Raiders hopes remaining in Florida helps extend road success
SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) The Oakland Raiders will try to go 5-0 on the road for the first time since 1977 when they play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The team's mettle could be tested with back-to-back games in Florida, however the Raiders remained in the state to practice at IMG Academy in nearby Bradenton instead of returning to the West Coast after a 33-16 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars
Coach Jack Del Rio said the additional time in Florida has helped the team adjust to the conditions and stay focused on the task at hand.
''The biggest thing is not to have to fly back and forth,'' Del Rio said. ''As far as being here and acclimated I don't know that you're ever acclimated in the short time that we're here. We understand what we're up against. We've traveled to Tennessee before and played in similar conditions in terms of heat.''
Quarterback Derek Carr credits the team's business-like attitude and camaraderie to their success on the road. Noting that when the team arrived in Sarasota many of the players were already starting to study film together in their hotel rooms.
''Doesn't matter where we at we're family,'' Carr said. ''We could be here, in New York, doesn't matter. Our focus is on winning this football game. I could see it Monday and Tuesday night watching those guys and they are watching film in their rooms instead of being outside.''
The game will have special meaning to offensive lineman Donald Penn as he will play the Buccaneers for the first time since they released him in 2014. Penn spent eight seasons with Tampa Bay and made the Pro Bowl in 2010.
''It's going to be kind of weird,'' Penn said. ''I've never walked into Raymond James Stadium from the visitor side. It's going to be something new.''
Penn said is he doesn't want to make too much of his homecoming but said that he'll play with a chip on his shoulder against the team that let him go.
''It's very huge, you know me, I'm a straightforward guy,'' Penn said. ''(Being released) is definitely on my mind and something I'm never going to forget. Good thing is I'm happy where I am now. ''
Carr said Penn has been a great teammate and a major asset to the team. He doesn't expect Penn's return to Tampa to be a distraction as the game approaches.
''Donald's the best, he's like a big brother to me,'' Carr said. ''He wants to protect me more than anything. He gets mad if his guy's finger touches my jersey. For him to come back I'm sure he's excited. It's human nature. It's exciting, but once the game starts he's not thinking about it. He's just trying to play to the best of his ability.''
EDWARDS JOINS TEAM: DE Mario Edwards Jr. joined the Raiders in Sarasota on Thursday. Edwards has been on injured reserve since the start of the season with a hip injury. He was eligible to begin practicing with the team last week but Del Rio said Wednesday that Edwards had not been cleared yet. The 2015 second-round pick is eligible to play in Week 9 against the Denver Broncos.
JONES RETURNS TO PRACTICE: RB Taiwan Jones was a limited participant in practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with a knee injury.
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