ALAMEDA -- The Raiders officially broke the cellophane on their new starting quarterback here Tuesday. Matt Schaub participated in his first organized practice with the team. In doing so, he finally and completely left behind his troubled life in Houston as a Texan.
So, after the session, I naturally needed to ask Schaub an incisive question: "Do you miss the humidity yet?"
To which Schaub replied expansively: "No."
Thus, I can report exclusively that Schaub does indeed like the atmosphere at Raider World Headquarters. However, it's not just because -- unlike his previous home -- he no longer needs a squeegee on some days just to open his eyes in the sticky and muggy haze.
The only thing hazy here in Alameda is, once more, the prospect of a winning Raiders season.
Yet for the first time in years, I am honestly and sincerely picking up a vibe that nine victories might indeed be possible. Schaub, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Texans, is a big part of that feeling.
True, the man had a terrible 2013 quarterbacking season in Houston, being benched after a raft of pick-six interceptions. That is why Schaub, 32, ended up being traded west. But the raw tools are still there. The brain that earned him academic all-conference honors at Virginia is still in operating order. He is still 6-foot-5 with a functioning, NFL-certified arm.
You can be fooled by this stuff. But if regaining any lost confidence is the issue, Schaub did sound invigorated after his initial work shift. He spoke about the Raiders' offensive unit having "a ton of firepower" with "six or seven" potential top targets. The newness of it all was intoxicating.
"It's kind of like the first day of school all over again," Schaub said.
Well, yes, but with a lot more lunch money at stake.
This is definitely the most interesting Raiders camp in years, no matter how you paint it. Schaub is just one of many new moving parts on the roster. The front office has assembled a bunch of veteran talent through trades or free agency, including wide receiver James Jones and defensive end LaMarr Woodley -- who was honest enough Tuesday to admit that he doesn't yet know everybody's first name.
"Nicknames and some last names, yes," Woodley said. "Still learning first names."
It is far more important for Schaub, of course, to learn the new offense. And so far, after one morning filled with both hiccups (an interception) and highlights (a long completion to Jones), Raiders coach Dennis Allen gave Schaub a passing grade.
"All the things that we thought he'd be able to do, I thought he was able to come out and execute," Allen said. "He made some mistakes in today's practice. That's to be expected, and we'll continue to work and try to correct those mistakes and move on from them. But I was pleased with the way he looked."
Some of it, Allen said, is just the way Schaub carries himself.
"I think he understands the game," Allen said. "I think he's incredibly smart. He knows how have to prepare, how you have to take care of your body, how you have to meet, how you have to practice. I think he's a true pro in every sense of the word."
If you choose to read between the lines of that quote to assume that some of the Raiders' more recent quarterbacks did not faithfully follow that exact template ... um, you are probably safe to assume that.
Any serious NFL follower understands what separates the real pros from the lip-service pros. It is how they spend their time between practices -- when no fans or coaches are watching.
Bottom line: Schaub basically has three or four months to soak up the entirety of Raiders offensive knowledge before opening kickoff. Tuesday, he acknowledged that much of his most important work will take place after these "Organized Team Activity" practices but before the team's minicamp in mid-June -- and likewise, during the weeks after the minicamp and before the start of summer maxi-camp in July.
On those "in-between" days, Schaub indicated, you will likely find him here at the practice facility. He will be studying video or doing fitness training or throwing passes to any receivers or backs who voluntarily show up. And whether on site or off site, Schaub promised he would spend "a few hours a day" studying game footage or his laptop playbook.
"However much time we have," Schaub said, "we're going to use every minute of it that's necessary."
And then he strode back into the Raiders building, unhindered by any humidity or Texas baggage. He looked like a winning quarterback. We'll see in a few months if looks are deceiving.
Cornerback D.J. Hayden is happy to be healthy.