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Raiders embrace playing ‘home game’ in Mexico City

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Amari Cooper said the Oakland Raiders’ game in Mexico City last year was a hostile, fun environment. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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ALAMEDA — As the Oakland Raiders prepare to return to Estadio Azteca — the site of last year’s 14-point, fourth-quarter comeback over the Houston Texans — Derek Carr isn’t sweating the fact the club is losing a date at the Coliseum.

“We love our fans down in Mexico,” Carr said at Raiders headquarters on Wednesday. “We love playing in front of them because Raider Nation is everywhere. So, it’ll definitely be a home game, that’s for sure.”

Carr, who delivered a pair of touchdown strikes in the final quarter, turning a 20-13 deficit into a 27-20 win, expects an electric ambiance in Mexico City.

“It felt like a big-time home game,” Carr said. “The atmosphere is, as I’ve been told, a playoff atmosphere. It’s loud. There’s a hum. There’s a buzz throughout the game, offense or defense — especially when we’re on defense it gets really loud.”

Last year, the game sold out in minutes. The announced attendance was 76,473.

“It was real hostile,” Amari Cooper recalled. “A lot of people. The most fans that we’ll have at a game and it was fun.”

‘That’s for the doctors to determine’

Addressing reporters for the first time since rookie Gareon Conley went to injured reserve, bringing an early end to the No. 24 pick’s season, Jack Del Rio explained the thought process behind the transaction.

“We tried to give him time to see if we’d have a shot to get him back half of this year,” Del Rio said. “It’s just not going to happen. So, we’ll look for him to heal and mend and be ready to help us next year.”

Conley appeared in just a pair of games, recording five tackles, owing to a shin injury that the Raiders have left shrouded in mystery, dating back to the summer. Asked directly if Conley will need surgery, Del Rio equivocated.

“That’s for the doctors to determine,” Del Rio said. “I’m just coaching the guys that we have. But we really hope we can get him [back]. He’s going to be a really good player in this league, I believe.

‘I didn’t know it was happening’

While Raiders owner Mark Davis, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and silver and black luminaries Howie Long, Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Plunkett, Tom Flores and Cliff Branch were headlining the team’s Las Vegas stadium groundbreaking on Monday night, Carr was unaware the ceremony was even going on.

“To be honest, I didn’t know it was happening until I saw it pop up on the phone,” Carr said. “I was like, ‘Oh, sick. They did it.’ So, I was not paying attention.”

Obi the Pat

Raiders rookie Obi Melifonwu, who played high school football in Grafton, Mass., is set to face the club he grew up supporting.

“That was the team I definitely cheered for,” Melifonwu said. “So, it’s an exciting opportunity to get to play against them.”

The hybrid safety/linebacker dodged when asked if the infamous tuck rule was a fumble or an incomplete pass.

“I have no clue what it was,” Melifonwu said.

kbuscheck@sfexaminer.com

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