September 6, 2017 - 6:56 pm
Updated September 6, 2017 - 7:19 pm
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Derek Carr was not supposed to play last week in the Raiders’ final exhibition against the Seattle Seahawks.
Still, he took the field.
The quarterback trotted about three-quarters across its width from the sideline during the second quarter at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. There, with the television broadcast away on commercial break, he bowed his head and prayed for an opponent he didn’t know. Not his name. Not the college he attended. Not the nature of his injury.
He didn’t ask. He prayed. Then, he trotted back and watched the rest of the game, anyone tuning into the broadcast none the wiser.
Carr didn’t do it for attention.
He did it because, well, that’s Carr.
The Pro Bowl quarterback is set to lead his team Sunday in his fourth NFL season. Teammates know who they are getting. Carr, a man who prescribes to the “faith, family and football” adage, holds the first two tenets closely. The third was yanked from him last Christmas Eve, a commonality he shares with Sunday’s opposing starting quarterback.
The Tennessee Titans’ Marcus Mariota, 23, fractured his right fibula on Dec. 24 hours before Carr, 26, did the same. They underwent surgery a day apart. (Carr went first on Dec. 27.) On Sunday, their near-parallel paths will intersect in Nashville.
They define a leader, too, in a similar fashion.
“Somebody who stays true to who they are and they live by what they say,” Mariota said in a conference call Wednesday with Raiders beat reporters. “No matter what, their mentality is always about the team and making sure they put others in front of themselves.”
“You just have to be you, you know?” Carr said. “People can see right through the fake stuff. If you say one thing and you’re doing another, eventually it’s going to catch up to you as much as we’re around each other. If you want people to follow you, you just have to be the same person every day, and you have to be someone that they want to follow.”
No Raiders starter played last Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks.
In fact, the team withheld 42 players, most of whom for the simple fact it was the final exhibition. The team wasn’t going to learn anything about defensive end Khalil Mack or wide receiver Amari Cooper by inserting them into action.
And yet, the team was reminded about its franchise quarterback.
Seahawks cornerback DeAndre Elliott saw his season end in the second quarter. He suffered a dislocated and fractured ankle, coach Pete Carroll announced postgame, and was scheduled to undergo surgery. As he lay on the field, an air cast being placed over his leg, a cart emerged on the field.
Then came Carr.
“That is something I’ve done since high school,” Carr said on Wednesday. “I did it in college. I’ve done it in the NFL. Everything outside of the whistles now is seen, more so now than ever. That’s just something I’ve always done, being there for someone because I’ve been there-type of thing. It’s a hard feeling, especially when it’s a serious (injury). You just try to give any kind of support that you can.
“I just prayed for him. I didn’t say anything to him. I wasn’t going to bug him. I just prayed for him.”
A couple hours later, Elliott publicly sent a message to Carr on Twitter.
“I appreciate you for coming to the cart n praying for me!” he wrote. “That meabt (sic) a lot to me. … Good luck on your season bro.”
The on-field moment between Carr and an opponent didn’t surprise his Raiders teammates, they said.
“It’s him,” wide receiver Amari Cooper said. “He’s strong to his faith. When he went out there and did that, he just really believed that if he prayed over that guy, that it would make things better.”
Said defensive end James Cowser: “People ask me, ‘How’s Derek? What’s he like?’ What you see on TV, what you read about is exactly who he is. He’s not putting on a front. He’s not doing it for anyone else. He is very genuine. What you see is genuine emotion coming from him; he goes over to help an opponent. He honestly cares for that person in that moment. That’s who he is. It’s really commendable and respectable from a teammate standpoint.”
Carr believes a leader must be genuine and someone teammates want to follow.
Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at email@example.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.