In the end, Donald Penn returned to the Oakland Raiders for his teammates.
Simply put, he missed them, and they in turn missed him just as much.
“I came back for my teammates, for my teammates and my coaches,” said Penn following the Raiders 24-20 loss to the Cowboys Saturday night. “We got a good thing going. I knew Week 3, I needed to get myself ready for Week 1. That was in my head. At the end of the day, I have to make sure I’m going to be the best Donald Penn on Sundays for my teammates. That’s why I made the decision to come back, because I had to make sure I could be the best “DP” when it comes to Tennessee.”
After missing all of training camp, the veteran tackle returned to work Wednesday afternoon, getting a pair of practices under his belt before making his preseason debut Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
Penn was thrust into action protecting quarterback Derek Carr’s blindside on the second series of the evening, eventually playing 19 snaps before his abbreviated evening came to an end.
And after not strapping on the pads since the end of the 2016 regular season, No. 72 was pleased with where his body was at as far as his conditioning was concerned.
“I was happy with where my conditioning was,” Penn said. “I was surprised to be honest with you, because going into it, you never know. You work out as much as you want, but it’s hard to simulate actual football. I was surprised at where I was, and I put in a lot of work, so it paid off.”
Penn joked postgame that he didn’t want to come out of the game as early as he did, but for a player headed into his 11th NFL season, he doesn’t need to see too many live reps to get right before the regular season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
Regardless of how much Penn did or didn’t play though, his teammates, particularly those on the offensive line were happy to have him back in the mix.
“Definitely missed our guy, missed the OG of the group,” guard/tackle Vadal Alexandersaid. “The oldest guy in the room, the most experienced man. We missed him, definitely. It was great having him back.”
When Penn entered the game, as expected, Marshall Newhouse flipped from the left side to the right, and with Penn now back to work, Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice’s deep group gets even deeper.
“There’s a lot of talent in this group,” Alexander explained. “It’s really fun to compete, and it’s really fun when things come together too on game day.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Penn suits up Thursday night in the preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks, but after his time away from football – and the Silver and Black – he’s gotten a new perspective on the game.
“I’m just happy,” Penn said. “The best part of it was when we scored, getting out there, you missed some things, man. I missed football. I’m happy to be back. I really did miss it, so getting out there in front of them lights, man, it makes you really appreciate it a lot more.”