Criner looking for consistency in rookie NFL campaign
June 27, 2012, 11:40 am
Programming note: Tune in to SportsNet Central tonight at 6, 10:30 p.m and midnight for a deeper look at Raiders rookie receiver Juron Criner, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!
The breakout rookie of the Raiders' draft class in the team's offseason training programs (at least, in the portions open to the media)?
Receiver Juron Criner, who is the focus of Wednesday's "Meet The Rookies" feature on CSN Bay Area's SportsNet Central.
"The kid can catch," said Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. "Catch everything. He looks good…to me from where I'm standing. I'm not a coach, but looks good."
In fact, he looked like another fifth-round steal, a la last year's fifth-round draft pick in Denarius Moore.
"He has a thing for the ball once the ball's in the air," Moore observed. "That's what we like about him."
Criner is not as flashy as Moore and not as fast as Heyward-Bey. But he is a big body with sure hands (at least in OTAs and minicamp), whether he was outleaping Tyvon Branch and DeMarcus Van Dyke for a 50-yard touchdown bomb from Carson Palmer, or adjusting mid-slant route for a Matt Leinart pass thrown slightly behind him or pulling down a Terrelle Pryor bullet in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard TD.
"Once you can just go play and let your natural ability to take over," Criner said following his first OTA practice, "that's when it starts to come out."
At 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, the Las Vegas native by way of the University of Arizona is the possession receiver and red-zone threat the Raiders envisioned with Chaz Schilens for years, and T.J. Houshmanzadeh for months.
Palmer, who is entering his 10th NFL season, has had more the a few words of encouragement for the rookie.
"He’s just been bringing me along," Criner said of Palmer. "He’s been around for a while, and he said he’s seen plenty of young players that will show up, that think they arrived but then they start to fade out. He was telling me I need to have that consistency day in and day out.
"It’s unbelievable because you can learn so much from him. Anything that a guy like that tells you, you got to take it and apply it right away."
Ironically, Criner's relative lack of straight line speed -- he ran a pedestrian 4.68-second 40-yard dash at the Combine -- would have turned off the Raiders' old regime. But these are new days in Silver and Blackdom.
"I would say I fit in great," Criner said. "All the guys are great. They're all cool guys. They're very good receivers. I just try to watch what they do, learn from them, take the advice that they give me and try to make myself the best receiver I can be."
Still, Criner is one of the Raiders' two draft picks still unsigned (third-rounder Tony Bergstrom is the other).
Per documents obtained by CSNCalifornia.com, the first-year allotment for Criner, who was a fifth-round supplemental pick, is $426,140, with a first-year minimum allotment of $422,140. He can expect to have non-guaranteed base salaries of $390,000, $480,000, $570,000 and $660,000 on his four-year contract with a maximum signing bonus of $144,560.
John Madden:They've got a ways to go. He was playing the game without a full deck. To be honest, they don’t have enough players. The cupboard was pretty bare. It would have been tough to do much more than what they did. If he’s going to do well, they gotta get a lot more … some teams need a quarterback or a running back, or a pass rusher … . The Raiders need a whole barrel of guys!
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We have a month to sign these guys and are looking to add others players. We have no OTA or Mini Camps between now and July 26th which is the start of Training Camp. We never signed all of our guys until the day or so before camp. Relax. Breathe deep . There is no negotiations involved really since there is a set salary for rookies.
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