First off, big thanks to Jason Jones for hopping on yesterday's conference call while I was traveling back from Maine. I owe him a lobster claw. Jason, of course, covers the Raiders for the Bee, which is like covering the Kremlin during the height of the cold war. Very secretive. No access. Not very friendly. You might get poisoned. A conference call with both a head coach and GM was like a trip to Disneyland for him. I hope he doesn't want to defect ...
In reading the transcript from yesterday's call, a few things jump out at me. First is that Mike Nolan initially didn't mention Dontarrious Thomas' name is conjunction to the "Ted" linebacker position. Instead he said Jeff Ulbrich, rookie Larry Grant and Brandon Moore would compete for the starting spot. Here are the direct quotes:
RE: Is Jeff (Ulbrich) the pretty clear starter at Ted?
MN: "Well, Jeff is competing with Brandon Moore and Larry (Grant) the rookie. We'll see what he can do."
RE: Information on Dontarrious Thomas:
MN: "Dontarrious Thomas has been working out over the spring. He would be in the mix; he might work on the other side as well behind Patrick (Willis). We've got a couple of guys lined up but he's pretty much working for that position."
Reading the tea leaves here, it's hard to envision anyone other than Ulbrich at the position in Week One. Moore, of course, was the "Ted" starter at this point last season, but lost the job midway through the preseason and then had a much smaller role as a situational pass rusher. Grant has potential, but he's a rookie. And Thomas doesn't seem to be concentrating solely on Ted.
Another interesting comment involves right guard. Nolan confirmed that T/G Chilo Rachal would indeed be moving from right tackle, his OTA position, to right guard, his minicamp position. Here's what Nolan had to say about the three players involved in that competition:
RE: Can you give me an update on David Baas?
MN: "He's on schedule and doing well."
RE: Do you expect Baas to be your starting RG in the regular season?
MN: "We'll have to wait and see because if he's had zero practice up to that point, maybe not. We certainly have expectations of him coming back to play for us and pick up at least where he left off, so we'll see where that is. But then again, he's dealing with an injury so we'll see how he comes back."
RE: Will there be competition with Tony Wragge and Chilo Rachal for the RG position?
MN: "Leading up to that point in the beginning of the season, there'll be some. There always is. You'd like to think that everyone is competing. Everyone who is in training camp, I would hope, would be competing. Some have a stiffer battle than others; when you talk about a rookie versus a veteran, it's tough and in particular on the offensive line to get in the lineup right away. That's one of the more difficult positions to start on right away."
RE: Do you anticipate Bass to be okay physically to start the beginning of the regular season?
MN: "If he is on schedule with exactly what was stated before, it would be after the beginning of the season. Hopefully, with our Superman Ferguson (trainer Jeff Ferguson) he will be ahead of schedule."
Again, it seems as if Nolan thinks it might be tough for Baas to ready himself for a Week One start. But he also seems to think that Rachal will have trouble wrestling away the starting role from veteran Wragge. Nolan will say that there's competition at every position. Right guard, however, seems to be one of the few spots where there is true competition.
And finally, quarterback. Some readers last week insisted that picking a starting quarterback would be Mike Martz's decision and Mike Martz's alone. Instead, Nolan said it would be a four-way - between him, Martz, quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and Scot McCloughan. As I've written in the past, Martz's m.o. has been to pick a starting quarterback early in the process and then give that qb all of the reps in minicamps and training camps. Sharing snaps this late in the process is a foreign concept to him. In other words, the continued quarterback competition is by decree of someone named Mike, but his last name isn't Martz ...
Now to really important items. I tried making baked stuffed lobsters twice while in Maine but never really got it perfectly. Any true Mainers out there who can teach me how it's done? Also, I went fishing several times, but all I caught were a bunch of tinkers. What's the best way to haul in a really big striper?
-- Matt Barrows