Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

September 30, 2007
More QB games?

MIAMI – I know what you’re thinking.

How can Lane Kiffin ever play Josh McCown again as long as Daunte Culpepper is healthy?

Well, because he can.

Kiffin gets two weeks before he has to trot out another starting quarterback. He said Culpepper is his starter … today.

I think Culpepper showed enough to keep the job. The throw he made to Jerry Porter on his second touchdown pass is one I’m not sure McCown could make.

Don’t expect Kiffin to let that force him to decide anything. He said he’d welcome a quarterback controversy.

I think he’s the only one that sees any controversy.

--Jason Jones

September 30, 2007
No game yet

MIAMI – The game has been suspended due to lightning.

This also happened in Denver, so the Raiders might be used to this.

No word in the press box as to when the delay might be over. The delay lasted about 25 minutes in Denver.

Regardless, I think Daunte Culpepper is into this game already.

He led the Raiders out of the tunnel with his right arm extended and pointing toward the sky. His enthusiasm about today’s game is obvious, much more than he wanted to let on in the days before his return to Dolphin Stadium.

Some folks in this part of the country believe Culpepper not starting until today is an indication the Dolphins made the right move in letting him go.

The rationale? If Culpepper can’t beat out Josh McCown, why would the Dolphins want him?

I’m sure Culpepper knows that.

*Joey Porter’s guarantee of a victory today is a big deal in South Florida, but not so much for the Raiders.

Is Porter supposed to say the Dolphins will lose?

Dol-fans (as they call themselves) aren’t into Porter’s guarantee either. They want to know when the outspoken linebacker is going to impact a game.

Today’s inactives in warm and rainy Miami are:

QB Josh McCown
CB John Bowie
FB Oren O’Neal
LB Isaiah Ekejiuba
LB Robert Thomas
DE Derrick Burgess
T Mario Henderson
QB JaMarcus Russell (3rd QB)

--Jason Jones

September 28, 2007
No more QB games

MIAMI – So Lane Kiffin didn’t make us wait to see what anyone could see.

Daunte Culpepper will start Sunday at Dolphin Stadium.

Josh McCown can barely walk. So Kiffin’s game of “Guess the Starting Quarterback” was pointless this week.

That leaves Derrick Burgess as the only injury we’ll be guessing about this week. Odds are Burgess, who hasn’t practiced in two weeks, won’t play because of his calf injury.

*The heat and humidity weren’t pleasant when I ventured outside my hotel around 5 p.m., local time.

I can’t imagine it would be any better Sunday afternoon.

Kiffin is worried about how his players will deal with the weather. It was a little warmer than usual this week in Alameda, which Kiffin thought was good.

But Alameda has nothing on Miami humidity.

Time for me to watch the rest of Friday Night Smack Down and enjoy the city a bit.

--Jason Jones

September 27, 2007
Kiffin's still waiting on Josh

ALAMEDA – If you thought Lane Kiffin would rule Josh McCown out for Sunday’s game in Miami, you should have known better by now.

Kiffin said he wants to see if McCown can practice tomorrow morning. He added McCown not practicing wouldn’t mean he couldn’t play on Sunday.

I don’t believe McCown will start on Sunday. The fractured big toe on his left foot is one thing.

But don’t forget he sprained his right foot a couple of weeks ago, too.

That Kiffin pulled McCown on Sunday is an indication even he thinks McCown is too banged up to be effective.

But I’ll believe Daunte Culpepper is starting when if I see him start on Sunday.

*Kiffin offered no specifics on Derrick Burgess’ calf injury. It looks like he could miss this weekend’s game after sitting out against Cleveland.

Burgess was in the locker room briefly, wearing a sleeve on his right calf. He doesn’t discuss injuries and was gone before anyone could ask and be told he doesn’t talk about them.

Kiffin said Burgess could play a lot or be limited. Translation, he doesn’t know if Burgess will play at all or he does and he’s just not telling.

--Jason Jones

September 27, 2007
The limp is still there

ALAMEDA – Checking in with observations from the portion of practice open to the media.

*Josh McCown limped out to practice around 11:30 a.m., as the team was in the middle of special teams work. He’s wearing a walking boot on his left foot and walking gingerly on his right foot.

If he’s walking like that today, I can’t see how he plays on Sunday. Two days of no practice should mean Daunte Culpepper starts in Miami.

But will Lane Kiffin admit that. We'll have to wait and see.

*Derrick Burgess (calf) was chatting with Al Davis near the entrance to the team locker room, but wasn’t practicing. The Pro Bowl defensive end has been out since the fourth quarter of the Raiders’ Week 2 loss at Denver.

*Reserve linebacker and special teams standout Robert Thomas (hamstring) was back at practice.

*Lane Kiffin seems to have wrestled control of the music from the players at least for today. Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses played during stretching.

I had to ask for help identifying those bands.

Kiffin has a thing for rock bands that hit it big in the 1980s with long hair.

Around the time Kiffin was rocking to those bands, I was sneaking to hear N.W.A., Ice Cube, Eazy E, Ice-T or any other rapper based near my home in Long Beach that used profanity.

Don't kids always want to listen to what they shouldn't be listening too?

--Jason Jones

September 26, 2007
Morrison on the mic

ALAMEDA -- Raiders linebacker Kirk Morrison is off to a good start, in case you hadn't noticed his three interceptions.

He said he played Sunday's game against Cleveland with a microphone and snippets of his game with the audio can be seen on HBO's Inside the NFL tonight.

Morrison joked only linebacker Thomas Howard knew about the mic to keep teammates from talking crazy to him just to get on the air.

I'll be watching to see what was said after his spectacular interception where he dove on the infield dirt at McAfee Coliseum to snag the ball.

Morrison's good hands are no accident.

Morrison catches passes from the quarterbacks at the start of practice during the special teams session.

But I've never seen him dive in practice trying to catch a pass like he did against the Browns.

Morrison is making me look smarter each week. I said early I thought Morrison could be a Pro Bowl player.

He's well on his way.

--Jason Jones

September 26, 2007
Putting his other foot forward

ALAMEDA – Josh McCown has a fractured big toe on his left foot.

The walking boot he wore on his sprained right foot is gone. There’s now a boot on his left foot.

McCown said if he can tolerate the pain, he would try to play Sunday in Miami.

Lane Kiffin hasn’t ruled McCown, having seen McCown’s recovery to play against Denver.

McCown conceded doctors believe he’d be out a week or two. McCown said he’s day-to-day.

Daunte Culpepper is took the first team reps in practice with Andrew Walter backing him up.

Culpepper’s status as starter is also day-to-day it would seem.

It depends on McCown’s pain tolerance and whether Kiffin would let McCown play if he can’t practice.

*The Raiders added receiver Drisan James to the practice squad.

--Jason Jones

September 26, 2007
McCown's not at practice

ALAMEDA – Josh McCown was not at practice for the portion open to the media, which means … nothing.

McCown wore a walking boot on his right foot last week and added an injury to his left foot against Cleveland.

Could someone alternating bad feet play quarterback in the NFL? He shouldn’t, especially with a Pro Bowl quarterback on the bench.

But McCown threw a touchdown pass on his bad feet.

And Lane Kiffin has shown injury or lack of practice aren’t reasons to sit McCown.

Before the Denver game Week 2, McCown practiced sporadically because of his foot and a hand injury the team said was not an issue.

Not having enough practice was a reason McCown didn’t play well in Denver, according to Kiffin.

So would Kiffin start McCown in Miami on Sunday?

Don’t be shocked if he does.

*Defensive end Derrick Burgess still is not practicing. The Raiders have been vague about the extent of his calf injury.

Burgess refuses to discuss injuries, referring the media to the trainer (who isn’t made available by the team) or the coach (who offers no details).

Fullback Oren O’Neal and linebacker Robert Thomas are still out with hamstring injuries.

Jeremy Newberry was on the field, but jogged off right before the team started stretching.

*Kiffin either has only one CD to simulate crowd noise or he’s a big T.I. fan. The Atlanta rapper’s “Big Things Poppin” was again one of the featured songs during stretching.

Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Chamillionaire’s “Hip Hop Police” were the other early selections.

*For the fashion inclined, Raiders on offense are now in black practice jerseys instead of white. The defenders are have switched to white from black.

--Jason Jones

September 26, 2007
Question and answer time

ALAMEDA – There’s no word on the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game in Miami and I don’t expect any from Lane Kiffin today.

Josh McCown could be on crutches today, but playing against the Dolphins. You never know with Kiffin.

So I’ll answer some questions the best I can.

Question: Hey Jason, in regards to "Kiffin finally gets one," you mentioned that McAfee cheered when McCown went down with an injury. In defense, I would say that they were cheering because they knew that Culpepper was going to play. Culpepper is a smart veteran that wins. Also, if McCown suffered a season ending injury that means JaMarcus Russell is one step closer and everyone wants to see this man-child in action (since we didn’t during the pre-season).

P.S. Sadly, I can’t remember a time when the Raider Nation didn’t cheer when a player went down with an injury.

Ralph, Carmichael

Answer: I think you’re partly right, Ralph. I know fans want to see Culpepper play. But the moment Josh started limping I heard cheers as he walked to the huddle before Daunte had started warming up.

It’s just not right to cheer an injury, regardless of how a guy is playing.

McCown’s injury might be serious. That’s my assumption because Andrew Walter is still a Raider.

As for Russell, I’d love to see him in a game, too. But without having ever run the offense in a game situation after missing training camp, the Raiders don’t want to see him out there too soon.

I still believe Russell will play at some point this season. I just hope Culpepper isn’t being cheered for coming up lame for that to happen.

Question: Mike Williams is a good number two player. He needs time to adjust to Coach Kiffin’s system with a better QUARTERBACK
LIKE CULPEPPER OR JAMARCUS, NOT JOSH. Everybody has a bad day or two. What are they going to do if they let him go? They have no receiver with that kind of speed at 23, 6-5 230, or would they rather have Randy Moss back with his problems?

Jonathan, Philadelphia

Answer: Jonathan, I would disagree that Williams needs time to adjust to the system. This is the same system he was one of the most dominant receivers in college history in.

It’s also not the quarterback’s fault he didn’t catch that touchdown against Cleveland. He said on Monday he could have tried to bring the ball into his body, but that’s not his style.

It’s also not the quarterback’s fault Williams fumbled, a turnover that led to a Cleveland score. Williams also dropped a pass from Culpepper.

The team can’t let Williams go because they only have four receivers on the roster (as of now). So the Raiders need Williams to play well.

And the way Randy Moss is playing, the Raiders wouldn’t mind having the New England Moss.

But the reality is Moss wouldn’t have played like that in Oakland. As he said back in Minnesota, he plays when he wants to play.

And he didn’t want to play in Oakland. Moss is all about trying to get a Super Bowl ring, not helping a team develop. That’s all fine (for him). Moss would have been a distraction as a Raider.


Question: Why do the Raiders keep using that prevent defense? Honestly, the prevent defense has been killing this team for a decade or more. Did you see the Browns ripping off 10 and 15-yard chunks on their last scoring drive? That drive was the poster child for a decade’s worth of prevent defenses.

Rob Ryan must recognize the prevent defense is useless. They need to always apply a four-man rush.

Luther, Montreal

Answer: Your last sentence points to the bigger problem. A lot of time, the Raiders were rushing four men.

It’s hard to notice that when there’s no pressure and Derek Anderson can stand, wave to Ken Dorsey’s family in the stands, and still find open receivers.

The key to the Raiders defense is getting a rush up front. The secondary will look a lot better if the opposition doesn’t have forever to pass the ball.

A healthy Derrick Burgess would be a good start. But when he does return, the Raiders will still need a better effort or the Pro Bowl defensive end will face constant double teams.

The Raiders want linebackers Thomas Howard and Kirk Morrison free to roam and make plays (they have five interceptions between them), but mixing in a few more blitzes wouldn’t hurt.

--Jason Jones

September 24, 2007
Ryan's plan questioned

ALAMEDA – The questions are already coming in.

What’s up with Rob Ryan’s playcalling?

I can’t answer that because Ryan wasn't available for comment today.

After a pretty stellar performance by the defense the Browns piled up yards in the fourth quarter.

Head coach Lane Kiffin said assignment breakdowns were the problem late against Cleveland.

I hope that explanation helps.

I have no problem with Ryan mixing in some zone coverage. That’s why the Raiders had two interceptions.

The problem with going zone late in the game is it’s only effective if you have superior pass rushers on the outside.

The Raiders – especially without Derrick Burgess – can’t pressure the quarterback consistently off the edge.

The Raiders have five sacks in three games. Only two are by a starting defensive lineman, Gerard Warren. And Warren didn’t become a starter until yesterday.

Without a pass rush, Raiders are exposing their cornerbacks, who have to cover receivers too long.

****

Mike Williams said last week everyone wanted to cut Sebastian Janikowski and he knows this week, it’s his turn.

Saying Williams had a bad day is being nice

His big play – a 24-yard reception – ended with a fumble.

He almost had a touchdown until Cleveland safety Sean Jones separated the ball from his hands with a big hit. Kiffin said Williams should have caught the ball.

Kiffin is tough on Williams and didn’t bite his tongue when asked if he were “pleased” with Williams.

“The word ‘pleased’ isn’t anywhere near Mike Williams right now,” Kiffin said. “And I’m sure Mike would be the first to tell you. Mike did not play well at all. And he’s in position to make plays, but that doesn’t do you any good to be in position if you don’t make them.”

The Raiders need Williams to play well and hope yesterday was just one of those days for him.

The Raiders’ primary receivers are Ronald Curry and Jerry Porter. Rookie Johnnie Lee Higgins doesn’t play much on offense. The situation is set up for Williams to succeed if he makes plays.

If Williams, a first-round pick in 2005, were going to have success in the NFL, it would be under Kiffin.

When Williams was a star receiver at USC, Kiffin was his position coach.

But he’d better start doing more to please Kiffin.

****

Cornerback Duane Starks was released to make room for JaMarcus Russell on the 53-man roster. Don’t be surprised if Starks is back as soon as this week if Andrew Walter is traded.

Starks was cut last year but his locker was never cleaned out. He showed up a day later back on the team.

No word on whether Derrick Burgess will play on Sunday in Miami. He was in the locker room briefly without the sleeve on his right calf he wore last week.

No word on Josh McCown yet. He now has two bad feet. But if he surprised us all and played with one bad foot in Denver, I know McCown will try to play against Miami if he can walk.

--Jason Jones

September 23, 2007
Kiffin finally gets one

OAKLAND – I watched the last play of today’s game from the sidelines and the Raiders were a nervous bunch.

After the Browns reached the Raiders’ 22-yard line, B.J. Ward angrily tugged at his jersey.

Daunte Culpepper briefly turned his back before Phil Dawson’s first kick – which didn’t count.

You could see the feeling on several players’ faces.

Here we go again. We’re just good enough to lose a close game.

But thanks to Tommy Kelly's blocked field goal and a timely timeout, the Raiders pulled out a 26-24 win over the Cleveland Browns.

The Raiders are definitely an improved team. Now they have a win to show for it.

Lane Kiffin needed this win. He wouldn’t call it a must win before the game, but it was.

Going to 0-3 wouldn’t have put doubt in players' minds, especially those that have been around for the lean times since the Super Bowl season of 2002.

And seeking the team’s first win on the road would have been tough, even if the Raiders were playing winless Miami, their opponent next Sunday.

Kiffin deflected talk of the win being significant for him, but conceded he needed it to make what he’s selling to the team mean something.

And they’re buying it.

****

Anyone that cheered at McAfee Coliseum when Josh McCown injured his foot in the first quarter should be ashamed.

McCown has done nothing to deserve that treatment. He was playing with a bad right foot, hurt his left foot, but still threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter.

McCown starting over Culpepper is still puzzling, but don't root for McCown to hurt himself because you don't like the coach's decision.

Cheering his injury is classless. You might not like that he’s starting, but wishing an injury on anyone is low.

And in case you haven't noticed, not everything that goes wrong on offense is McCown's fault.

****

Mike Williams’ fumble only makes his relationship with Kiffin more delicate.

Kiffin is always reluctant to praise Williams, who starred for him at USC. Williams didn’t give Kiffin any reason to praise him on Sunday.

In addition to the fumble that led to a Cleveland touchdown, Williams dropped a touchdown, even though Cleveland safety Sean Jones’ hard hit helped get the ball out.

The Raiders have just four receivers on their roster, but I wouldn’t put it past Kiffin to let Williams know he’d better play better soon or prepare to find a new team.

*****

The Raiders have to make a roster move by 1 p.m., to put JaMarcus Russell on the active roster.

It means Andrew Walter is probably done as a Raider, but you never know. Mike Williams better watch out.

****
Hall of Fame Raider center Jim Otto attended the game. He'd long dealt with leg problems and had his right leg amputated this summer.

--Jason Jones

September 23, 2007
Defensive shuffling

OAKLAND – The Raiders are shaking up the defense and the changes in the secondary that I’d heard might happen did.

Stanford Routt started ahead of Fabian Washington at cornerback.

It would be a mistake to give up on Washington even though coaches would say benching Washington isn't a sign of worry about their 2005 first-round draft pick.

The move singles out Washington in a secondary that’s had a lot of problems in two games.

The Raiders said they weren't panicking after two lackluster efforts on defense. Benching Washington indicates otherwise.

In another lineup change, Gerard Warren started at defensive tackle ahead of Terdell Sands.

--Jason Jones

September 23, 2007
No Burgess versus the Browns

OAKLAND – Derrick Burgess is on the Raiders’ inactive list and out for today’s game.

Coach Lane Kiffin said the Raiders wanted to see if they could push Burgess onto the field for limited action, but his calf injury will force him to miss his first game as a Raider.

Burgess is walking up and down the sidelines with a sleeve on his right calf.

*The Raiders are carrying only four wide receivers. The team released Travis Taylor and signed linebacker Jon Alston from the practice squad.

The Raiders worked out three linebackers before the Denver game, but in the end decided to promote Alston to the active roster.

The Raiders will have to make another move by 1 p.m. tomorrow to get JaMarcus Russell on the 53-man roster.

*Other inactives for this game are:

CB Duane Starks
CB John Bowie
FB Oren O’Neal
LB Isaiah Ekejiuba
LB Robert Thomas
T Mario Henderson
Third QB Andrew Walter

*Jeremy Newberry is dressed for the game, but Jake Grove is starting at center.

I just saw Ted Washington on the field. The Cleveland nose tackle is even bigger than I remember him being as a Raider a couple of years ago. He’s listed at 375 pounds. Yeah, right.

If Big Ted makes life rough on Grove, don’t be surprised to Newberry in the game.

--Jason Jones

September 21, 2007
No place like home

ALAMEDA – Lane Kiffin’s first loss as a head coach gave him an unusual feeling.

It's not that he never lost at USC. But Kiffin hadn’t lost a home game in six years, he said after Friday’s practice.

With his decision to stick with Josh McCown, he might not feel like he has a home-field advantage as he’ll hear boos for the decision.

Kiffin had never lost a home opener, either.

So going 0-3 would definitely be a blow to Kiffin.

More importantly, Kiffin needs to win to make sure players don’t tune out his message. That could happen if the Raiders are 0-3 again.

Kiffin won’t call Sunday’s game a “must win” because that’s not part of his vocabulary after two games.

But he knows he’d better win soon. Kiffin is seen as the young coach who thinks he must be smarter than everyone else, especially if he can justify starting McCown over Daunte Culpepper.

Without any wins, he won’t look smart at all.

*One thing I forgot to mention earlier is JaMarcus Russell will be moved to the active roster on Monday by 1 p.m.

Chances are good this will be Andrew Walter’s last game with the Raiders. Whether he’s traded or simply released, the Raiders aren’t inclined to keep four quarterbacks.

The Raiders passed on Matt Leinart because their scouts believed Walter was better than Leinart.

Not that Leinart has proven he’ll be a star, but Walter was a third-round pick in 2005. The Raiders can’t keep missing on high draft picks if they expect to turn the team around.

*With Derrick Burgess questionable because of a calf injury, wouldn’t Quentin Moses be nice to have around to help with the pass rush?

*I’ve heard rumblings the Raiders are looking to shake up their secondary for Sunday’s game. Cornerback is a chief concern. Only Nnamdi Asomugha is playing at a high level.

Two things could help the secondary out. Giving Chris Carr more plays as the third cornerback would be one. He’s strong and quick near the line of scrimmage – two necessities when covering the slot because the ball gets to the receiver quicker. He's also smart and reads defenses well.

Carr's skills are better suited to cover the slot than Stanford Routt, who has good speed, but isn't as adept at manning the slot as Carr.

Secondly, I’d play Duane Starks if he’s healthy. Starks is a veteran and could be a big help in dime packages.

--Jason Jones

September 21, 2007
Pushing Burgess to play

ALAMEDA – The “push” is on.

Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said the team could use Derrick Burgess in a limited role on Sunday if they can get him on the field.

“We’re going to keep trying to push and see if we can get him out there," Kiffin said.

Burgess would probably play just on passing downs if he does play on Sunday, but you have to wonder if Kiffin was tweaking Burgess a bit by trying to “push” him on the field.

Burgess is one of the toughest players on the Raiders. It would take more than a simple calf injury to keep him out.

Perhaps the injury is worse than the team is letting on.

Either way, they’re going to push Burgess on the field if they have to.

But without the new contract he wants, Burgess might push back and not risk a injury that would hurt his chances of a new deal to replace his current contract.

For those worried about LaMont Jordan’s status, there is no need to panic.

Kiffin said Jordan would play on Sunday and not be limited. The team will monitor his bad back, but Jordan practiced on today and was fine.

It’s funny how so many fans wanted Jordan gone. After two solid games, many wondered what would happen without him.

I took a lot of heat from Raider fans for saying Jordan had been criticized unfairly last season. I hope he keeps proving me right.

Center Jeremy Newberry's status is uncertain. He practiced, but won't start if he plays on Sunday.

--Jason Jones

September 21, 2007
Burgess still ailing

ALAMEDA – Derrick Burgess’ injured right calf cost him a third day of practice.

Burgess’ status for Sunday’s game against Cleveland won’t be known until this afternoon. The defense could use their Pro Bowl defensive end a lot against the Browns to boost its pass rush.

The Raiders have only four sacks in two games. One of those sacks came when safety Michael Huff chased Denver quarterback Jay Cutler out of bounds for no gain.

Without Burgess, the Raiders would play rookie Jay Richardson and Tyler Brayton in Burgess’ spot.

Richardson is a promising player. Brayton had no sacks in 16 games last season. Brayton’s last sack was Oct. 30, 2005 at Tennessee.

Center Jeremy Newberry (hamstring) was back at practice. If he’s healthy, the Raiders have to consider starting him against Cleveland.

The Browns use the 3-4 defense with 6-foot-5, 375-pound Ted Washington at nose tackle.

Jake Grove struggles against big nose tackles. Newberry is stronger and deals with such players better.

Running back LaMont Jordan was at practice for a second straight day after missing Wednesday’s session because of his bad back.

--Jason Jones

September 20, 2007
More gamesmanship from Kiffin?

ALAMEDA - It's hard to tell if Lane Kiffin is making too much of LaMont Jordan's back injury.

He said this afternoon Jordan's status might not be known until shortly before Sunday's game against Cleveland. That's the case with a lot of injured players, but with Jordan, the Raiders don't want to do anything that put Jordan in danger of seriously injuring his back.

Kiffin said Jordan missing practice Wednesday wasn't just about giving him rest and that Jordan's back was bothering him.

Assuming Jordan plays, I'd expect the Raiders to mix in a day off or limited work more considering he's a big part of the offense right now.

Gauging whether Derrick Burgess will play is different. He continues not to be on the field at the start of practice while other injured players workout away from the team.

That leads me to believe Burgess' calf injury is worse than the team is letting on.

Kiffin is still in Bill Belichick mode, offering no specifics on the injury. The injury report that lists players' status for the game will be out tomorrow.

• The Cleveland game isn't a sell out so it won't be on television locally.

- Jason Jones

September 20, 2007
Jordan returns to practice, but not Burgess

ALAMEDA - One starter returned, another still is missing.

Running back LaMont Jordan (back) returned to practice taking Wednesday. Pro Bowl defensive end Derrick Burgess (calf) was not at practice for the second day in a row.

With Dominic Rhodes still two games away from returning from suspension, the Raiders won't risk working Jordan too much.

Burgess is seasoned enough to miss practice and still play Sunday.

Center Jeremy Newberry and fullback Oren O'Neal - both nursing bad hamstrings - still are working out with trainers.

On a side note, the practice music is becoming diverse. The first two weeks, its was all rap to start practice. Today Nirvana was mixed in with some 50 Cent and the Game.

The Nirvana comes courtesy of the Lane Kiffin effect. He has a thing for rock bands with long hair.

- Jason Jones

September 19, 2007
No word on Burgess injury

ALAMEDA - Raiders coach Lane Kiffin offered no specifics on the severity of Derrick Burgess' calf injury.

Burgess was in the locker room briefly during media availability, but doesn't discuss injuries.

Jay Richardson probably would start in place of Burgess. Tyler Brayton would back up Richardson.

• LaMont Jordan (back) didn't practice. He has recurring back problems that require rest from time to time.

• Josh McCown practiced but was limited because of his sprained foot. He's expected to play Sunday.

• Finally, a bit of rookie hazing for JaMarcus Russell. Tackle Barry Sims let Russell know the offensive line needed more body wash for the shower, and that they'd need it by tomorrow morning.

So as Russell headed to a meeting, he asked Robert Gallery if the offensive linemen needed toothpaste or any other toiletries.

I think JaMarcus can afford all the soap the linemen would need.

- Jason Jones

September 19, 2007
And the flaying of McCown continues ...

ALAMEDA - The topic of choice continues to be why Daunte Culpepper is not the starting quarterback.

I wish I had a real answer, but all I have is what Lane Kiffin tells the media.

Question: Is the problem that Daunte Culpepper can't learn the plays? I can't see any other reason for continuing to play Josh McCown and even that may not be a valid excuse. How about the guy from Arizona State?

James Bennison, Lincoln

Answer: Kiffin said Culpepper has learned the offense well, but he's still behind McCown in mastering the offense. The reason I don't completely buy that is that teams don't run their entire playbook every game. Teams go week-to-week, using plays best suited for the opponent. Culpepper wouldn't need to know the whole playbook, just the plays and audibles for that week.

If McCown has a bad game against Cleveland - especially if he continues to throw interceptions - I'd expect Kiffin to go to Culpepper.

And I assume the guy from Arizona State you're asking about is Andrew Walter, not tight end Zach Miller. Walter might be in his last week with the Raiders. When JaMarcus Russell signed, the team received a two-week roster exemption, meaning Russell does not count against their 53-man roster.

After this week's game, the Raiders will have to decide if they want to carry four quarterbacks, something NFL teams rarely do. Also, Kiffin hasn't expressed much confidence in Walter the past few weeks.

If they don't keep four quarterbacks, Walter could be traded or cut before the team plays Miami.

Question: Hey Jason, thanks for the great coverage of the Raiders. If Kiffin stresses competition and performance on the field, what the heck is he thinking continuing to start McCown over Culpepper? Especially after McCown throws 5 INTs in 2 games. In addition, Stu Schweigert is terrible, misses tackles all over the field and is really a liability. Is there anyone the Raiders can look at as an upgrade to this position?

Cody, San Diego

Answer: Hey, Cody. I'll answer the question even though those Padres have made life tough on me as a Dodger fan.

Kiffin contends the Raiders are better with McCown right now and that he makes the right decisions - in spite of five picks in two games. I thought Kiffin held off naming a starting quarterback so long because he couldn't stress competition and hand the job to Culpepper after two weeks. But that hasn't been the case, even though Culpepper outplayed McCown in exhibition games.

As for Schweigert, there are no plans to move him right now. There are those around the Raiders who believe Michael Huff is best suited to play free safety, but the Raiders plan to play Huff at strong safety.

And right now it wouldn't matter, as the secondary as a whole has looked horrible in tackling.

What you could see is Schweigert playing more near the line of scrimmage with Huff dropping back more in coverage. But what happens if and when Huff misses tackles?

When the Raiders cut Donovin Darius, it left a hole at backup strong safety. The Raiders worked out Lamont Thompson, who was a solid free safety in Tennessee, but he, and Darius, signed with Miami.

- Jason Jones

September 19, 2007
Burgess not practicing

ALAMEDA - The important news from the start of today's practice is Derrick Burgess was not on the field.

While other injured players such as Jeremy Newberry (hamstring) and Oren O'Neal (hamstring) were working out away from the team, Burgess wasn't, an indication his calf injury might be serious. He left the game in the fourth quarter in Denver. Lane Kiffin doesn't have to provide Burgess' status for the game today.

Rookie Jay Richardson filled in for Burgess late against the Broncos and probably would take first-team reps with the defense in Burgess' absence.

The Raiders have only four sacks in two games. Losing Burgess, who's 27 sacks in 2005 and '06 are tops in the NFL, would be tough to overcome.

Linebacker and special teams player Robert Thomas also was among the injured players. His injury isn't known, but he wasn't doing much with the other players.

- Jason Jones

September 17, 2007
McCown losing Kiffin's trust?

ALAMEDA - Josh McCown, the starting quarterback for your Oakland Raiders.

Not the news many fans want to hear. I've received e-mails and calls and text messages from fans asking why Lane Kiffin is so enthralled with McCown when Daunte Culpepper is on the bench.

It comes down to trust. Kiffin trusts McCown more than he does Culpepper with the offense.

How long that lasts is anyone's guess. I think another multi-interception game would get Culpepper the start against his old team, the Miami Dolphins, in Week 4.

Kiffin said as much in his news conference today when he said McCown wouldn't be the starter much longer if he didn't play better.

If McCown were on target Sunday, Jerry Porter has at least two touchdowns and the Raiders don't need overtime.

Kiffin knows that. And he knows he can't keep selling the Raiders on doing things his way if he doesn't start winning games.

• The Raiders ran for 200 yards against Denver, but Kiffin believes LaMont Jordan (159 yards) could have gained 200 on his own had he not missed some reads. Kiffin believes the run game will get even better this season.

Can you say LaMont Jordan, Pro Bowler? Don't laugh, it could happen. This zone-blocking scheme allows backs to put up big numbers. Just think of some of the no-name guys in Denver who have put up big numbers in the scheme.

• Kiffin still is dismayed by the poor tackling of his secondary. If the unit was better, Travis Henry doesn't get 100 yards rushing Sunday.

- Jason Jones

September 16, 2007
Surprise! It's McCown

DENVER - That Lane Kiffin is something else.

He expected Daunte Culpepper to start, but who was taking practice snaps from starting center Jake Grove?

That's right, Josh McCown.

McCown isn't wearing the glove on his right hand and doesn't appear to be limping on his sprained right foot today.

For all we know, Kiffin is just playing more mind games with everyone, trying to gain any competitive edge possible.

But Andrew Walter is the inactive third quarterback, so Kiffin believes McCown can play.

McCown is warming up with the first-team offense.

Or maybe Kiffin believes McCown on one good foot is better than Walter on two good feet.

The biggest surprise among the inactive players is Mike Williams. Kiffin continues to go with two tailbacks (LaMont Jordan, Justin Fargas) with Adimchinobe Echemandu inactive.

- Jason Jones

September 14, 2007
Daunte is the man

ALAMEDA - It's Daunte Culpepper's time.

Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said after practice he expects Culpepper to start Sunday in Denver.

Josh McCown was at practice this morning, sprinting to team drills and throwing the football without the glove he'd worn on his right hand the last two days.

But he didn't finish practice because he's still bothered by his sprained right foot.

Culpepper was mum on the decision because he said Kiffin hadn't told him he was starting.

*Jeremy Newberry (hamstring) wasn't at practice and probably won't play against the Broncos.

Robert Gallery left practice early with a hamstring injury. He doesn't believe it's serious and plans to play on Sunday. If he couldn't Kiffin said there were different scenarios he'd consider as to how to replace Gallery at left guard.

*Some Raider fans are mad about the NFL's punishment of New England coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots for stealing signals by videotaping New York Jets defensive coaches.

Of course, this goes back to the Tuck Rule, which is why Raider fans will be forever bitter toward the Patriots.

Here's the deal, even if the Patriots had stolen the Raiders call in that game, the play still worked.

The Raiders were done in by a dumb rule I haven't seen enforced since that 2001 playoff game.

Do I agree with the NFL's punishment? No. It should have been harsher. Suspend the coach and don't make losing draft picks conditional.

--Jason Jones

September 13, 2007
He wants two D's: Daunte and defense

Question: Hey, Jason. Thanks for responding to my last question. Two huge questions:

1. McCown didn't lose the game (see SeaBass, special teams play, and the defense), but he didn't win it. When will Culpepper get the start, as I believe he brings a different swagger to this team and earned the job in preseason by outplaying McCown?

2. What was up with the defense? Did we overrate them?

Mike, Reno

Answer: I'm not sure when Culpepper will get to start. The way Kiffin was talking after the game, he's prepared to ride with McCown for the near future.

He said Culpepper still is behind in mastering the offense and I think he just trusts McCown more than Culpepper, who is known to take chances in a way McCown won't. I thought Culpepper outplayed McCown in the preseason, but my opinion (and the opinions of the majority of people who watched the Raiders' exhibition games) doesn't really matter. Kiffin has his guy.

As for the defense, I won't call it overrated just yet. The lack of a pass rush at times was amazing (I think Kitna could have made a call on his cell phone to let Shaun McDonald know that touchdown pass in the fourth quarter was on the way).

What was exposed is the Raiders' lack of depth at cornerback. They tried to get by using safety Michael Huff and nickelback Stanford Routt and the Lions went after both. I was surprised Chris Carr didn't play more.

But in fairness to the defensive backs, unless the Raiders get a consistent pass rush, the cornerbacks are going to be in trouble. You can't ask them to cover forever.

And before everyone says it, I still don't know why the Raiders got rid of their second-best pass rusher of the preseason, Quentin Moses. No one has given a real answer.

The defense will be fine in time, but a group that returned all 11 starters shouldn't have looked so shoddy.

- Jason Jones

September 13, 2007
SeaBass flopping like fish

Question: Let's see, after week one of the 2007 season against the lowly Detroit Lions, would I rather have SeaBass or Shaun Alexander? Maybe Joe Nedney could still be kicking field goals for us, as he has for a bunch of other teams in the NFL since we released him for SeaBass. Hmm ... SeaBass or Alexander ... hmmmm

Bruce Eldridge, Chocorua, N.H.

Answer: It didn't take long for Sebastian Janikowski to remind everyone what he hasn't done as a pro.

Don't forget besides Shaun Alexander, Chad Pennington and Keith Bullock were first-round picks that year who were picked after Janikowski, who hasn't been to a Pro Bowl since being picked out of Florida State in 2000.

His struggles are puzzling. If he weren't a first-round pick, I wonder if the Raiders would have gotten rid of him years ago.

He makes too much money to be so inconsistent. I know none of the kicks he tried were chip shots, but he's paid not to miss from 46.

A kicker noted for a strong leg can't miss kicks inside of 50 yards, especially for an offense trying to get untracked and needing every point.

By the way, Neil Rackers is a Pro Bowl kicker drafted the same year - in the sixth round.

- Jason Jones

September 13, 2007
Kiffin a straight shooter

Question: Jason, even though he kept a closed mouth about the starting QB, it seems to me that Lane Kiffin has been very accessible to you and the media. We seem to be getting a lot of insight from him, or is that my misperception? By the way, your picture is just fine. You are the Raiders beat writer, you should look hard.

Jay, Folsom

Answer: Kiffin is pretty honest with the media. He offers good insight when it comes to player evaluations and usually doesn't give the politically correct answer.

The first time I heard a "no comment" from him was last Friday when I asked about the Raiders and JaMarcus Russell's agents meeting, which led me to believe there was some truth to the report, which I was able to confirm.

Thanks for not wanting me to get too flowery in the picture. It's probably time for me to update it, but I don't exactly have a lot of time to drive up to Sacramento right now.

- Jason Jones

September 13, 2007
QB touch-and-go

ALAMEDA - Josh McCown wasn't in too talkative a mood after practice.

That's understandable, as various media held him up for about 30 minutes yesterday. But he said enough to give the impression he plans to play Sunday at Denver.

McCown said he's trying to gauge at what level he could play with his sprained right foot. He had it taped and walked with a bit of a limp in the locker room but looked fine on the football field.

McCown and Daunte Culpepper split snaps with the first team today, coach Lane Kiffin said, so my guess is if McCown's foot isn't throbbing and swollen tomorrow, he'll start Sunday.

Kiffin continues to say McCown's hand isn't a problem. But McCown isn't wearing a glove on his right (throwing) hand because he's trying to make a fashion statement. The injury might not be severe, but there's definitely something wrong. The Raiders won't confirm reports McCown has a cracked bone in his right index finger.

McCown said doctors couldn't tell him exactly what was wrong with his finger. He's wearing the glove to get a better grip on the ball.

• Jeremy Newberry said he could play without practicing, but expect Jake Grove to start at center.

Dealing with Shaun Rogers was a chore last week. This week, big Sam Adams will be clogging the middle. Big tackles like Adams (6-foot-3, 350 pounds) give Grove the most problems because he gives up at least 50 pounds to them and they're able to move Grove around.

Newberry, at 315, is only 15 pounds bigger, but he's also one of the strongest players on the team.

• Duane Starks (groin) didn't practice and probably won't play. The Raiders have been looking for a veteran corner to stick with their young secondary for a while. That would be Starks if he could stay healthy.

- Jason Jones

September 13, 2007
McCown practices

ALAMEDA - Josh McCown was able to practice today.

To what extent, I won't know until later. McCown still is wearing a glove on his right hand but didn't look limited in throwing the ball or pushing of on his sprained right foot during quarterback drills.

Daunte Culpepper still was first up at the start of team drills. If McCown can play, coach Lane Kiffin still would be inclined to go with him just because of the comfort level he has with McCown even if Culpepper is healthy.

If McCown still were limited today, I would expect Culpepper starting to be a slam dunk.

Jeremy Newberry (hamstring) wasn't at practice, meaning Jake Grove probably will start at center in Denver.

Kiffin has speakers at practice to simulate crowd noise. Perhaps JaMarcus Russell's arrival has led to Kiffin pumping some of the more popular rap music of the South into practice.

Yesterday's selections during stretching were T.I. and Yung Joc. Today, T.I. was on again with Chamillionaire also playing.

I'll be back with more after Kiffin speaks to the considerably smaller media crowd today now that Russell's first day is over.

- Jason Jones

September 12, 2007
Russell in ideal situation

ALAMEDA - JaMarcus Russell is no dummy.

He's looking forward to studying under Daunte Culpepper, probably the only quarterback to come through the NFL who compares to him.

Watching Culpepper run the offense, Russell will see someone make plays similar to those he could make and have a better understanding of what he needs to do once he becomes the starting quarterback.

But as he worked out in Atlanta, some suggested he try to force his way to the local team that just lost its supremely talented quarterback.

With negotiations dragging on, one had to wonder if Russell ever thought he just didn't want to be a Raider.

"Nah, people said that about the Michael Vick incident," Russell said. " 'They need a quarterback, you need to go over there.' I was like, 'Nah, I'm going to the Raiders. It's just a matter of time before I get there.' I knew deep down in my heart where I got drafted to and where I wanted to play at and I just couldn't wait to get here."

And he couldn't be in a better situation, having a Pro Bowl quarterback to learn from who has had success on the field.

If he were in Atlanta, he could learn from Joey Harrington.

Russell isn't going to brag about his skills, but he doesn't lack confidence. He believes if he does what he needs to do, he could play this season.

And with Josh McCown nicked up and Andrew Walter likely on his way out in the next couple of weeks (provided he doesn't get a mystery injury and end up on injured reserve), it's not unreasonable to think Russell could play this season.

• Ronald Curry had an interesting take on fans booing Josh McCown. He said McCown probably played better than anyone on offense so any criticism of his really was unfair.

Curry is one of the most honest Raiders and one of the smartest in terms of football (I would put Warren Sapp right there among Raiders I've dealt with a lot in terms of game intelligence).

With that, Curry's opinion carries a lot of weight with me. But not everyone gets to talk to him, so I still expect a lot of Culpepper chants when the Raiders play Cleveland at home Week 3.

• Jeremy Newberry (hamstring) is questionable for Sunday's game at Denver and did not practice. Cornerback Duane Starks (groin) also didn't practice.

• By the way, I checked out the NFL's rules on suspended players. Dominic Rhodes is allowed at the facility because he's not suspended for performance-enhancing drugs.

I wondered earlier if he was allowed here and I guess he is. Rhodes just can't practice with the team.

- Jason Jones

September 12, 2007
McCown not practicing, wearing protective glove

ALAMEDA - Just got off the practice field, where it looks as if I could do more with a football than Josh McCown could right now.

He was at practice with a glove on his right hand and not practicing. If he can't practice, you have to assume he can't play, whether Daunte Culpepper knows the whole offense or not.

McCown was walking with a bit of a limp, too.

As for the quarterback you all want to know about, JaMarcus Russell was there.

The other notable missing player was center Jeremy Newberry, who pulled his hamstring against the Lions.

• Suspended running back Dominic Rhodes was working out with Michael Bush and Johnathan Holland.

Bush is on the physically unable to perform list and Holland is on injured reserve.

Not sure if Rhodes is supposed to be doing that. I always thought a suspended player had to be off the premises.

Then again, I could be wrong.

- Jason Jones

September 12, 2007
Russell signs at last

ALAMEDA - It’s (finally) official.

JaMarcus Russell signed his contract this morning. There will be a 3 p.m. news conference today.

With as long as it took to get the deal done, it was no surprise he didn’t officially sign yesterday. But after all this time, another day is really no big deal.

I’m waiting for the conference call with Denver quarterback Jay Cutler before going out to the practice field where Russell should be.

The question that impacts this weekend, though, is whether Josh McCown will practice.

- Jason Jones

September 11, 2007
Bad break for McCown

Josh McCown is one of the nicest guys in the NFL you'll ever meet.

But he isn't lucky.

An NFL.com report said McCown could miss three to four weeks with a cracked bone in his index finger.

If he does and Daunte Culpepper gets rolling, McCown's time as the Raiders starting quarterback could be over.

Lane Kiffin loves McCown, evidence by him starting over Culpepper, who's name and reputation would seem to give him an edge over the unheralded McCown.

But even the headstrong Kiffin would be crazy to bench a hot Culpepper in favor of McCown if he were to miss a month.

If McCown can't play, Kiffin will miss the days he was peppered with questions about when JaMarcus Russell was on his way to camp.

At least then, he had to worry about having four healthy quarterbacks and Kiffin knew Russell wouldn't be a factor.

Now, with McCown possibly down, he would only have Andrew Walter to turn to in case Culpepper went down.

And talk about impeccable timing.

Russell hasn't signed his six-year contract yet, but might have to get ready for an emergency QB sooner than any one in the Raiders organization wants him to.

Or Ronald Curry might have to go from being the Raiders best receiver to becoming the emergency quarterback.

With all that in mind, Kiffin just want's McCown's hand to be OK.

Kiffin won't want to reveal the severity of the injury, unless McCown is walking around with a cast tomorrow and he has to admit McCown can't play.

But don't be surprised if Kiffin plays coy again with his starting quarterback.

--Jason Jones

September 10, 2007
McCown has to win

ALAMEDA - Josh McCown had to win.

That's the only way for him to quiet the chants of "Daunte!" heard throughout McAfee Coliseum.

By leaving Daunte Culpepper on the sideline even though he seemed to outplay McCown in exhibition games, Kiffin has put McCown in a tough spot.

McCown isn't the guy fans want to see on the field. And he'll hear boos, a lot of times unfairly, over every miscue.

Unless he wins.

McCown might be resilient, but if he doesn't win, teammates could join fans in their desire to see Culpepper on the field.

Then there's the ever-lingering JaMarcus Russell factor.

People familiar with the Russell negotiations expect him here sometime this week. If that happens, expect McCown to be the target of more venom.

McCown better just win, baby.

- Jason Jones

September 8, 2007
Davis, Raiders might steal NFL spotlight

Raiders owner Al Davis loves to make a splash and have his Raiders steal the spotlight.

So what better way for Davis to do that than sign JaMarcus Russell sometime before the first full day of the NFL season?

Sure there would be games played all day, including the Raiders hosting the Detroit Lions.

But the Raiders, win or lose, would be talked about at length if the team signs the first overall pick from this year's draft.

Both sides met for a second consecutive day Saturday to hammer out a deal, and it's close to being done.

How close? If Davis has it his way, Russell and the Raiders will be the talk of all your morning NFL shows.

- Jason Jones

September 7, 2007
And don't ask him about JaMarcus

ALAMEDA - Lane Kiffin is clearly tired of talking about JaMarcus Russell.

He knows he has to answer questions about him until he's signed, but it's not his favorite topic.

There's a game on Sunday and the Russell situation is still lingering. It's might be irritating, but things like this happen when you don't sign the first pick in the draft.

There are reports of a meeting today between the Raiders and Russell's agents, but that doesn't mean anything right now.

Kiffin had nothing to say about that, which falls in line with the secretive nature of things around here lately.

No starting quarterback news. No starting center. No first-round draft pick.

No one I've spoken to close to the situation believes a deal is imminent.

Sure, things have moved a long a bit, but it's still at a crawl.

When I hear JaMarcus is on a plane to California, I'll believe there's something to write about.

*I still believe Josh McCown will start on Sunday based on what little part of practice I saw today. Jeremy Newberry will be the center.

Then again, Lane could be messing with my head.

*The Raiders are pretty healthy going into this game. The only player that wasn't injured this week that might not play is cornerback Duane Starks (groin).

--Jason Jones

September 7, 2007
Only the coach knows for sure

Josh McCown and Jeremy Newberry.

That appears to be the answer to the "Who will start at quarterback and center?" debate.

Newberry had been working with the first-team offensive line in drills all week, but before being ushered out of practice, McCown did step into the huddle (along with Newberry) with the first-team offense.

Could Kiffin be doing this to trick everyone? I wouldn't put it past him.

But that looks likes the combo to start Sunday against Detroit.

-- Jason Jones

September 6, 2007
On TV

ALAMEDA - For those asking, Sunday's game will be televised locally.

There still might be scattered tickets available, but in case you can't make it to Oakland, it will be on television.

- Jason Jones

September 6, 2007
An Al intervention?

ALAMEDA - The Raiders continue to work in secrecy about their starting quarterback, ushering the media away from practice, earlier and earlier each day.

But on the way out of practice, Raiders owner Al Davis was arriving at the facility and joked he could go to practice since the media was gone.

When asked who the starting quarterback should be, Davis said, "He may be in Mobile."

Davis clearly still loves JaMarcus Russell's talent, even if he's working out in Mobile, Ala., and Atlanta.

I wouldn't be surprised if Davis began taking a more active role in getting these negotiations done. That Russell still isn't a Raider is ridiculous and Davis knows it does his team no good to let this fiasco drag on any longer.

Depending on the day, the sides either are getting closer to completing a deal, nowhere close, or not even talking.

If Russell's agents are perturbed by the Raiders' negotiators and vice versa, perhaps Davis will step in to try to wrap this up. Because Russell in Mobile isn't any good for either side.

- Jason Jones

September 5, 2007
If he tells you, he has to kill you

ALAMEDA - The Raiders are in full CIA mode.

Lane Kiffin doesn't have "any information" on his starting quarterback for the public.

The players are playing dumb, following Kiffin's cry to protect the team.

Things are never boring around here.

Kiffin won't reveal his starting quarterback and is a little testy about defending his decision.

And because there's not much else to talk about at this point, there wasn't a lot to talk to Kiffin about today.

Kiffin's still not announcing his starting center either, even though I've seen Jeremy Newberry do some work in drills as a starter the last two days.

But I still wouldn't put it past the Raiders to do so just to confuse the situation.

Even though Josh McCown played for Detroit last year (think they have no idea what he can do?) and Lions head coach Rod Marinelli faced Daunte Culpepper when they were division rivals with Tampa Bay and Minnesota, respectively, Kiffin is holding out.

It's his prerogative. Let's see if it works.

- Jason Jones

September 5, 2007
Thinking good thoughts, apparently

ALAMEDA - The Raiders really are an optimistic bunch.

They had loudspeakers at practice today to simulate crowd noise.

Are the Raiders expecting an actual sellout Sunday?

No word yet from the team, but that would be quite a feat.

How many Raider fans are ready to come out the pocket, considering last year they were treated to a 27-0 beatdown by San Diego to start the season?

I wouldn't, but I don't have to. Maybe Lane Kiffin has given fans a reason to come out already.

Until proven otherwise, I'll remain a skeptic. After all, there were a bunch of players who said they liked the offense before last season.

- Jason Jones

September 5, 2007
Keeping us guessing

ALAMEDA - For the second day in a row, Jeremy Newberry was the starting center during the only portion of practice open to the media.

Who knows? Maybe Lane Kiffin is doing that just to mess with us. Or he could announce Newberry has beat out Jake Grove for the starting job.

When it comes to the quarterback, it's still anyone's guess. You would assume it would be Daunte Culpepper; then again, you would also have assumed Quentin Moses would be on the Raiders right now.

• This morning's conference calls were with Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna and head coach Rod Marinelli.

Marinelli was Warren Sapp's position coach in Tampa Bay. He said Sapp was in the 300-pound or less range for a good part of their time together in the late 1990s.

He added Sapp is as smart as any quarterback in the NFL. To watch Sapp coach any part of the team (I've seen him correctly direct special teams) is always a treat.

• Marinelli interviewed for the Raiders job before it went to Art Shell. Both were brought in by their employers to be strong leaders. Marinelli made the wise choice of Mike Martz as his offensive coordinator. Shell's hiring of Tom Walsh sealed his demise.

• Kitna and Josh McCown are good friends. We're still waiting for Kiffin to let us know if the two friends will be the opposing starting quarterbacks.

- Jason Jones

September 4, 2007
What's up with the Russell deal?

Question: Why do you try to look so hard in your picture? I am from San Pedro so I know how it is, but relax. I met you at Raider camp and you were a decent guy. So what is the deal with Russell? I heard he will sign before Sunday. What's the deal with this, and how does Kiffin feel about the draft now?

Mike, Reno

Answer: Hey, I'm not trying to intimidate with the picture. I just posed the way the photographer told me. If you notice, our 49ers writer, Matt Barrows looks "hard" too. Whenever we take pictures again, I'll try not to intimidate and maybe wear a bright colored shirt to help give off positive vibes.

The deal with Russell (as of right now) is there is no deal. The Raiders have offered a six-year, $60 million deal with $31 million in guarantees, $30 million protected against skill and injury.

The hang-up is a clause in the contract that would reduce the guarantee amount to $27 million with the last $4 million coming later in the deal.

I expect Russell will sign this month ... it's just a matter of when.

- Jason Jones

September 4, 2007
Trade for Culpepper would have made sense

Question: The Raiders wouldn't have traded for Daunte because of the salary. They waited for the cut so they could get better terms. Read your writing all the time ... keep up the good work

Marty, New York

Answer: That might be true. But the Raiders said they didn't make a move earlier to get Culpepper because they figured he'd become available, but the team could have traded for him and negotiated a new deal, too.

Kansas City refusing to trade Trent Green to Miami didn't help. But looking at the big picture, the Raiders should have been more proactive. If the Raiders knew signing Russell would be tough, why not make a move for Culpepper sooner so that you have him as your starter and he doesn't miss the entire offseason program, and draft Calvin Johnson?

Because Miami decided early it didn't want Culpepper, the pick the team wasted on Quentin Moses could have been enough to land him, regardless of what happened with Green because Miami was the only team Green would play for.

- Jason Jones

September 4, 2007
Waiving of Moses is puzzling

Question: The waiving of Quentin Moses was the biggest surprise of cut-down day. We pretty much heard nothing but good things about him in camp. Is there something we don't know about that could have led to this or did he just stop performing? Very strange to say the least.

Jim Glen, Sacramento

Answer: It's one of two things. Either he did something really bad that we don't know about or the Raiders figured he just wasn't good, which means the scouting department messed up. I just don't buy he simply wasn't good enough, especially when he was a possible starter less than a month ago. If the first pick of the third round can't play for your team, something is very strange.

- Jason Jones

September 4, 2007
How does this work for you?

Question: How can you possibly NOT have any posts since August 28th??? (Today is Sept. 2nd, the day AFTER cut-down day!) Your 49er counterpart is running/working circles around you with up-to-date info that any true fan wants at this time of year! Some major roster moves/decisions have been made that are quite worthy of some sort of info/comment from you and yet ... nothing. Unless you are sick/family issues there is no excuse for your lack of coverage during these past few days. Comments???

John, Folsom

Answer: I'm sorry that I'm not working hard enough for you. And any health or family issues I might have I certainly wouldn't divulge in this forum. I did comment on the roster moves (your message was sent probably right before my comments were posted).

As for Saturday, the Raiders didn't release the list of players they cut until about 5 p.m., and I had plans to be somewhere that time of day: I had to watch Cal beat Tennessee. And I missed most of the first quarter while writing my story on the cuts at a Starbucks in Berkeley so I could go to the game.

Also, I occasionally do get a day off.

Go Bears.

- Jason Jones

September 4, 2007
Cruel twist for Ekejiuba, but he sticks

ALAMEDA - Isaiah Ekejiuba is ticked off right now.

He sat in the Raiders' locker room today with a walking boot on his right foot, the result of what he said was a dirty play by a Seattle Seahawk in Thursday's exhibition game.

Ekejiuba is out three to six weeks with a cracked bone in his heel, which he said happened when a Seahawk grabbed his foot from behind and twisted on a play away from the ball.

Ekejiuba did enough at linebacker and on special teams to warrant still being kept on the active roster. But the injury left him nervous on cut-down day Saturday, not knowing what the Raiders would do with him.

But in lighter news, Ekejiuba is happy about the option that allows players on the "Madden 08" video game to edit a player's skills.

Ekejiuba has an overall rating of 55 out of 99, tied for the worst on the game.

What is he now?

"About an 85," Ekejiuba said with a laugh.

It's one of the few football things he can laugh about right now.

• Mike Williams is out to prove Matt Millen isn't a dumb general manager.

Those labels come when you draft a wide receiver in the first round three years in a row, with Williams being the third in 2005.

In Williams' first game with the Raiders on Sunday, he faces his old team, Detroit.

"My goals remain the same, which is to prove Matt Millen was correct when he picked me No. 10," Williams said. "That's what I'll do. That would be the same goal if I was still in Detroit."

If Williams can prove Millen right, he'll make a lot of skeptics look bad.

• Still no starting quarterback. Still no starting center. The quarterbacks know who the starter is but aren't telling.

Lane Kiffin said he might announce his decision tomorrow. I'll be shocked if he does.

- Jason Jones

September 4, 2007
Still guessing at QB starter

ALAMEDA - Just left the practice field from the portion of practice us media folks are allowed to watch.

After watching the team stretch and work on punting, we were ushered away. One thing of note was during the bit of time the offensive line worked together, Jeremy Newberry was the starting center.

I'll be sure to ask Lane Kiffin if we can at least know if that's a spot where he has decided on a starter.

I was off the field before I could get an idea if Daunte Culpepper was the starting quarterback. I'll be shocked if Lane Kiffin announces a decision today.

Also, I didn't get the memo from the Raiders that Kyle Shotwell is not on the practice squad.

The Raiders added linebacker Jon Alston, receiver Jonathan Orr and tight end Daniel Fells to the practice squad on Monday.

Alston played at Stanford and Fells is former UC Davis player.

- Jason Jones

September 2, 2007
Draft was more like draft-and-follow

ALAMEDA - I hate grading drafts. I gave the Raiders an "A" based on their picks, but they wouldn't get that grade based on how things have progressed:

• The first overall pick in the draft, quarterback JaMarcus Russell still isn't signed.

• One third-round pick, defensive end Quentin Moses, didn't make the team.

• A fourth-rounder still is on the physically unable to perform list (running back Michael Bush).

• A fifth-round pick didn't make the team (safety Eric Frampton).

• A seventh-round pick was hurt in minicamp and is on injured reserve (receiver Johnathan Holland).

The Raiders drafted 11 players in April. Tight end Zach Miller (second round) and receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins (third round) figure to help from the start, while fullback Oren O'Neal (sixth round) could be a contributor, as should defensive end Jay Richardson (fifth round).

Injuries happen and note every pick will make the team. But by not getting Russell into camp, his season already is a waste. If and when he shows up, there will be no way for him to get any better since practice time won't be spent catching him up with games to play.

And with no exhibition games left, Russell might not play until 2009 if he signs and the Raiders treat next year like his rookie season.

If the Raiders weren't going to get him in, couldn't they have dealt for Daunte Culpepper (the third-round pick wasted on Moses would have been more than enough) and drafted Calvin Johnson? Moses was the first pick of the third round.

But enough what-ifs and back to what's happening right now.

Tackle Mario Henderson is a third-rounder the team would admit is a project. Bush was taken in the fourth round but might not play until next year.

Cornerback John Bowie came in the fourth round with the pick from the Randy Moss trade. He's buried on the depth chart after missing a lot of time with an Achilles' tendon injury.

I still like the Bush pick, but there's no reason a team should ever draft a player who can't make the team in the third round.

Moses was the first pick of the third round. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said the Raiders "stole" by taking him that low in the draft.

Head coach Lane Kiffin said the Raiders couldn't block him in training camp.

In the end, they didn't even want him.

Great teams build through the draft. Kiffin's first draft in the end might be determined by how two players who probably won't play this season (Bush and Russell) eventually perform.

You've got to give the Raiders an incomplete right now.

- Jason Jones



About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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