Donald Penn acknowledged being a big rusty when he got his first game action in more than nine months at an unfamiliar position.
He was beaten for a sack on the opening drive for the Oakland Raiders and allowed a few other pressures in his first NFL start at right tackle after 170 games and three Pro Bowl selections on the left side.
“I was excited to get out there and try it out live,” Penn said. “It’s a different speed in practice than it is in the game. I wish I could have done some things a lot better than I did. I saw some things that I need to fix and some things I need to work on. The biggest part of it was just trying to build up my confidence, trying to get some confidence in this foot, pushing off on it and planting and sustaining against other big guys going into me. That was the biggest part.”
The 35-year-old Penn had not played a game since Dec. 15 when he injured his right foot in a game, leading to a season-ending surgery. Penn missed the entire offseason program and watched as the Raiders planned for life after he’s done by drafting Kolton Miller in the first round to be the team’s long-term left tackle.
Penn started training camp on the physically unable to perform list and took a pay cut for this season before being activated two weeks ago. He was then immediately moved to the right side, where he had played only 24 career snaps in an emergency back in the 2016 opener.
Penn said he’s still getting used to the switch, which he has equated to learning how to write with the opposite hand. Penn has spent extra time on the practice field since coming back from the injury and vows to be ready for the season opener Sept. 10, against the Los Angeles Rams.
He said he’s even open to playing the exhibition finale on Thursday night at Seattle just to get more work even though the rest of the starting offense is expected to sit out.
“The biggest thing I need from myself is just more repetition, just more practice,” he said. “The good thing is, time is on my side. I have time to get this stuff fixed, time to get more comfortable over there and get a better feel on that side and the different mechanics and techniques over there. That’s one thing I’m happy about is that time is on my side.”
Penn showed he still needs some work after getting 20 snaps in the exhibition game against Green Bay.
Oakland’s opening drive that game stalled when Packers linebacker Reggie Gilbert bull-rushed Penn and knocked him into quarterback Derek Carr, forcing a fumble that the Raiders recovered. That turned a possible touchdown into a field goal.
Penn was beaten a couple other times but coach Jon Gruden said he was pleased with the overall play.
“I’m sure people will point to that and say it wasn’t a good performance,” Gruden said. “But I thought for his first time back on the field in a long time, going against the first team in the Packers, I thought he did some good things.”