It was with an air of trepidation that Rusty Hilger assumed his new role as the Raiders' starting quarterback Thursday during the opening workout of a three-day veterans' minicamp in El Segundo.
Maybe that's because two other former Raider starters, Marc Wilson and Jim Plunkett, also are in camp, although Plunkett is not participating in drills after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his rotator cuff in February, and several other names have been trotted out as potential Raider quarterbacks in the last few months.
"You still wonder because there's nothing set around here," said Hilger, who was told last winter that he will be the No. 1 quarterback. "Although you line up No. 1 in the camp and in the huddle, that's no big deal. It's a sign to me that if I keep working hard, good things will happen, but by no means do I feel that it's locked up."
On the eve of last year's veterans' minicamp, of course, Wilson was penciled in as No. 1. He has since slipped considerably. There has been speculation, in fact, that Wilson may have fallen off the depth chart entirely and may even be paid off and waived.
Wilson made it clear Thursday that he doesn't want to talk about it.
A group of reporters gathered as Wilson ran off the field after a morning workout, and a Raider publicist told Wilson they'd like to talk to him. "I bet they would," said Wilson, who kept on running.
Coach Tom Flores said Wilson is No. 2, but that's probably because Plunkett's status is uncertain.
Plunkett, 39, threw for about five minutes on the side Thursday. He said that Dr. Fred Behling, who operated on the rotator cuff, told him not to get in a situation where he would have to throw hard, so he's not taking part in drills.
"By July, there shouldn't be any reason why I shouldn't be able to go all out," Plunkett said.
Flores is said to have grown weary of the quarterback derby.
Asked about that, he said: "It doesn't matter if I get tired of it or not. It's going to be there."
Meanwhile, the enthusiastic Hilger, 25, jumped when the first unit was called Thursday morning.
"I was the first guy to show up," he said. "It was really different, kind of a weird feeling being the No. 1 guy in the huddle and lining up with the No. 1 team."
Flores said this is more of a teaching camp than anything else, but Hilger, who played in only two games last season, believes he has something to prove to the coaches.
"Even though they don't call this a competitive camp, every time I get under the center it's like a game situation," he said. "When I take a snap from center, it's 100 m.p.h., full speed, every play."
Hilger, a two-year veteran from Oklahoma State, has said in the past that he wasn't sure he was ready to be a starter in the National Football League.
"I'm still not sure," he said.
He'll find out soon enough.