The Raiders will conduct their first full workout in Napa today, and Balls can’t think of a player who will arrive with more hype than wide receiver Amari Cooper even before his first NFL game.
Raiders die-hards have visions of greatness, sort of like Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikoff rolled into one. Why, no less an authority than Tim Brown practically has the 21-year-old headed to the Hall of Fame already, for goshsakes.
“I don’t really feel any pressure to deliver at all,” Cooper said Thursday.
Don’t worry, kid. If those “Coooops!” turn into “Booooos!” you’ll want to take the next train back to Alabama, not that many believe that will happen.
Before Cooper heads to Canton, Ohio, though, he’ll have to get on the same page with David Carr, his quarterback. Other than play catch at the OTAs, the two didn’t practice much in the offseason. Cooper was a no-show at an extended voluntary workout, which the quarterback called for the wide receivers and tight ends away from the team facilities.
“We’re just going to take it day by day and try to build each day,” Cooper said. “I’m just going to take it day by day, try to get better each day and take advantage of every moment while I’m out there on the field.”
The same can be said of veteran Michael Crabtree, who’s on a one-year contract. The return of Rod Streater after a foot injury won’t hurt the air game, either. But let’s be honest — the Raiders didn’t invest the fourth pick in the draft on a second or third option. Cooper has to be the go-to guy, and ready or not, he’ll be expected to do it soon.
PAC ANIMALS: Pac-12 football is “insane,” David Shaw says.
The Stanford coach didn’t mean certifiably nuts. He meant crazy good.
In the preseason media poll that was released on Thursday, Stanford was picked to finish second in the North Division, one place ahead of Cal.
Southern California was selected to win its first conference title in seven years, but the South favorite was hardly a consensus choice. Five teams received votes as the conference champion.
“You know everybody is going to be better than they were a year ago,” Shaw said. “It’s going to be an insane year in our conference with the teams we have and the players we have.”
While Stanford will return Kevin Hogan at quarterback, division favorite Oregon will have to replace Marcus Mariota, the last Heisman Trophy winner. USC also will have an experienced signal-caller in Cody Kessler, a three-year starter.
MR. EXCITEMENT: Former Athletics slugger Jose Canseco will show his support for transgender Caitlyn Jenner by living as a female for seven days, but you know and Balls knows there has to be a method to his madness.
Sure enough, Canseco will promote the week on his upcoming Internet show “Spend a Day With Jose.” The fact that the E! reality series “I Am Cait” premiered to 2.732 million total viewers this month didn’t give him any ideas, did it?
“Once it’s completely done, I will be dressing up and living as a woman for a week,” Canseco told the New York Daily News. “I’m talking about full everything.
“In the very beginning, I didn’t understand [Jenner’s decision], so I was kind of like against it. Once I watched it more and more, and realized what it really entailed, what he was going through, I started supporting him.”
Or her as the case may be.
GOT ONE RIGHT: This week the Baseball Writers Association of America announced stricter requirements for potential Hall of Fame voters, and as a longtime member, Balls can tell you the decision was only a few decades overdue.
In the future, members will be required to hold an active BBWAA card or had one in the last 10 years. That means the hangers-on who haven’t attended a Major League game in years and can’t tell Madison Bumgarner from Ross Baumgarten will have a vote no longer.
THE LIST: Results of the Pac-12 North Division preseason football poll (first-place votes in parentheses):
1. Oregon (37)
2. Stanford (8)
5. Washington State
6. Oregon State