Raiders' Walford hoping injury-filled past is behind him
NAPA, Calif. (AP) Raiders tight end Clive Walford had the type of offseason that makes coaches cringe and smile.
Walford suffered a knee injury while riding an ATV, and while the accident wasn't serious, it was enough to keep the 2015 third-round draft pick out of all of Oakland's OTAs and minicamps.
On the other hand, Walford healed up enough to spend time with quarterback Derek Carr for private workouts, making up for the lost time and giving Walford a head start going into training camp.
Walford showed how critical that was to his development when he made a one-handed catch on a deep throw from Carr during individual drills Wednesday.
''You'll see him every day we come out to warm up, as soon as he comes out he comes straight to me and wants to catch from me,'' Carr said. ''That's the kind of things that we need and that's how he is.''
Walford is trying to make it through the preseason without a setback after missing large chunks of training camp during his rookie season because of hamstring and knee injuries.
The injuries prevented Walford from practicing and were a major factor in his slow start. A holder of numerous tight end records at the University of Miami, Walford caught only three passes in the Raiders' first five games a year ago and finished with 28 receptions for 329 yards and three touchdowns.
Part of that was due to Oakland's revolving door at tight end in 2015. Mychal Rivera caught 32 passes as the primary receiving tight end while Lee Smith was used primarily as an extra blocker.
Although it's possible the Raiders might still keep three tight ends for the upcoming season, it's equally likely they'll go with two.
Walford figures to be atop the depth chart no matter how many tight ends Oakland keeps. He is a better blocker than Rivera, a better receiver than Smith and has the size (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) to be a match-up problem against opposing linebackers and safeties.
''I just continue to do what I've been doing, working hard ever since I was at Miami,'' Walford said. ''If you work hard it'll start to show. I guess that's what it's doing.''
The Raiders weren't happy when news broke of Walford's injury while riding the ATV. Walford said he hit an unexpected bump on the trail and tumbled off.
''Believe it or not, when the accident first happened I didn't realize how serious it was until I got to the hospital,'' Walford said. ''I thought maybe I just needed some stitches. They told me I was going to be out for a while, so I had to inform the team.''
Although he was unable to take part in on-field workouts while recovering, Walford stayed busy in the meeting rooms and weight room. Catching passes from Carr away from practices also helped make up for the lost time.
''The chemistry is still there,'' Walford said. ''I just have to get back into football shape.''
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said Walford's desire to work out with Carr on the side was encouraging.
''When you take the time to get on the same page with your quarterback, if you're somebody that's going to catch the ball and be involved in the offense, that's a positive thing,'' Del Rio said. ''That's a great sign for our football team. We see him as a real key player in our offense. Glad to have him back doing his thing.''
Notes: Undrafted defensive lineman Greg Townsend Jr. returned to practice. ... Owner Mark Davis will fly Friday to Canton, Ohio, along with his mother for the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies for the late Ken Stabler.
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