The Oakland Raiders will very likely keep Derek Carr in bubble wrap Thursday night in the preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks.
Sure, the Raiders will allow their franchise savior to hang on the sideline. But after seeing Carr — who broke his ankle in Week 16 — show he is healthy and still his excellent self in the second and third preseason games, Raiders’ coach Jack Del Rio will keep him on the sideline. The next time the Raiders want to see Carr on the field is in 11 days in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans.
While the always-spunky Carr said this week he’d love to play against the Seahawks, he is going to have to wait for his showdown with Marcus Mariota in Week 1 of the regular season. Week 4 of the preseason is forever a thing of the past for Carr.
That doesn’t mean the fourth preseason game is not an important part of the Derek Carr story. Actually, his career was made in Week 4 three Augusts ago.
As Carr watches the Raiders’ backups against the Seahawks, he will surely think back to one of the most important night in his football life. On the same field, against the same team, on Aug. 28, 2014, the fortune of the Oakland Raiders forever changed.
They found their franchise quarterback.
Carr shredded the Seahawks defense, which featured many starters to begin the game. Sure, the Seahawks didn’t care much. But that wasn’t the point. Carr, a second-round pick from Fresno State, took the Raiders’ offense. Carr completed 11 of 13 pass attempts for 143 yards and three touchdown passes in a 41-31 win over the defending Super Bowl champions.
Seattle coaches and personnel were buzzing about the Raiders’ rookie that night. He played with the command and confidence of a five-year starter. He brought life to a woebegone team. There was excitement in Oakland.
Carr gave then-Raiders coach Dennis Allen an excuse at quarterback. Carr wasn’t overly impressive earlier in the preseason and the plan was to ease him into his NFL career. But veteran Matt Schaub, who the Raiders traded for to be the starter, was awful in the preseason and training camp. Plus, he had a bit of a sore arm. It was all the Raiders needed to insert Carr in the lineup.
It would have never happened if Carr didn’t have his Week 4 preseason success. He knows it.
“Some people just look over the fourth game, but it’s important to some people,” Carr said this week. “Obviously, it was really important for my career.”
After his breakout performance against Seattle, Carr didn’t think he would overtake Schaub. He thought he just had a good night. But the Raiders knew they had nothing to lose. A week before the Raiders started the season in New Jersey against the Jets, then-Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson texted Carr to come to the team’s facility to talk to Allen. Fresh out of church, Carr didn’t think he was going to be told he was starting – he thought he was traded by the team that took him with the No. 36 overall draft pick just a few months before.
“I thought, ‘Oh man, they traded me.’ I promise when I drove here I thought I was traded,” Carr said. “I really thought that. I thought, ‘I played well, somebody wanted me,’ and then I showed up, he told me that day that I was going to be that starter, asked me if I was ready and I said, ‘Yeah I’m ready.’’’
Carr never looked back. He started every game until the final two games of last season because of his injury. Carr had his growing pains as a rookie, of course. But he has steadily improved. He is the reason why the Raiders should be a real Super Bowl contender for the foreseeable future.
Earlier this summer, the Raiders rewarded their former Week 4 preseason hero with a five-year, $125 million contract extension. Until Detroit’s Matthew Stafford surpassed the deal, Carr was the highest paid player in the NFL for a couple of months.
Not bad for a guy who started the final preseason game just three years ago. Carr uses his own experience to inspire current Raiders, whose future may depend on Thursday night’s game.
“A lot of them are stressing out right about now just trying to make the team,” Carr 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.”