HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Derek Carr remembers waking up in a panic, stressing the night before every practice. It’s been quite some time, the eight-year veteran said Thursday, since nerves and anxiety rattled him.
In fact, Carr is looking forward to a good night’s rest before what will arguably be the biggest opener of his career.
“Sunday night I’m trying to go to bed early,” said Carr, the only quarterback from the 2014 draft still playing with the team that selected him. “It used to be different. Now you know what to expect, you’ve played in front of fans before ... the feeling is so much different now where I just have this locked-in laser focus of what I need to do.”
The Raiders host the Baltimore Ravens in the first “Monday Night Football” game of the season, at Allegiant Stadium. And with the start of his eighth year comes the expectation of performing in what coach Jon Gruden has labeled an “all-or-nothing” campaign.
Considering the Raiders are 47-63 with Carr as a starter, that same label could also apply to him.
Las Vegas has had one winning campaign with Carr driving the bus, versus six losing seasons. Last year, after a promising 6-3 start, the Raiders ran out of gas and finished 8-8.
Carr is one of 89 quarterbacks to start 100 or more games during the Super Bowl-era (110) and joins Archie Manning (139 starts) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (146) as the only ones never to appear in the playoffs.
“There has been one demand and that’s holding up that Lombardi trophy - period,” said Carr, who comes into the season after career highs in yards passing (4,103) and passer rating (101.4). “That’s all I care about, is holding that trophy up, and holding that trophy up here. We’ve seen the three trophies every time we walk in (the team’s facility), and I stare at them all the time. I can’t imagine anything cooler than that in football.”
It’s not as if his production has fallen short of elite status.
Carr and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers are the only quarterbacks with three straight seasons throwing for at least 4,000 yards and 10 or fewer interceptions. His passing yardage has increased in each of the last four seasons, and last season he threw much deeper with his average pass traveling 7.8 yards downfield (14th-highest among qualifiers, per SportsInfo Solutions), up from a league-low 6.2 in 2019.
“Derek shows no signs of slowing down or regression in any way,” tight end Darren Waller said. “To see the consistency he has over time, that’s something I want to strive for, me going into my third year as a starter.”
Added center Andre James: “Derek is a great leader. I couldn’t imagine playing for another quarterback. He leads by example, just gets everyone fired up and ready to go. You want to play for dudes like that ... a real leader. He means what he says. I’ll go to war for dudes like that all day.”
Throughout training camp, Carr has showered praise across the roster - from his offensive line to his passing targets, to his running backs, to what he’s called a vastly improved defense - at one point saying he’s seen “championship level effort.”
Conversely, he’s vowed to make corrections to the flaws in his personal game.
Carr tied with Giants quarterback Daniel Jones for most fumbles last season (11), while he lost the most (8). Carr also leads the NFL with 31 fumbles lost since entering the league in 2014. His 17 turnovers in 2020 were tied for fourth-most in the NFL, and he said he’s studied game film to figure out when he was holding the ball too long, what patterns caused him to do so, and how he needed to make changes.
“It was good to have that film because now I think we’ll be better at, hopefully, limiting turnovers on those plays,” said Carr, who at 30 is the fourth-oldest starting quarterback in the AFC behind Ben Roethlisberger (38), Ryan Tannehill (33) and Tyrod Taylor (32). “I believe God gave me talents to be in this position. Anybody could be the quarterback here, but in my belief, he’s allowed me to be the quarterback here. And I’m gonna continue to give this thing everything that I have. I think that I’ve done that for seven years. I’m trying everything that I can - on the field, off the field, with eyes looking, without eyes looking - trying to do everything I can so that our fans and our organization can have that ultimate celebration.
“And what a celebration that would be here in Vegas, right?”
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