ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Derek Carr will most definitely spend Thursday night on the sideline, wearing no pads and cheering his Oakland Raiders teammates on in the final exhibition game.
As the franchise quarterback, Carr is too important a piece to risk to injury in an exhibition game against Seattle just 10 days before the start of the real season.
But don't tell Carr these games are meaningless.
It was his performance in the final exhibition game as a second-round draft pick three years ago that solidified his place as the starting quarterback in Oakland. He never relinquished it after that and now after three successful seasons he has the NFL's second-richest contract.
''It was fun when I got to play a lot of it my rookie year,'' Carr said. ''That's an opportunity for a lot of guys to make the team, make a name for themselves. Obviously, they get more playing time because we don't play as much as the starters. It's always exciting. Some people just look over the fourth game, but it's really important to some people. Obviously, it was really important for my career.''
Carr's performance that night was impressive. He led a touchdown drive to open the game against the starting defense for defending Super Bowl champion Seattle.
He challenged Richard Sherman repeatedly on the opening drive that ended in a touchdown run by Latavius Murray. He then threw TD passes on successive one-play drives and ended his night with his third touchdown to Denarius Moore.
Three days later, coach Dennis Allen told him he beat out veteran Matt Schaub for the starting job.
Carr has shared that story with some of the younger Raiders fighting for roster spots or starting jobs this year.
''A lot of them are stressing out right about now just trying to make the team,'' he said. ''So, I know that feeling because they gave me a chance to start the last game my rookie year and there was going to be a lot told based on how I played. So I just encourage these guys to make the most of it, study their tails off and, most importantly, just go out there and have fun because you can't control a lot of things. But you can control having fun and your effort and those things.''
After returning most of the key players from a 12-win team last season, there aren't many starting spots available on the Raiders. But the team is still looking to determine who will be the two starting linebackers alongside Bruce Irvin, find a rotation of defensive tackles and figure out a secondary that has struggled this preseason.
Defensive end James Cowser was let go on cutdown day as a rookie last year before making the practice squad and then getting promoted to play six games late in the season. He said he is less worried about the numbers game on the roster this year.
''It's been a goal of mine going into the season to just forget about the depth chart, forget about where I stand and just go out and be the best me and try to get better every single day,'' he said. ''I focus on three skills where I can get better and the best way to do that is to get a lot of reps. My focus is to see if I can be the best me and that's how I'm going to be the happiest and the best player on the field.''
This game also could be crucial for a player like Tyrell Adams, who has been challenging rookie Marquel Lee for the starting middle linebacker job. Adams also was cut as a rookie after the fourth exhibition game a year ago for Seattle but then signed with Kansas City's practice squad before joining the Raiders as a special teams player late in the season.
The former Division II linebacker is pleased with the progress he has made and wants to make the most of this last impression.
''It's kind of just like keep it in the moment, take it one day at a time and not trying to make one moment bigger than the next,'' Adams said. ''Just trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get.''
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