had a brief conversation with coach Jack Del Rio as they walked off the field, and the two exchanged a few words and a fist bump before the Raiders coach addressed the media.
“I don’t get too emotionally wrapped up in that kind of stuff,” Del Rio said. “I just coach the guys that are here. He’s back. Glad to have him back and going to work.”
Penn may even get a few reps against the Dallas Cowboys Saturday night to see where he’s at physically.
“There’s a difference between game conditioning and football conditioning and being in shape,” Del Rio said. “He’s in shape. He’s a veteran guy. He understands what he needs to do. So physically, he’s in condition now. It’s a matter of him going through the timing and getting his body in sync with the demands of what we do.
“We’ll ease him in, give him a little bit this weekend.”
Penn, through a media relations spokesman, declined comment. It’s a minor surprise in that Penn was last year’s Craig Long Award winner for professionalism and cooperation with the media.
On the other hand, the old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” may also be at work assuming he’s counting on the Raiders putting something extra in to the pot.
The veteran left tackle has reason to feel slighted, given his performance last season and with the kind of money the Raiders were throwing around elsewhere to quarterback Derek Carr (five years, $125 million) and guard Gabe Jackson (five years, $56 million).
Carr and Jackson, of course, are ascending players who were coming up on contract years. Penn, 34, also had one year left on his contract. The difference is it will likely be his final contract, and the NFL as a whole seldom rewards non-quarterbacks with big money once they get into their 30s.
Michael Silver of NFL Media reported on Twitter Penn had received “vague assurances” from McKenzie something would be done with his contract.
Penn is eligible to be fined more than a $1 million for missed practices and two missed exhibition games, although McKenzie said in late July he wasn’t interested in fining Penn.
Those fines, of course, could be factored in to any contract adjustment.
Given that Penn was under contract, the Raiders weren’t going to greet him with flowers and balloons, and when Del Rio was asked what it meant to get back his left tackle, he said, “It means we have more depth.”
This past off-season, Del Rio had his contract torn up and was given a considerable pay bump from Mark Davis because he had outperformed his original contract.
The bottom line?
The Raiders held the line as most NFL teams do with older players and Penn got to miss training camp, possibly without facing any financial ramifications on his existing salary. McKenzie knew Penn wasn’t going to forfeit any weekly game checks of more than $340,000.
Penn felt so strongly he withheld his services for nearly a month, so rest assured if the Raiders don’t come through with more money, there will be some bitterness.
That feeling, however, would be not be directed at his teammates, and is unlikely to affect Penn’s performance. That’s something McKenzie and upper management can probably live with, and is the way of life in the NFL where in terms of salary the way of life is “Get it while you’re young.”
— Safety Obi Melifonwu could get his first game action against Dallas and cornerback Gareon Conley was spotted after practice working with two members of the athletic training staff. He was planting and cutting and may be nearing the practice field with a shin injury that dates back more than two months.
“He’s been real in-tune to everything,” cornerback David Amerson said of Conley. “Always taking notes, asking questions, paying attention outside on the practice field. I’ve told him and a couple of older guys have told him to stay in-tune. Control what you can control. Physically, you’re hurt right now but mentally, you’ve got to be locked in and getting the mental reps to be prepared. He’s doing all the right things. I think as far as what he can do right now, he’s doing a great job.”
— Tight end Lee Smith missed practice for the third straight day with an undisclosed injury and is unlikely to play.
— The final pre-Dallas practice was in a regular-season _”Fast Friday” format, finishing up in less than 90 minutes.
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