ALAMEDA (AP) — Darrius Heyward-Bey was quick to introduce himself to new Raiders teammate Carson Palmer and was among a handful of wide receivers who joined the quarterback for additional throwing following Palmer’s first practice with Oakland this week.
Call it an investment in the future — for the Raiders, Palmer and Heyward-Bey.
With Jason Campbell possibly done for the year due to a fractured collarbone, Heyward-Bey is trying to get comfortable with the player many expect to take over as Oakland’s starter.
That could take some time considering Palmer hasn’t played in a game since the end of last season and was sitting at home unofficially retired when he was traded to the Raiders by the Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday.
Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 draft, is trying to expedite the process.
“It was very important,” Heyward-Bey said Thursday. “He wants to throw, we need to throw, we need to get the chemistry going so we stayed after. We stayed after with Jason, we stayed after with Kyle (Boller) so we stayed after with Carson just to get better.”
Two days after acquiring Palmer from the Bengals in exchange for a first-round pick in 2012 and a second-rounder in 2013 that could become another first, coach Hue Jackson continued to deflect questions about who his starter will be.
Palmer, Boller and Terrelle Pryor continued to share reps in practice, though in likelihood the decision will come down to Boller or Palmer.
“I ain’t telling anybody anything so you guys can all stop (asking) now,” Jackson said. “Everybody’s an option. I mean, I could use Jacoby Ford back there if I had to. We have all kinds of different packages we could use. Anything and everything is up and available right now.”
That list won’t include Heyward-Bey. Following two mostly disappointing seasons, Oakland’s first-round pick in the 2009 draft is off to the best start of his career and is more concerned with catching passes than throwing them.
Heyward-Bey leads the Raiders in receptions, is among the NFL’s leaders in receiving average and is on pace to have the most catches by an Oakland wide receiver since 2006.
He had a career-best seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown in the Raiders’ win over Houston two weeks ago then followed it up with a six-catch, 91-yard day in a 24-17 victory over Cleveland last Sunday.
That’s a monumental step for a receiver who had just 35 career receptions coming into the year.
Heyward-Bey’s 22 catches are nine more than any other receiver on Oakland’s roster, while his 15.7 per-catch average is 10th overall in the NFL among players with 20 receptions or more.
“I don’t look at it like, ‘Oh, I’m more comfortable, it’s crazy, I feel different,”‘ Heyward-Bey said. “I just go out there and do what I’m supposed to. I’m having fun out there in practice and then it transitions over to the game. I’m not making a big deal out of it.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)