Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

October 31, 2007
Kiffin has a Bush in the backfield again

ALAMEDA – Here’s your report of what’s happening at Raiders practice (during stretching and special teams work).

Michael Bush has finally been given clearance to practice. The rookie running back from Louisville isn’t on the active roster as of now.

But after spending the entire season on the physically unable to perform list, Bush is happy to be on the field, even if it’s just for the scout team.

The Raiders have three weeks before they have to decide whether to add Bush to the active roster.

Gerard Warren still isn’t practicing. The only defensive tackles on the active roster are Warren Sapp, Terdell Sands and Tyler Brayton. With Tommy Kelly out, there’s no one to slide in there in a pinch.

Recently signed receiver Tim Dwight was back with Chris Carr working on punt returns. With Mike Williams waived, it might mean a bigger role in the offense for rookie Johnnie Lee Higgins, who lost the starting punt return duties to Carr.

Cornell Green and Jeremy Newberry weren’t at practice. Jonathan Lewis, a second year defensive tackle from Virginia Tech, has been signed to the practice squad.

--Jason Jones

October 31, 2007
You ask, I respond

ALAMEDA – I don’t have to answer the get rid of Mike Williams questions since he’s already gone.

I didn’t get around to answering any questions in Nashville because I was too busy eating barbecue and checking out the Country Music Hall of Fame (and know I can’t get George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” out of my head).

The Ray Charles exhibit was nice. And I saw that country music artists were into bling and pimping out their rides long before Xzibit on MTV.

So I have my Ipod set to music that isn’t country to answer some questions, even though I’m sure I’ll download that George Jones song pretty soon.

Question: Are there any plans for the Raiders to bring in JaMarcus Russell anytime soon?

Answer: No. Unless there’s a rash of quarterback injuries, Russell won’t play soon.

With the offense as bad as it’s been lately, there’s no need to put Russell on the field now.

Raul, Los Angeles

Question: Late in Sunday’s game, after Barry Sim’s had committed his third false start (he also had a critical holding call that wiped out a first down), the play-by-play announcer asked Rich Gannon: "When is enough, enough ...at what point does the head coach face reality"?

I don’t recall Gannon’s response, because he ducked the answer, not wanting to annoy his old buddy I suppose, but I’ll ask you...When is enough, enough? We’ve watched Sims do this for years ...and his response is "lack of focus, I guess. YOU GUESS????
James, Lincoln

Answer: Enough is enough when there’s a left tackle on the roster better than Barry Sims.

There’s no one on the team better than Sims right now. Robert Gallery can’t play in his spot. Paul McQuistan can’t and rookie Mario Henderson isn’t ready to help as he’s been inactive every game this season.

Help won’t come until the offseason, when the Raiders might be able to find some help on the offensive line.

Until then, barring injury, Barry Sims is the Raiders’ left tackle, lack of focus or not.


Question: Can the Raiders ever become a good offense this year without having an "all-star" type running back or receiver?
Jason, Bloomfield, Iowa

Answer: I don’t think so because the Raiders’ issues on offense go beyond just running back and receiver.

The Raiders problems start with the offensive line in the passing game.

It doesn’t matter who’s at receiver if the quarterback isn’t protected. But the Raiders do lack a receiver that consistently stretches the field to help open things up for the running game.

The Raiders still need another receiver. But it’s Week 9 and players like Chad Johnson aren’t sitting at home so that can’t be fixed until next season.

The Raiders don’t need a superstar running back. The backs they have will work. If the Raiders could pass with consistency and not hurt themselves with penalties, the running game would open up again.

Question: Can we bring in Bill Parcells - and start winning with some good players?
Aaron, San Diego
Answer: No. There’s no way Bill Parcells leaves his cushy job at ESPN for the Raiders. Well I shouldn’t so no way, but I’m 99 percent sure that won’t happen.

I doubt Parcells could win with this group, anyway.

I’ve had a few readers ask if it’s time to get rid of Lane Kiffin – after seven games?
Know this much, Kiffin didn’t inherit a good team. The Raiders haven’t been good since 2002.

The key you mentioned is “good players.” The Raiders still need an influx of talent on offense.

No one in the NFL wins with bad players. It all begins with the draft, where the Raiders haven’t been good, particularly in picking offensive players, in recent years.

Owner Al Davis admitted as much when he hired Kiffin by stating Kiffin’s role as lead recruiter at USC would help the Raiders evaluate talent better.

Give Kiffin some time. If the Raiders are 2-5 to start 2009 (yes, it might take that long), then it’s time to question the direction Kiffin is leading the team in.


Question: With no pass rush and the fact that we can’t stop the run, I can’t understand why we won’t blitz more. Seems everyone else does it to us. Also, any news on us picking up Grady Jackson since Atlanta let him go? That would REALLY be a plus on the D-line!
Patrick, Sacramento

Answer: I have no idea why the Raiders don’t blitz more. I’ve asked players that don’t know why either.

If you noticed in Sunday’s game, Derrick Burgess’ sack was aided by a Thomas Howard blitz.

The Raiders like the way their linebackers patrol the field in passing situations and don’t want to blitz them too much. The Raiders have blitzed a little more lately (They even brought Nnamdi Asomugha on a corner blitz), but they just don’t do it a lot as to no deviate from their base defense.

Blitzing to stop the run wouldn’t hurt, but the linebackers actually do a good job diagnosing and stopping the run when the defensive line doesn’t get pushed into them.

And as you have probably seen, Grady Jackson signed with Jacksonville. So your run defense is left up to Warren Sapp, Terdell Sands, Tyler Brayton and Gerard Warren (whenever he returns).

And for an interesting take on Sapp against the run, check out footballoutiders.com.

It’s definitely worth the read.

--Jason Jones

October 31, 2007
Good luck, Mike

I’ll miss Mike Williams, who the Raiders waived on Tuesday.

He was always fun to talk to and honest, something that’s treasured in my line of work. He understood what the Raiders’ offense was supposed to do, but is the first scapegoat for the Raiders’ offensive failures.

In the end, Williams just didn’t perform. I expect he’ll get another job. He’s young and a team (like Tennessee) which could use a receiver would give him a look in the coming weeks.

Williams was oft-criticized by Kiffin and a penalty and costly drop against Tennessee ended his time in Oakland.

Williams told me during training camp whatever came of his time with the Raiders, it would be what he deserved.

I wonder if he feels that way now.

*Adding Tim Dwight won’t fix any of the problems in the passing game unless he can pass block.

The Raiders passing game looks a lot like last year’s with the exception the team does run screens better.

*The loss of Tommy Kelly means Gerard Warren needs to get back fast.

--Jason Jones

October 29, 2007
Where will Rhodes run next?

ALAMEDA – I addressed the news of Lane Kiffin’s press conference.

Now onto the rumors that always follow the Raiders.

Running back Dominic Rhodes has been rumored to be cut by the team. Kiffin said he told Rhodes that he’s talked to no one about releasing him.

Fox and ESPN reported the Raiders didn’t want to release Rhodes and risk Denver (Mike Shanahan) or Tampa Bay (Jon Gruden) picking him up.

Kiffin hasn’t lied to me and I have no reason to believe he’s lying when he says he hasn’t looked into cutting Rhodes.

But that doesn’t mean owner Al Davis hasn’t been on the phone, seeing if there are any teams that would claim Rhodes.

That’s all rumor. The fact is for a two year, $7.5 million contract, Rhodes is a part-time kicker returner for the Raiders.

I know the Raiders return game has been lacking, but that’s a lot of money for a return man that hasn’t carried the ball at running back in two of the three games he’s played in.

Well, he did run once against San Diego, but a penalty killed the play.

Rhodes was good enough to carry the load in the Super Bowl for Indianapolis, but can’t win the kick returner job outright from Chris Carr outright as a Raider.

Only $1 million of Rhodes’ deal is guaranteed. He forfeited 4/17 of his base salary with his four-game suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy.

Rhodes can help the offense. If the team doesn’t add any more receivers, he could line up wide and give the Raiders some help in the passing game.

Maybe he can break a long run to spark the offense.

But until further notice, he’s a part-time kick returner.

No wonder he had nothing to say today. I can’t imagine he’s happy.

*Kiffin was noncommittal as to whether the Raiders would keep Andrew Walter on the roster. The team is comfortable with JaMarcus Russell as the third quarterback and with needs at receiver, it seems odd the team would hold up a roster spot with Walter.

Then again, if the Raiders eventually activate Michael Bush, he could take Walter’s spot.

But don’t be surprised if Walter is still a Raider at the end of the season.

And with Rhodes waiting his turn, Bush would only add to a crowded backfield.

--Jason Jones


October 29, 2007
Notes from Kiffin's recap

ALAMEDA – In case you weren’t glued to your television for Lane Kiffin’s Monday press conference, here are the keys I took from it.

*There was some credence to Rich Gannon’s comments during the CBS telecast that Daunte Culpepper can’t get from under center as quickly as Josh McCown, which is why the Raiders are in shotgun a lot with Culpepper.

Culpepper said there’s no physical problem. Kiffin said McCown’s feet are quicker

Kiffin said shotgun limits the run plays he can call, but added Culpepper plays well in shotgun, which is why they use the formation.

*Defensive lineman Tommy Kelly’s knee injury is serious. Kiffin said he’d have more details on Wednesday.

*Roster changes are looming. To what degree isn’t known, but another receiver wouldn’t hurt.

*Justin Fargas will see more time at tailback and Oren O’Neal will play more at fullback. More Fargas looks like a good idea right now. Since his back injury, LaMont Jordan has 41 carries for only 87 yards.

*Rookie running back Michael Bush could start practicing in the next week or two.

Right tackle Cornell Green was in the locker room this morning with a sleeve on his left knee.

He instructed media to ask trainer H. Rod Martin about the injury that knocked him out of the game before saying he’d be fine.

--Jason Jones

October 28, 2007
It might be his time

NASHVILLE – Could today be the day JaMarcus Russell debuts?

He is dressed for the game while Andrew Walter is inactive.

Russell is the third quarterback and if today's game gets out of hand, Lane Kiffin hasn’t ruled out getting Russell onto the field.

Before you get mad at me or say Kiffin thinks the Raiders have no chance, the game could get out of hand in Oakland's favor.

Russell could play if both quarterbacks are out or if Kiffin just decides to let Russell play while holding out Josh McCown, the No. 2 quarterback.

If Russell plays, it’s a credit to his football acumen. Having missed the entire preseason, there should be no question that he wouldn’t play this year.

But he’s picked up enough and put in the extra work to make mentioning him appearing in a game not sound like a joke.

The other inactive players are:

CB John Bowie: The rookie acquired in the Randy Moss trade still hasn’t dressed for a regular-season game
CB Chris Johnson: No surprise
C Chris Morris: Not needed with Jake Grove as a backup center and longsnapper.
LB Sam Williams: The shoulder injury that doesn’t seem like a big deal to Williams keeps him out again.
DT Gerard Warren: Quadriceps injury keeps him out
T Mario Henderson: Another rookie yet to dress for a regular-season game.

--Jason Jones

October 27, 2007
Chatting with Chow

NASHVILLE – Speaking with Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow was definitely enlightening.

*Chow keeps in touch with his former quarterbacks like Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Philip Rivers (folks forget Chow spent some time at North Carolina State).

*Chow said there was no animosity when he left USC and that he doesn’t know how stories he didn’t get along with Carroll or Kiffin surfaced.

He said all of the coaches there deserved credit for the success USC had.
Though Kiffin doesn’t credit Chow for his success like he does Pete Carroll or Jeff Tedford, it turns out Chow is a fan of Tedford, too.

*Tedford was the offensive coordinator at Fresno State that allowed Kiffin to get his start in coaching as a graduate assistant.

Chow said he and Tedford couldn’t agree more on how a game should be called.

That’s funny to me because some of the criticism Tedford has received lately (too conservative, not passing enough) are some of the criticisms aimed at Kiffin.

Chow’s offense with the Titans is all about the run, too.

Perhaps that’s the part of Chow that rubbed off on Kiffin at USC.

--Jason Jones


--Jason Jones

October 25, 2007
Break from the usual

ALAMEDA – The open portion of Raiders practice is usually pretty boring because it entails watching players stretch and special teams drills.

Today was a little different.

During special teams practice, running back Justin Fargas and practice squad defensive tackle Josh Shaw got into a tussle.

It took several offensive linemen and LaMont Jordan (even with his bad back) to pull Fargas off Shaw, who was still yelling at Shaw as the two were separated.

I didn’t see how the two crossed paths, but whatever happened had Fargas so angry that losing his helmet in the pile wasn’t enough to keep him off Shaw.

Defensive end Tyler Brayton of knee to the groin of Jerramy Stevens fame, yelled, “see what happens when I leave for a minute.”

Derrick Burgess called for a whistle to get the team session going because the team was obviously ready to work as other defensive linemen laughed.

Defensive tackle Gerard Warren was the only regular missing from practice. Lane Kiffin called Warren’s absence disappointing yesterday and hoped he’d practice today.

It looks like Warren could miss a third game with his quadriceps injury.

Offensive linemen Cornell Green (knee) and Jeremy Newberry (ankle) were at practice after having the day off Wednesday.

--Jason Jones

October 24, 2007
Why the rookie started again

ALAMEDA – The mystery of why Jay Richardson ran unto the field late to start at defensive end against Kansas City has been solved.

Richardson told me on Monday I had to ask Tommy Kelly about that. Lane Kiffin said Kelly “disappeared” on them and to ask Kelly about it.

Now Kelly isn’t one to speak to the media. But as he walked by today I was talking to Richardson when Kelly said the media needed to stop interviewing Richardson.

I told him if he spoke, I’d leave Richardson alone. Of course, he said no and reminded me Warren Sapp and Derrick Burgess were spokesmen for the defensive line.

But I told him Richardson said it was his fault that he’d run on the field late.

Not true, Kelly said.

Without going into too much detail, when nature called and with an upset stomach, he couldn’t make it back to the field on time.

Bubbly guts, is the term I believe was used.

****

Linebacker Kirk Morrison has a home in San Diego that he said is being watched by a friend as wildfires have forced thousands to be evacuated in the area.

Morrison said his home is closer inland and not threatened right now. He’s familiar with fires impacting game preparation because fires did the same to him while at San Diego State in 2003.

He said he’s been besieged by phone calls by those checking on him and friends in the area.

****

Coaches gave tackle Cornell Green (knee) and center Jeremy Newberry (ankle) the day off.

Kiffin is “disappointed” defensive tackle Gerard Warren isn’t practicing yet. He hurt his quadriceps in the last practice of the bye week and has missed two games.

Chris Carr (calf) and Sam Williams (shoulder) were limited in practice.

--Jason Jones

October 24, 2007
Daunte or Josh?

ALAMEDA – No news to report from the open session of morning practice.
Well, that means no news on who will be the starting quarterback on Sunday. Lane Kiffin wouldn’t say Daunte Culpepper would start in Nashville because Josh McCown looks ready to return.

McCown is moving a lot better than he was last week.

Gerard Warren is still not practicing with the team because of a right quadriceps injury.

--Jason Jones

October 24, 2007
Kiffin saw JaMarcus in VY

ALAMEDA – Wednesday, as usual, is conference call morning with the opposing coach and a player for the weekend’s game.

The player on the call today was Vince Young. I still marvel at how he’s stepped in and figuratively put a franchise on his back.

Lane Kiffin likened JaMarcus Russell’s leadership qualities to those of Young before drafting Russell.

Kiffin said the way players at LSU followed Russell reminded him of how players followed Young at Texas.

The difference right now is Young was in training camp an in position to become the starter last season. Russell, we all know, didn’t show up until after the first game.

The similarities between Young and Russell are apparent after hearing Young talk about being a leader. He said he just wanted to be humble when he joined the Titans last year.

Russell has carried himself in a similar manner.

Young doesn’t believe he could have played last year had he missed camp. But I wouldn’t rule out Russell playing this year.

He’s just as mobile as Josh McCown and can throw the ball like Daunte Culpepper and Kiffin just might want to see that on the field.

After all, Russell can’t lead like Young until he’s on the field.

****
Young has a history with Kiffin. His Texas team beat USC in 2006 in the BCS National Championship Game.

That’s where Kiffin got his first look at Young.

Young’s personality came across when he said he hoped former Texas teammate and Raider safety Michael Huff got his first interception against the Raiders’ opponent after he played the Titans.

He also said fellow second-year player LenDale White’s “got bit of growing up to do, but that's it.”

Young didn’t indicate if he’d play on Sunday, but expect him to be on the field. He’s practicing today.

--Jason Jones

October 22, 2007
Starting at QB ...

ALAMEDA – The offense has struggled and the quarterback Lane Kiffin trusted at the beginning of the season might be ready for a return to the field.

Thankfully for Josh McCown’s ears, the Raiders are on the road this weekend.

If Kiffin turns to McCown, it won’t be a popular choice. But I wonder if McCown, not Daunte Culpepper, had thrown the interception that ended the Raiders’ hopes of winning against the Kansas City Chiefs, would he have been booed off the field?

There were some boos on Sunday, but nothing like what McCown endured in his two home games as the starter.

The reality is regardless of whom starts at quarterback, there will be problems on offense.

The Raiders are only six games into the season. And with Kiffin trying to give Culpepper, McCown and Andrew Walter a fair chance to win the job, no one dominated the first-team snaps to get a firm grasp of the system.

Culpepper looked better on Sunday. McCown would look better over time, too.

The question is how would JaMarcus Russell look in the offense. Kiffin is not a believer in sitting Russell just because he’s a rookie. If neither veteran can spark the offense, don’t be surprised if Russell eventually gets a chance.

****
Sebastian Janikowski tied Chris Barr for most field goals in franchise history on Sunday with 162.

That was news to Janikowski today. He said a record is nice, but it would have been better to set the mark in win.

And you also might have noticed Janikowski leads the NFL with 16 touchbacks. The Raiders have struggled on kickoff coverage in recent years and allowed a return for a touchdown this year against Cleveland.

Janikowski said he’s been allowed to just kick the ball as far as he can under special teams coach Brian Schneider.

That’s a way to stop kick returns.

Janikowski attributes improved distance on his kicks to losing about 35 pounds, which improved his leg speed and approach on kicks.

Janikowski is down 242 pounds.

Too bad he didn’t get a chance to kick a game winner against the Chiefs.

He thinks he could have made it from at least 58 yards.

--Jason Jones


October 21, 2007
Parental Advisory: Explicit Gunther

OAKLAND – One thing that can be funny about being in the press box at McAfee Coliseum is the opposing coach’s press box is right next to the media that cover the Raiders.

And if you caught any of Chiefs defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham’s profanity-laced act on the HBO Hard Knocks series, you can imagine what was overheard during today’s game.

While it’s impossible to recount all the expletives Cunningham spewed during the game, the most memorable line came near the end of the game.

As Daunte Culpepper looked like he was in position to lead the Raiders to a potential game winning score with passes to Ronald Curry, Cunningham yelled “Ty Law, you piece of (crap).”

Fortunately for Cunningham, Jarrad Page intercepted the next pass. What a way to cover up the smell of Law for Cunningham.

*The Raiders were surprisingly upbeat following their 12-10 loss.

The message was clear: they’re all behind Lane Kiffin and what he’s doing. They believe things will get turned around. Last year, the players saw no hope.

The defense looked like the unit it can be most of the game. The offense still has a lot of work to do. But unlike last season, the defenders believe the offense will improve and eventually do enough to win some games.

*Did any notice Jarrod Cooper’s impact on special teams? He was flying down on punts like he hadn’t missed any time. He’ll help out a lot.

I ran into the fan that tattooed Cooper’s likeness on her leg for his tattoo contest last year. She was sure to let me know that Cooper was back and her tattoo was fine.

As big a Lakers fan I am, I can’t imagine getting any player tattooed on my body.

Imagine how silly I’d feel with a Shaq tattoo on me?

--Jason Jones

October 19, 2007
Notes from a short visit

ALAMEDA – Friday’s media time for practice is always brief.

Here are the important notes from watching the team stretch (all we’re allowed to see).

Warren Sapp (ankle) and Hiram Eugene (neck) returned to practice today.

Both have been expected to play on Sunday.

I didn’t see Gerard Warren, which means the team leader in sacks (three) could miss a second game with a quadriceps injury.

Then again, players that weren’t expected to play for the Raiders have a way of playing this season.

--Jason Jones

October 18, 2007
More special teams changes?

ALAMEDA – Running back Dominic Rhodes might get his hands on the football in a new role.

Rhodes worked as a kick returner during practice this morning. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he’ll do that on Sunday, but such a move would make sense.

The Raiders have only three healthy safeties (Stuart Schweigert, Michael Huff and Jarrod Cooper) meaning cornerback Chris Carr could take on a bigger role at safety in addition to returning punts and kickoffs.

Rhodes handling kickoffs would be one less thing for Carr to worry about on special teams.

Rhodes hasn’t returned a kickoff since 2005. But after watching most of the game in San Diego, Rhodes might welcome the notion of returning kicks just to get himself involved.

***
Half of the Raiders’ starting defensive line (Warren Sapp, Gerard Warren) weren’t practicing. Warren (quadriceps) did run laps around the practice field.

Sapp (ankle) wasn’t dressed to practice. Starting offensive linemen Cornell Green (knee) and Jeremy Newberry (ankle) returned to practice.

--Jason Jones

October 18, 2007
More special teams changes?

ALAMEDA – Running back Dominic Rhodes might get his hands on the football in a new role.

Rhodes worked as a kick returner during practice this morning. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he’ll do that on Sunday, but such a move would make sense.

The Raiders have only three healthy safeties (Stuart Schweigert, Michael Huff and Jarrod Cooper) meaning cornerback Chris Carr could take on a bigger role at safety in addition to returning punts and kickoffs.

Rhodes handling kickoffs would be one less thing for Carr to worry about on special teams.

Rhodes hasn’t returned a kickoff since 2005. But after watching most of the game in San Diego, Rhodes might welcome the notion of returning kicks just to get himself involved.

***
Half of the Raiders’ starting defensive line (Warren Sapp, Gerard Warren) weren’t practicing. Warren (quadriceps) did run laps around the practice field.

Sapp (ankle) wasn’t dressed to practice. Starting offensive linemen Cornell Green (knee) and Jeremy Newberry (ankle) returned to practice.

--Jason Jones

October 18, 2007
More special teams changes?

ALAMEDA – Running back Dominic Rhodes might get his hands on the football in a new role.

Rhodes worked as a kick returner during practice this morning. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he’ll do that on Sunday, but such a move would make sense.

The Raiders have only three healthy safeties (Stuart Schweigert, Michael Huff and Jarrod Cooper) meaning cornerback Chris Carr could take on a bigger role at safety in addition to returning punts and kickoffs.

Rhodes handling kickoffs would be one less thing for Carr to worry about on special teams.

Rhodes hasn’t returned a kickoff since 2005. But after watching most of the game in San Diego, Rhodes might welcome the notion of returning kicks just to get himself involved.

***
Half of the Raiders’ starting defensive line (Warren Sapp, Gerard Warren) weren’t practicing. Warren (quadriceps) did run laps around the practice field.

Sapp (ankle) wasn’t dressed to practice. Starting offensive linemen Cornell Green (knee) and Jeremy Newberry (ankle) returned to practice.

--Jason Jones

October 17, 2007
Bush is still waiting

ALAMEDA – Michael Bush is still Johnathan Holland’s workout partner.

That means Bush still isn’t practicing with the Raiders.

Bush is eligible to practice after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. Holland, a rookie on injured reserve that works out and doesn’t practice with the team.

Bush didn't look thrilled. He has a new number (29) and looked forward to practicing today, even if it was as a scout team back.

The Raiders’ approach is different from that of Kansas City, which used running back Priest Holmes in his first day of practice eligibility.

He would give the Raiders a fourth running back. And had the rookie from Louisville not broken his leg last September, he probably would have been drafted in the first round.

The Raiders getting him in the fourth round was considered a coup by many.

The Raiders don’t have to decide on whether to put Bush on the active roster for three weeks. But if Dominic Rhodes couldn’t get in for more than a play, Bush might not see the field even if he’s on the active roster.

In other news from practice, quarterback Josh McCown (fractured toe) was on the field. Safety Hiram Eugene wasn’t practicing for reasons that should be revealed later.

Gerard Warren (quadriceps) worked on agility drills. Warren Sapp was at practice, but wasn’t wearing pads in what’s probably a scheduled day off. There was no sign of Jeremy Newberry, but he might be taking the day off, too.

And having watched part of the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors, I can appreciate the musical selection at practice: Guy and their song “I Like.”

All we need is Wrecks N Effects and Keith Sweat to get the New Jack Swing party going.

--Jason Jones


October 15, 2007
Tough to defend the defense

The Raiders defense (and lack thereof) is what everyone is talking about. Raiders defenders would like to convince us they’re fine and just need to make some adjustments.

But that’s not what everyone else sees.

Here a few (of many) questions about the defense.

Question: The reason way the Raiders are a bad team on third down, is the lack of safety help. Schweigert and Huff sounds like a law firm. But I call them CSI, you know like the TV show. They are always around the scene of the crime, after the fact, like fifteen yards down the field. (First down) Huff maybe young but in the hood they say if you don't bark as a puppy, you ain’t going to bite as a big dog. The corners are tight it's the deep middle. HELP!
Larry, Upper Marlboro, MD

Answer: What’s up Larry? You’re not the first person to complain about the Raiders safeties and they’re lack of impact.

Michael Huff and Stuart Schweigert have started every game together since last season. They have no interceptions in 21 games. Huff had a safety last year, but the Raiders expect more.

I’m not absolving them of all blame, but their issues are not theirs alone.

The Raiders lack of a pass rush doesn’t make things easier as deep routes can open up because quarterbacks have a lot of time. Huff is only asked to cover tight ends.

And there are no replacements on the roster. The Raiders cut B.J. Ward, who’d begun taking reps from Schweigert.

Schweigert starts because he’s seen as a smart player that won’t hurt the team with mental mistakes.

Huff is a first round pick from a year ago and will be given the chance to succeed.

A plan that was discussed last year was moving Huff to free safety and eventually finding a new strong safety.

I liked the idea of mixing things up and moving Schweigert near the line of scrimmage at times and playing Huff deep and moving him around that was supposed to happen this season.

But as the season has progressed, it’s looked a lot like last year.

With that said, you can catch your version of CSI on Sundays in Silver and Black.

Question: No question. Just wanted to say thank you for all of your info... You are very good at what you do.

OK, OK maybe one. Where do you stand on the Fabian Washington/Stanford Routt issue? I love Fabian’s heart and believe this is killing him not being a "starter" I love Routt's upside and size/speed. Will one of them have an Asomugha turn around and be great?
XL, Studio City

Answer: I believe benching Washington after just two games was a sign of panic. He hadn’t played well, but neither had Routt.

Lane Kiffin said today neither had emerged as the clear starter and the Raiders will continue to rotate them.

Neither will have a breakout year at this rate because the Raiders are rotating them. It’s hard to establish yourself when you’re coming in and out.

I think the key to either becoming solid player is putting them in a spot (starter or nickelback) and leaving them there. That was key for Asomugha.

I thought Washington was on his way, too. The rotation isn’t helping, but he said he and Routt talk a lot as they rotate, even if it is tough to get a rhythm in that situation.

Question: Is there anybody like Derrick Burgess on the Raiders that might put a rush on quarterbacks? Or will the Raiders just wait it out and is there anybody out there that we can get that will help us?
Sean, North Highlands

Answer: Not many teams have one player like a healthy Burgess and the Raiders definitely don’t have another player like him.

The chances of another pass rusher becoming available during the season are slim.

Good pass rushers are extremely valuable. And if one is available right now, there’s probably something wrong with him.

It’s an area I expect the Raiders to address in the offseason. I think Kansas City’s Jared Allen would be a good fit for the Raiders. And he’ll be a free agent.

Question: Quentin Moses?

Arizona has yet to activate him for one game and we let him go due to looking solid in shorts but did nothing in the preseason.

One solid year made Moses look like a future stud. Unfortunately I believe his talent maxed out in his junior year at Georgia and he's been a disappointment since.

I totally agree we could've done much better with that pick, however continuing ripping the Raiders for not having him around "in times like these" where we need depth is wrong when Tyler Brayton would still be ahead of the him.
Jeremy, Des Moines, IA

Answer: I can see your point. Moses hasn’t played this season. He joined the team late and hasn’t played for the Cardinals, who indicated they wouldn't rush him onto the field when they claimed him off waivers.

My point was rather than searching for help, the Raiders might have been able to develop another young player that could help them now.

Personnel decisions made in September can impact a team during the season and I think this one has.

I saw Moses play well in pads. Moses showed enough to warrant not being cut. He was ahead of Brayton at defensive end on the depth chart.

I don’t mean to make Moses out to be a Hall of Famer, but the Raider coaches sure did (unblockable is what they called him).

Brayton was playing defensive tackle for a reason. He hasn’t been a great pass rusher and had no sacks last season.

And with the injuries piling up, Brayton was forced back to a position he hadn’t been productive at.

I wasn’t taking a shot at rookie Jay Richardson, who I knew the Raiders would keep. Nor do I believe draft status alone should dictate a roster spot.

My point was with the lack of depth up front, cutting such a high pick looks worse than it did last month.

But I won’t mention Quentin anytime soon. Unless he’s active this weekend and gets four sacks.

Question: Jason - keep up the good work. My question: shouldn't you and Nmamdi be tight? I'm hoping he would have your back when Sapp, Williams, et al are riding our Golden Bears.
Dan, Boston

Answer: Actually, my biggest supporter in the fight against Cal heckling was Adimchinobe Echemandu, who was cut to put Dominic Rhodes on the active roster.

Former Cal tackle and practice squad player Mark Wilson has my back, too.

But the Bears flame out against Oregon State did me no good. Sapp said he told me Cal “sucked” though I don’t recall him ever saying that.

Then again, he went to Miami. Haven’t heard much from them since they lost to Ohio State in the National Championship game a few years ago. They must be on probation again.

Williams and Jerry Porter also let me know Cal lost (as if I didn’t know).

The good thing is Cal can still beat Williams and his beloved USC team and give me bragging rights for the rest of the season.

--Jason Jones

October 15, 2007
Huff, puff and a miss

ALAMEDA – Strong safety Michael Huff is trying.

He wants to make a big play badly. And he almost had one against the Chargers.

Huff tried to intercept pass intended for tight end Antonio Gates, narrowly missed, and Gates ended up with a 28-yard reception.

Those are the breaks.

It was good to see Huff try to make that play. He can’t make the big play if he’s playing so cautiously that all he does is come in and make the tackle after the catch.

What makes the likes of Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed so fun to watch is they play without fear of making mistakes.

They might look out of position, but who knows because they run around the field with reckless abandon and end up in the right spot.

Huff seems to be on the leash of covering tight ends. The Raiders like his improvement in that area and Lane Kiffin noted Huff’s improved run defense today, too.

But I’m still waiting to see the “different” things the Raiders planned to do with Huff this season.

With his speed, he could be great blitzing. He was also supposed to play free safety sometimes to use his athleticism to cover the field.

There needs to more of that done with Huff.

It’s not only up to Huff to get his first career interception, forced fumble or anything to stop the Raiders drafted the wrong guy last year talk.

The coaches need to put Huff in position to do more.

--Jason Jones

October 14, 2007
Burgess, Jordan are ready

SAN DIEGO – Derrick Burgess will give playing a shot today. He started at defensive end.

LaMont Jordan is also in uniform.

The Raiders inactives are:

QB JaMarcus Russell (3rd QB)
QB Josh McCown
CB John Bowie
S Jarrod Cooper
C Chris Morris
LB Sam Williams
DT Gerard Warren
T Mario Henderson

Williams was never listed on the injury report until Saturday evening with a shoulder injury. He left the Miami game with an injury on Sept. 30 but had practiced all week.

--Jason Jones

October 12, 2007
Jordan, Burgess unlikely to play

ALAMEDA – LaMont Jordan and Derrick Burgess are listed as doubtful on the Raiders' injury report for Sunday’s game in San Diego.

Gerard Warren is out.

So the Raiders aren’t as healthy as they’d like to be coming off their bye, but with Dominic Rhodes back, they should be OK in the running game.

The depth on the defensive line is another issue.

With Burgess likely out and Warren not playing, the Raiders are thin up front. That means Tyler Brayton should play some at defensive end while Tommy Kelly could slide down to defensive tackle, too.

Coach Lane Kiffin said Jordan (back) and Burgess (calf) would test out their injuries before the game and could play if they feel better.

Kiffin said Warren (thigh) isn’t expected to miss an extended amount of time.

Special teams should get a boost from the returns of Isaiah Ekejiuba and Oren O’Neal.

--Jason Jones

October 12, 2007
Welcom back, Coop

ALAMEDA – Let the laughs start rolling.

The Raiders resigned safety Jarrod Cooper. He is at practice this morning and instantly gives a boost to the Raiders special teams, an area Lane Kiffin has sought a spark.

In addition to being a solid special teams player and backup safety, Cooper is also one of the funniest guys in the locker room.

While Jerry Porter endured his banishment by Art Shell, it was Cooper that joked he benched Porter on his Madden video game, too.

He was also the first outspoken critic of Porter's treatment when he blasted the decision to bench him after the Raiders' second game of 2006.

Cooper was suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy against performance enhancement drugs.

The Raiders cut Cooper before training camp with the suspension being a main reason.

He joined the Raiders during the 2004 season and after the suspension, didn’t leave the Bay Area.

Turns out he didn't have to.

****

Among injured starters, running back LaMont Jordan (back) and defensive end Derrick Burgess (calf) are at practice. No sign of defensive tackle Gerard Warren (thigh).

--Jason Jones


October 11, 2007
Defensive linemen needed

ALAMEDA – Wouldn’t it be nice to have Quentin Moses around about now?

The Raiders had their reasons (apparently) for cutting their first of three third-round picks in the preseason. Even though coaches raved about him and said the rookie defensive end couldn’t be blocked, he wasn’t good enough to make the opening-day roster.

Now the Raiders are facing a third consecutive game without Pro-Bowl defensive end Derrick Burgess. What's more, Gerard Warren, who leads the team with three sacks, might also miss Sunday's crucial AFC West Division game in San Diego with a thigh injury.

So that leaves reserves Chris Clemons and Tyler Brayton to fill the holes.

Clemons can rush the passer, but plays a lot on special teams and plays defense sparingly. Brayton doesn’t show the burst off the edge as a defensive end.

Moses would have been able to step in and help with the pass rush right now.

No explanation was ever given as to why Moses was cut. But for a team that could use another pass rusher right now, it makes you wonder why Moses is gone.

****

Running back LaMont Jordan said he wants to play Sunday against the Chargers, but doesn’t know how his back will hold up.

He won’t risk hurting the team or himself to play, he said.

It was bad enough for Jordan to be carted off the field in Miami. Having seen players leave the field on stretchers this season, he doesn’t want to leave the field in a similar fashion.

Unless Jordan can’t walk, I expect him to try to play.

****

Coach Lane Kiffin didn’t say who would fill the Raiders' roster spot made available after the team waived safety B.J. Ward.

Former Raiders safety and now free-agent Jarrod Cooper worked out for the team Wednesday. Kiffin said he is looking to replace Ward, but could also use cornerback Chris Carr at safety.

Cooper, who has served a four-game suspension for steroid use, still lives in the Bay Area.

He’d be a good fit. The Raiders miss his intensity on special teams. And he’d be a decent backup safety, too.

Adding another defensive lineman with the open roster spot is an option. The Raiders could promote defensive tackle Josh Shaw from the practice squad.

--Jason Jones

October 11, 2007
In need of special help

ALAMEDA – Paging Jarrod Cooper?

The Raiders are a man short on the 53-man roster after waiving safety B.J. Ward and Cooper, a special teams ace and back up safety before being released this summer, reportedly worked out for the Raiders yesterday.

Cooper was the team’s best special teams player before being suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s steroid policy.

The Raiders cut him before training camp, partly because of the suspension.

Cooper was extremely popular among fans and teammates. He even sponsored a Raider tattoo contest last year, paying the winners with his own money.

A Cooper return would make sense.

The Raiders are thin at safety. Besides starters Stuart Schweigert and Michael Huff, Hiram Eugene is the only other safety. Nnamdi Asomugha could play safety in a pinch, but why move one of the best cover corners in the NFL?

Cooper knows the Raiders defense and I know the Raiders kick and punt returners would welcome a Cooper return. Cooper thrived on special teams and the Raiders are still looking for a big play in the return game.

Ward was a training camp star, that didn’t shine in the regular season. Known to hit hard in camp, Ward was last seen being run over by Ronnie Brown in Miami.

****
Quarterback Josh McCown and defensive tackle Gerard Warren weren’t at practice this morning. LaMont Jordan (back) and Derrick Burgess (calf) were at practice.

-- Jason Jones


October 10, 2007
When will Burgess play again?

ALAMEDA – Defensive end Derrick Burgess’ status for Sunday is “doubtful” according to coach Lane Kiffin.

His troublesome right calf is acting up again and Burgess did not finish practice today.

The calf injury has cost Burgess two games. His absence is a reason the Raiders can’t break free for sacks and impacts the pass defense as a whole.

Without teams leaving tight ends and running backs in to help against Burgess, there are more players for the Raiders to cover.

Kiffin said Burgess isn’t as far along as the team thought he was after returning to practice last week.

The defense might not get further along until Burgess returns.

*Defensive tackle Gerard Warren didn’t practice because of an undisclosed thigh injury. LaMont Jordan’s status remains in question. His back is still a problem.

*I had a brief chat with Warren Sapp about defensive linemen and their legs in the wake of Trent Green’s block that left him unconscious and the defensive lineman he hit, Travis Johnson, saying “(forget) Trent Green.”

He said no one listens to defensive linemen so that’s why there’s never much talk about rules to protect them from blockers that aim at their knees.

Sapp said you have to keep your head on a swivel as a defensive lineman, especially on plays like screens where offensive players have a chance to blindside you.

Sapp doesn’t believe Green meant to have his bell rung by Johnson’s knee or try to take Johnson's knee out.

But he does have some advice for Johnson and other linemen.

One those plays, you better look around. And if you force a turnover, it’s your turn to block someone.

Quarterbacks, keep your head on a swivel.

--Jason Jones

October 10, 2007
Running or not, LT likes Norv

ALAMEDA – Just wrapped up the conference calls with Norv Turner and LaDainian Tomlinson.

Tomlinson’s concern with the Chargers’ running game sounds a lot like LaMont Jordan’s in his one year under Turner.

Tomlinson said the Chargers have not been consistent in running the ball. He referenced San Diego’s loss to Kansas City on Sept. 30.

Tomlinson had 14 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown in the first half and San Diego led 16-6. Tomlinson ran just six more times for 16 yards the rest of the game.

Jordan had similar complaints about the offense in 2005 that seemed to work so well when he touched the ball a lot. But Turner never seemed to be dedicated to running the ball.

So while some players such as Jerry Porter thought Turner should have gotten another year after the 2005 season, there are plenty that aren’t crying over Turner being gone.

Turner's playcalling was a concern then and has been in San Diego.

If giving the ball to Tomlinson, the 2007 NFL MVP, with a lead isn’t a no-brainer, I don’t know what is for a coach.

Some players might miss the good old days of Turner’s 9-23 tenure from 2004-05. Randy Moss famously dissed Turner when asked what he thought of Turner as a head coach by saying nothing.

But Turner is a nice guy. And if you notice, any head coach with failings is often referred to as a nice guy, before anything.

But even though he’s not happy with the running game, Tomlinson isn’t jumping ship on Turner. He said there’s something wrong with you if you don’t like Turner.

That might be true of Turner, the person. But if you like Turner, the head coach, there might be something wrong with you.

*Jordan was at practice this morning. Lane Kiffin should give an update on how much he practiced later.

--Jason Jones


October 8, 2007
It's all about Daunte and the Trojans

ALAMEDA – Daunte Culpepper will start Sunday in San Diego.

Raiders coach Lane Kiffin announced that after practice. Josh McCown (foot) is still out and apparently Kiffin felt no need to drag out what we all know.

No news on LaMont Jordan’s back. Jordan wasn’t speaking to the media, but did take time to poke fun at Mike Williams.

Well, everyone did today.

First, let me say I like Williams. He’s fun to talk to and knows a thing or two about college football.

But he went to USC, which is where this Cal grad and he have a chasm.

Williams taunted me a couple of weeks ago, predicting Oregon would destroy Cal. Didn’t happen.

But Williams was hearing it from everyone after the Trojans lost to Stanford.

There are other USC players on the Raiders (Justin Fargas, practice squad receiver Chris McFoy), but none run their mouth about the Men of Troy quite like Williams.

Warren Sapp reminded Williams Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh talked trash since the summer and backed it up.

Jordan said he thought Stanford was ranked No. 800 or something like that. He added USC shouldn't be allowed near the BCS title game with a loss like that.

Linebacker (and Stanford grad) Jon Alston had his laughs.

So what do the players eventually do?

Attack me.

JaMarcus Russell said my opinion didn’t matter since I didn’t play college football after I said LSU would have lost to the USC team it split the national title with after the 2004 season.

I guess my very brief stint, as a walk-on at Cal doesn’t count. But I guess if my knowledge trumps you, go to the “you didn’t play ball” card. But I wasn’t too bad in my day at Long Beach Poly High. I even started.

Sapp said it’s amazing how schools that never won anything (while looking at me) start feeling good with a little success.

Hey, I'd take Cal over Miami right now.

I guess this is what it’s like to be on top, Cal fans.

Williams told me Cal might beat $C in water polo but was no football power.

But it get it straight, Cal would also dominate in rugby, among other sports. I was told I was from a school of tree huggers, tree sitters, philosophers and students that specialize in growing marijuana.

All that said, this locker room this year is more fun than it’s been since I’ve been out here since 2005.

It’s amazing what a .500 record can do for the attitude of a team.

--Jason Jones

October 8, 2007
Front-running Raiders

ALAMEDA – The AFC West leaders are back at work.

The Raiders, like my beloved Cal football team, moved up in the standings by having the weekend off and watching everyone else lose.

Now it’s time to see if the Raiders can actually win a game in the division when the Raiders play San Diego this weekend.

The only players missing from practice were LaMont Jordan and Josh McCown.

Jordan’s back injury will probably keep him down for a few more days and make him a gametime decision. That’s just speculation on my part, based on Jordan’s back being a recurring problem. But that’s more than you’ll probably get from Lane Kiffin later today.

Unless McCown (fractured toe) found a miracle healing balm over the weekend, I can’t see him playing against the Chargers.

*The NFL trading deadline is Oct. 16. McCown’s health will dictate if Andrew Walter is dealt by then.

Carolina and Arizona are two teams in need of another quarterback and Walter is need of a team that wants him.

*For the music lovers out there, the Raiders played some rock music that was unfamiliar to me during stretching. Daunte Culpepper was digging it and Dominic Rhodes had the “totally dude” head nod going.

I was able to catch on when the music switched up to Nas and Lauryn Hill’s “If I Ruled the World.”

I guess the Raiders rule their AFC West world for now. But the bigger question is this: Is a new Lauryn Hill CD ever going to come out?

--Jason Jones

October 5, 2007
Wins bring awards

Being around the Raiders last year when Pro Bowl rosters were announced wasn’t much fun.

They believed they had four legitimate Pro Bowlers. But there’s no way a team with two wins can have four Pro Bowl players – at least that’s the way the voters think.

That’s likely to change if the Raiders continue to be competitive. The Raiders will win more games and players will be rewarded.

Though Nnamdi Asomugha has no interceptions yet, he’ll get to Hawaii after everyone realizes the gaffe of leaving him off the original roster last year.

Middle linebacker Kirk Morrison was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September yesterday, an honor that could have also gone to teammate Thomas Howard.

Both have three interceptions, but Howard has a touchdown return to his credit.

Morrison realizes the honor wasn’t a result of his play alone.

“Individual awards are a result of team play,” Morrison said. “And at 2-2 people are starting to take notice.”

If the Raiders can keep wining games, Asomugha, Morrison and Howard could be noticed as new faces on the AFC Pro Bowl team.

And I shouldn't forget punter Shane Lechler.

Now it’s time for some reader questions before I enjoy my weekend off.

Question: How is Michael Bush coming along? What are his chances of being activated after Week 6 when he is eligible to come of the PUP list?

Alex, Northridge

Answer: Hi, Alex. Vicki in Memphis had the same question, as did Arthur in Susanville.

Bush is looking good. He is in great shape and Raiders coach Lane Kiffin says he’s at his lowest weight in a year.

Kiffin is from the USC school of running backs, which means more is better.

With LaMont Jordan’s back an issue, Kiffin would like to see if Bush could get on the field this season. He won’t rush Bush, but I think he’ll play at some point this season.

Jordan was moving around and working out this week, but there’s no telling when his back might go out again.

Question: Don’t you know, if Warren Sapp was anything but an Oakland
Raider, there would be no fine? That my friend is the price players pay, for playing in Oakland. Just like the bogus call recently on Curry when he had a TD called back for Offensive Interference, that even the Broadcasters of the game said was bogus. Otherwise the Raiders would be 3-1. BTW keep up the Good Writing.

Mike, Tangent, Ore.

Answer: I try not to buy into Raider conspiracy theories. The NFL is tough on defenders hitting quarterbacks below the knees, which Sapp was fined for.

My problem is NFL rules don’t give defenders any freedom and go out of their way to protect quarterbacks.

I believe Sapp’s fine for hitting Trent Green low is ridiculous. But he’s not the only defender that will pay a fine for similar plays.

Question: The Raiders defense is not performing and is truly underachieving, especially on 3rd down. What do they rank in the NFL on getting teams off the field on 3rd down? How often have they made an offense go three and out during a game this year?

Shawn, Sacramento

Answer: The Raiders defensive stats were helped playing against Miami, but they’re ranking on third down is mediocre. The Raiders are allowing opponents to convert 42 percent of their third downs. That’s the 17th highest rate in the NFL. The best team is New England, which allows third-down conversions at a 30 percent rate.

I don’t have figures on how many three and outs the defense has forced, but that’s an endeavor I’ll undertake in the next few days.

The Raiders haven’t stopped a team on fourth down this season in four tries, including a 35-yard completion against the Dolphins on fourth and 3.

Question: Jason,

Daunte Culpepper has played in Pro Bowls but I don't think it’s accurate to refer to him as a "Pro Bowl QB on the bench". His numbers over the last 3 years are hardly Pro Bowl caliber, which is why he is playing for his third team in 3 years.

In the 12 games he has played over those 3 years he had 8 TDs compared to 15 INTs and was sacked 53 times even more than Andrew Walter was last year behind the Raiders terrible line (12G\46 sacks). Culpepper still has quite a bit to prove.

Mike, San Rafael.

Answer: Fair enough, Mike. Thanks for the research help.

This question was submitted before the Dolphins game so I don’t have a “did you see him play” reply.

Maybe calling Culpepper a Pro Bowl quarterback isn’t the best label. Maybe a Pro Bowl quarterback when healthy that’s been hindered by injuries lately is a better assessment.

Culpepper hasn’t been named to the Pro Bowl since the 2004 season. He does have a lot to prove and I think the Dolphins game was a good start.

He ran fine and showed on his two touchdown passes he could still get the ball out quickly.

But assuming Culpepper is healthy, I do think it’s odd for a quarterback that played in the Pro Bowl in his last healthy season, would backup a career backup in Josh McCown.

--Jason Jones

October 4, 2007
A cheap shot? Not even close

ALAMEDA – The NFL and its rules police are at it again.

Does anyone remember a play in the Miami game where Warren Sapp committed an act that was worthy of a fine?

I don’t either, but the NFL saw it another way.

Sapp was fined $5,000 for what the NFL deemed an illegal hit on Miami quarterback Trent Green.

Sapp said he was cut block by Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown. Sapp still managed to get to Green around the knees and impact the play.

The league had a problem with Sapp hitting Green low, even though no penalty was called and Sapp didn’t dive at Green with intent to injure.

I vaguely remember the play and it’s not listed as a highlight in my notes because I don’t remember Sapp doing anything remotely illegal worth noting.

The NFL is out to protect quarterbacks. But what’s a defender to do?

If he’s knocked to the ground, must he stand upright before he’s allowed to touch the quarterback?

Sapp will appeal the fine.

****

Special teams help could be on the way after this weekend’s bye.

Isaiah Ekejiuba began running this week. He said he’s can’t plant and cut like he wants to, but is getting better.

Ekejiuba was injured in the Raiders final exhibition game when he said a Seattle lineman grabbed his foot and twisted it and cracked a bone in his heel.

Ekejiuba is one of the Raiders best special teams players. When he gets back, maybe the kick and punt return games will produce.

-- Jason Jones


October 4, 2007
McCown's pain worth a laugh

ALAMEDA – Josh McCown’s many injuries are now material for practice comedy.

The Raiders starting (at least that’s what I think Lane Kiffin would call him) quarterback was at practice without a walking boot on his left foot.

But he’s still limping.

As he walked to the field, Raiders trainer H. Rod Martin walked by and mocked McCown’s awkward walk.

So much for team support, I guess.

If it weren’t for the bye this week, Kiffin would probably list McCown as questionable to gain a competitive advantage.

But next week’s opponent is San Diego. Knowing Norv Turner is head coach of the Chargers, might be all the competitive advantage Kiffin needs.

****
Part of today’s practice music selection included “I Got 5 on It (remix)” by Oakland-based rappers The Luniz.

It was a song I loved back in high school, even though it’s an ode to buying marijuana.

And no, I didn’t and still don’t smoke marijuana.

It’s an interesting song for practice. With a player just returning from an NFL suspension for violating the league substance abuse policy, is that the song you really want to hear at practice? Just wondering.

****

Congratulations are in order for Raiders middle linebacker Kirk Morrison, who was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month.

Though NFL.com lists Morrison as having 25 tackles, the Raiders credit Morrison with a team-high 35. He’s also tied for second in the NFL with three interceptions.

Morrison also has four passes defended and four tackles for loss.

One has to assume he edged teammate Thomas Howard for the honor. Howard also has three interceptions, one he returned for a touchdown.

Not bad for a couple of linebackers. One of them should make the Pro Bowl this season.

--Jason Jones

October 3, 2007
One back's in, one back's still out

ALAMEDA – Sorry, no official word on LaMont Jordan’s injured back.

Because the Raiders have a bye this week, Lane Kiffin, following his practice of only releasing information that he has to, didn’t provide an update because he’s not speaking to the media today or tomorrow before the players take the weekend off.

Jordan worked out in the team’s weight room, a big step up from being on crutches in Miami after he was carted off the field in the second quarter.

Jordan, like Sunday, wasn’t available for comment.

Another running back was in the mood to chat.

Dominic Rhodes talked after practice about practicing for the first time after his four-game suspension ended for violating the NFL substance abuse policy

Just as he did in training camp, Rhodes was contrite about the drunk driving incident that got him suspended. He plead guilty to reckless driving in March.

“I’ve been waiting for this a long time now, I guess a month,” Rhodes said. “And I’m just excited to be back out here with my teammates working and putting in that sweat and grunt and all that good
stuff.”

Rhodes will add an explosive dimension the Raiders running game has lacked, even with it’s success in four games.

Jordan can bowl defenders over. That’s also Justin Fargas’ preference, even though he does have the speed to outrun the defense.

Rhodes is quick and can make people miss and will present a different challenge for the opposition.

-- Jason Jones

October 3, 2007
He's back

ALAMEDA – Derrick Burgess assumed his usual place in the front of the line for position drills at practice.

The Pro Bowl defensive end missed the last two weeks of practice and two games with a right calf injury that occurred in the fourth quarter of the Raiders’ Week 2 loss at Denver.

Burgess’ return to the lineup would aid the pass rush significantly. Burgess is also an underrated run defender.

He’s also one of the team’s leaders. Defenders often cite Burgess’ presence, as a reason the unit stays loose.

Two key players not at practice were quarterback Josh McCown and running back LaMont Jordan.

McCown came out to practice late and is still wearing a walking boot on his left foot.

The longer McCown wears the boot, the longer Lane Kiffin has to wait before reopening the why Daunte Culpepper isn’t the clear No. 1 quarterback debate.

You can bet once McCown can practice, Kiffin will wait a while before declaring a starting quarterback.

Kiffin had players congratulate Culpepper on being named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week after team stretching.

Jordan didn’t make it to the field during the portion of practice open to the media.

Jordan hurt his back in against Miami and was on crutches after the game.

Dominic Rhodes practiced after missing the first four weeks because of his suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy.

Rhodes and Justin Fargas are the primary running backs with Jordan out.

--Jason Jones

October 1, 2007
No pay, no play (hurt)?

ALAMEDA – If the Raiders were in a big game, like the Super Bowl, Derrick Burgess could have played on Sunday in Miami.

But they weren’t and the Pro Bowl defensive end has missed a second straight game with a right calf injury.

Many readers are contacting me and speculating Burgess is milking the injury because he didn’t receive the new contract he wants.

I even speculated if Burgess would risk a serious injury and hurt his chances of a new deal.

But I don't think Burgess would hurt the teammates that respect him so much by not playing if he could.

Am I surprised Burgess has missed two games? Yes. In spite of his injury history, he is one of the toughest Raiders.

But I wouldn’t go as far as to say Burgess is milking the injury.

If Burgess wanted to do that, he had the perfect chance this offseason.

He had hernia surgery before training camp, but worked feverishly to get in shape to play in preseason games.

I’m sure if Burgess said he didn’t need to play in the preseason, he wouldn’t have been forced to.

Athletes do stay out longer than they have to with injuries. I just don’t believe Burgess would do that.

With all the games he missed before coming to the Raiders, I know he wants to play.

Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said it’s in the best interest of the team not throw Burgess on the field Week 4 and cause an injury that would cost him two games to linger the rest of the season.

You might not believe that, but I’m inclined to believe Kiffin on that one.

****
I hope you didn’t expect Kiffin to declare Daunte Culpepper the Raiders starting quarterback.

Of course, he wouldn’t do that.

With the Raiders’ bye this week, Kiffin has no reason to break tradition and reveal the starter anything other than two days before the game.

But if there’s any consolation, Kiffin said if the Raiders had a game today, Daunte’s the man.

But the Bengals and Patriots play tonight.
****

The wacky world of Mike Williams continues.

He had a touchdown in the first quarter nullified by a questionable, nah, bad pass interference call. There might have been one for an illegal pick set by another Raiders receiver, but Williams did nothing wrong in my view.

But Williams celebrating Justin Fargas’ touchdown before realizing there were Dolphins chasing him was just the latest thing that puzzles Kiffin about his former pupil at USC.

Kiffin joked Williams thought he was running with Reggie Bush and it was a sure touchdown. Fargas was tackled, though Williams did try to block for him when he realized Fargas wasn’t in the clear.

“There’s not many things that get me really upset during a game, but that’s the No. 1 thing,” Kiffin said. “And that’s effort. Whether he meant it or not, he was going into celebration because he really thought it was a touchdown. But it’s not OK.”

****
As for injuries, Josh McCown is still wearing a boot on his left foot. X-rays on LaMont Jordan’s back were negative.

Also, Dominic Rhodes will practice on Wednesday with the team now that his four-game suspension is over.

The Raiders have a roster exemption for Rhodes until next week, so they don’t have to cut or trade anyone for 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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20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31