Except for a man on a tractor mowing the two and a half practice fields, all was quiet late last week at the Redwood Middle School site that the Oakland Raiders use for their summer training camp.

The tarp surrounding one side of the complex was up. The fieldhouse that is used daily by players, coaches, staff and other team personnel was locked. The gate leading from the Napa Valley Marriott to the fields was also locked.

The camp will come to life this week, with players arriving in Napa on Saturday and checking into the Marriott, their home for almost a full month. After physicals and administrative meetings on Sunday, first-year head coach Dennis Allen and his assistants will lead the Silver and Black through their first practice on July 30, from 8:50 to 11:35 a.m.

The Raiders will be practicing on Tiff 2 hybrid Bermuda grass fields that are cut at just under one inch in height.

The fields, which run north and south, have a beautiful look. The Raiders have Tom Howe, the lead grounds supervisor for the Napa Valley Unified School District, to thank. It’s Howe who maintains the Raider fields throughout the year, making them usable for school and community use, and for the Raiders.

“The more work you put into it, the better it is,” said Howe. “You get to see the results of what you’re doing. It’s been a lot of fun over the years. It’s really enjoyable.”

Howe has been in charge of caring for the Raider fields since the organization selected Napa for its camp. This year marks the Raiders’ 17th summer in Napa.

Situated on five acres, it’s one of the top facilities in the NFL. With the fields and hotel in such close proximity, players don’t have to walk far at all, whether to the meeting room, their hotel room or the fieldhouse. Weightlifting apparatus will soon be on the porch of the fieldhouse. The fields will soon be lined and blocking sleds, tackling dummies and other football equipment will be set up on the field, all ready to go for specific drills and workouts.

The Bermuda fields are in great shape and thrive in warm weather, said Howe.

“The hotter it gets, the better it is,” he said. “When we get our warmer days once the end of school comes, it just starts growing more and gets tougher.”

An arrangement between the Napa Valley Unified School District, city of Napa, Napa Valley Marriott and the Redwood Raiders Field Project Coalition has resulted in one of the NFL’s top facilities for summer camp.

The Raiders trained at the El Rancho Tropicana in Santa Rosa for 22 years (1963-1984) and also in Oxnard.

Allen and Reggie McKenzie, the Raiders’ general manager, were in town to tour the facilities in the late spring, said Howe.

The team will break camp on Aug. 23. After that, the fields are turned over to Redwood Middle School and are also used by the Napa Valley Soccer Club and Napa Youth Soccer League.

Clubs around the NFL will begin their on-field preparations for the 2012 season this week, starting with the Arizona Cardinals when their veterans and rookies report today. By Sunday, every NFL team will be in camp.

The Green Bay Packers are in their 55th year of training at Saint Norbert College in De Pere, Wis. The Minnesota Vikings are in their 47th year at Minnesota State in Mankato. The Pittsburgh Steelers are in their 47th year at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.

This year marks a new era for the Raiders. McKenzie was introduced as the team’s new GM at a press conference on Jan. 10. Allen was introduced as the team’s new head coach on Jan. 30.

McKenzie is entering his 26th year in the NFL and first with the Raiders in an executive capacity after 18 years as a member of Green Bay’s personnel department. McKenzie joined the Green Bay front office in 1994 and during his tenure the Packers captured eight division titles, three conference championships and won Super Bowls XXXI and XLV.

“Coach Allen is extremely bright, extremely intense,” McKenzie said on the team’s website, Raiders.com. “He’s focused on one thing and that’s what we are all focused on, and that is winning championships. That is our number one goal is winning championships.”

Before joining the Raiders, Allen was the Denver Broncos’ defensive coordinator last year. He was an assistant with the New Orleans Saints (2006-10) and Atlanta Falcons (2002-05).

“To take over such a historic program, be a part of that tradition there with the Raiders, is obviously exciting for all of us,” Allen said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to put our stamp on the program. It’s an exciting opportunity for all of us that are involved.

“I think with every great program in the National Football League, I think you really have to respect the history and tradition within the organization. The Oakland Raiders ... it’s one of the most storied franchises in all of sport, not just the NFL. We want to embrace those, embrace the past, and the history of the organization. But yet, we want to do it our way. Reggie and I are going to work together to do it the way we want to do it, and put the best team out on the field we can put out there.”

Having an identity is a big thing in football.

“Our deal is, we want to foster an organization that’s based on trust, honesty, integrity, doing the right things, doing it the right way,” said Allen. “Those are things that both Reggie and I believe in. That’s the way we’re going to run that organization. We’re going to do things the right way. We’re going to do things in a first-class manner. We’re going to build a team that’s going to be tough, smart, disciplined.”

(10) comments

Grits
Grits

Reasonator: Where are our kids playing on cement covered carpet? Details, man, details!

Topojojo
Topojojo

Did you know the Raiders are the only NFL team that doesn't allow their fans to watch daily practices? What is up with that?

Firewater
Firewater

Wow, You blame the Raiders for the grounds kept up..Did you ever think maybe they pay big for this.??.Like they have donated all the weight room equipment.
I agree all the Fields should be safe and kept up for our kids, but don't blame the Raiders..Blame our city officials.

mark1059
mark1059

If you don't like the fields your child is playing on do something about it.You decide who is on the school board,it is your voice that counts,tell them your childs safety is more importanty than saving money,show them the ststs on head injuries from grass to hard turf carpets,stand up for your child and make a difference,But do not come here and trash the NFL/RAIDERS because they put money into a practice field that the kids in that school district will enjoy for a long time.I am tired of all you tree huggers talking trash,DO SOMETHING BESIDES BEING A COMPLAINER,STAND UP AND LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD.

incognito
incognito

I thought they were paying a fee to use the fields!

Snake
Snake

The team will break camp on Aug. 23. After that, the fields are turned over to Redwood Middle School and are also used by the Napa Valley Soccer Club and Napa Youth Soccer League.
lets see Tom donates his time the raiders use it for 21days then are kids get to use it the rest of the Year am i not seeing something here there ?

reason-ator
reason-ator

Where OUR kids play football, they have concrete covered by a super-special rug.

But we can grow REAL grass for the Raiders.

Having seen what head injuries have done to some of our ex-students, I'm not very happy that the kids will fall backwards and bang their heads on the concrete, but the multi-million dollar professiona team doesn't get the carpet rolled out for the,. They get REAL grass.

And the schoold district is saving money by not having to maintain a grass football field ?

But, wait ! The school district IS maintaining a grass field. They're not saving money at all. They just don't think OUR kids are worth it.

But the multi-million dollar team is worth a safe football field. Just not OUR kids.

Napa Sty

mark1059
mark1059

get a life !!!!!!!!!!

lgs
lgs

Raiders pay for it.

WHY
WHY

That field looks beauitful. Hard work does pay off. Is it possible to get the same hard work and dedication as Tom on the other facilities in Napa to keep them looking as great as this one. One that comes to mind are the soccer,baseball and football fields that the district spent a couple Million on out at Silverado I think 3 years ago. The grass looks dead and is 6-7 inches high all the time.

Tom great job on Redwood. Maybe they should dedicate a person for each field in Napa so they can be held accountable and will take pride in keeping their specific field in the best shape possible.

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