FROM THE SFGATE:
Training camp came to a close Thursday afternoon, and the parking lot of the Napa Marriott resembled the Indy 500 as players and, yes, coaches too, put the pedal to the metal to end this 27-day chapter of their lives.
Are the Raiders better than they were when they got to Napa? No doubt. Are they any good? That one will be answered at NFL stadiums next month.
"I thought it was good work," coach Dennis Allen said. "Our guys worked extremely hard. We still have a long way to go and a lot of things we gotta continue to improve on, but I thought it was a good foundation for what we're trying to build."
Here are several "best of training camp" awards, which were surely left behind under a pile of dirty towels and empty Gatorade bottles:
Best training camp: (tie) Receiver Rod Streater and linebacker Philip Wheeler. Streater picked up where he left off at organized workouts, and the undrafted rookie is starting Saturday's preseason game against the Lions due to injuries. But he is so smooth that no one here has batted an eye. Wheeler looks like the explosive player that he never was on the Colts and that the Raiders coaches said he could be.
Honorable mention: Backup quarterback Matt Leinart. You should have seen the shocked looks on Arizona people's faces when they were told that the former Cardinal was looking sharp.
Best effort: Third-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He skipped his dad's funeral so he wouldn't miss any reps at camp and the long-, long-, LONG-term project has worked very hard. Pryor is his own harshest critic (saying he "played like dog crap" in the preseason opener) and his own biggest fan (telling reporters this week that "I can be great"). There are about 35 levels to get past first, but Pryor will definitely give it a strong effort.
Best tease: (tie) Running back Mike Goodson and cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke. Goodson even had general manager Reggie McKenzie singing his praises before fumbling twice in last Friday's game. Van Dyke was brilliant in practice and terrible in the two games. The coaches will be watching both players closely Saturday.
Best performance in a tough-guy role: (tie) Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
"Camp was long," ninth-year defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. "Grueling, but fair. It's been tough, probably the hardest camp I ever did."
It helps when you have a new GM behind you, and all the players know they are auditioning for a part in the long-term rebuilding project. Tarver would single out players after they made a mistake with their assignment in practice, and make everyone run the play over again.
A very different feel than during the Al Davis era, to say the least.
"Everything is detailed," Kelly said. "Everything's got a plan to it. It ain't just, wait a minute and we'll find out. You know everything. You know what you've got to do, down to the second."
Best performance in a mystery role: Linebacker Rolando McClain. Coaches say he's had a good camp, but the jury's still out. He was on the all-too-familiar wrong end of a couple of big plays Friday, and he's not talking to the media anymore. Plus, no one knows yet if the NFL plans to suspend him for that assault conviction (being appealed) in Alabama.
Best nonstory: The offensive line. Fans groaned when the team re-signed penalty-prone right tackle Khalif Barnes, but he came in and looked good in the new zone-blocking scheme. Four starters return from last season, and everybody is high on the newcomer, former Texans guard Mike Brisiel.
Best rookie: Punter Marquette King. And he is not even going to make the team. But he mixed some beautiful kicks in with the ducks, and his infectious smile pulled everybody in. (King also would pull in reporters for a hug after interviews.)
Best roommates: Linebacker Travis Goethel and defensive end Lamarr Houston each had their own TV brought in, and each packed his own Xbox.
Best sport: Guard Tony Bergstrom. The rookie had to get his hair cut and should have known how wrong it was going to go when he saw the gleam in Carson Palmer's eyes. "At first I thought he was just giving me a Mohawk," Bergstrom said. "Then, I was, oh oh, that feels like ..." Let's just say his wife called him genital-head for the next couple of days.