Donald Penn got a taste of retirement – well kind of – and honestly, it wasn’t for him.
The veteran left tackle missed all of training camp after being placed on the Reserve/Did Not Report list on July 29, and while he was still working out, keeping his body right for his eventual return, come game days, he was just like you, watching the Oakland Raiders preseason games from the comfort of his own couch.
It gave him a taste of what Sundays will eventually look like when his playing days are officially behind him, but even though he’s been in the league since 2006, the taste wasn’t a sweet one for No. 72.
“I’m definitely not ready to do that just yet,” said Penn with a chuckle when asked about getting a taste of what the retired life is like. “It let me know it’s not that time yet for me to hang it up. It was definitely weird. I have to say that.”
It was an especially weird position for a player like Penn, who throughout his career has prided himself on his consistency and availability. That includes participation in offseason activities too, and the uniqueness of his time away from the Silver and Black – from competitive football in general – was not lost on him.
“I’ve been in the league, this is my 12th year, 12th training camp,” explained Penn. “If you count college, I did five years in college, because I redshirted, that’s 17 years of me being in training camp during this time, so it was definitely different. I was thinking, ‘is this what retirement is going to be like?’ It felt different. I wanted to get back. I was really in an urge to get back, but it really did feel weird.”
While Penn no doubt found himself in an interesting situation throughout the duration of training camp, he did take solace in hearing encouraging words from his teammates, whether they were in shared texts after a preseason game, or in press conferences.
“It was a very nice gesture,” Penn said. “All my guys, they understand how the business side of this is. If anyone of them were in this position, they’d have my full support too, because the business side of this things sucks…but my teammates are great.”
And at the end of the day – just less than a month after he was placed on the Reserve/Did Not Report list – Penn returned to 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, and got back to work, just in time for the team’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, but more importantly, with his eyes set on this Sunday’s regular season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
“One thing that separates us from other teams I’ve been on, is like, we are a family,” he explained. “We have fun together. One of the biggest things I missed was joking around with the guys, having fun with them. We have fun. We look forward to seeing each other. We enjoy our time together, so we do have that support. It felt great to have that support from my teammates.”
Penn went out of his way to explain that his absence from the Raiders wasn’t a decision based on a personal slight to anyone; the fans, the organization or otherwise. What it was, was a business decision that he felt was the right thing to do for him and his family.
However, all that is behind him now, and now his focus – as it has always been – is helping the Silver and Black win football games, starting this Sunday at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
“I’m glad I’m back, it’s resolved, and I’m so past that,” Penn explained. “I’m so ready to get ready, and get these Titans going, and get this going game, and get Marshawn in this Silver and Black. I know how excited he is, because it’s a dream come true.”
He continued, “We’ve got a good thing going. I wanted to make sure I didn’t mess that up, so that’s why I cut it short, sucked my pride up, and just came in and said, ‘hey, we have a bigger picture here.’ I’ll let the business side take care of the business side, and I’m going to come here, and be here for my teammates. I have to make sure I’m right for this Sunday, so I had to make sure I came in time to make sure I was right for this Sunday.”
Kickoff against the Titans is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. PST.