Besides time with Lane Kiffin, the Raiders introduced two of their offseason additions, tackle Kwame Harris and cornerback DeAngelo Hall to the local media.
First was Harris, who proved once again Stanford athletes are good interviews almost every time.
There were some major selling points that led him to sign with the Raiders. One, offensive line coach Tom Cable. Another was knowing he would be playing left tackle along with wanting to play with Justin Fargas.
I’m sure many of you have made your Kwame Harris/Robert Gallery tandem jokes. And with their struggles to start their careers as first-round picks, that’s expected. And don’t think they haven’t spoken yet.
“Yeah. certainly. I talked to Gallery several times before I even signed with the Raiders,” Harris said.. “He was somebody I felt we were in similar positions also for a little bit of time. he had a phenomenal year last year too., getting to just talk to him and listen to what he had to say not just about Cable but the system, the fan market and you guys also ... it really helped me come to a decision that this is a good fit for me. This is someplace I can be successful.”
That’s right, he Harris was also sold on the soft Raiders media.
In some ways, hearing Harris talk was a lot like talking to Gallery or Jake Grove. Harris said he had three line coaches in five years. And it sounds as if a lot of his problems were due to over-thinking on the field, which happens when you’re more worried about which foot to step with than staying in front of your opponent.
“Very strict in a sense,” is how Harris described previous coaching styles with the 49ers. “Here I think one of the great things about Coach Cable is that yes, you have a set of fundamentals, techniques and principle you have to work inside of. But also you need to go out and block the guy. Don't let the guy get to the quarterback. That is the main goal. It's not to keep your keep your hips square and stay in position. It's to keep that guy away from JaMarcus.”
Harris sums up pretty well his thinking when the Raiders told him they viewed him as a left tackle:
“When they approached me about playing left tackle, I said OK ... what do you see on film or what makes you think that. Why? I questioned why. We talked through it and (Cable) showed me some things on film, some fundamental things and after seeing that and speaking to him abut it I felt like I had probably been playing out of position for most of my time in the league.”
Harris’ time in San Francisco ended with him being a reserve right tackle.
Harris is a good athlete, which should be a plus as he learns the zone-blocking scheme. And if he needs proof Cable can help turn his career around, he can look to his right when he lines up.
Gallery will co-sign for Cable any day.
Then there’s Hall.
One thing he doesn’t lack for is confidence. And here are snippets of his first press conference in the Bay Area. He’s wearing No. 23 (Chris Carr’s old number) since Nnamdi Asomugha wears No. 21.
On any reservations about coming to Oakland’s reported unstable coaching situation after leaving Atlanta and the mess with Bobby Petrino:
“ Not really because I had a chance to talk to Lane. I know him and I know his dad real well. Had a chance to talk to some of the players here and they never gave me the feel as though there was something bad going on. You can ask anybody last year who was a part of our organization, I think everybody knew what was going on. Even from the other coaches. Even the media knew what was going on. Here it’s a lot of speculation, he said, she said. But behind closed doors I don’t see a problem at all.”
On the importance of Nnamdi Asomugha:
“Real important. I don’t want to get into contract talks but real important. That was part of the formula that brought me out here was being able to team up with him for a long time to come.”
On are they the best cornerback tandem in the league:
“Hands down. Champ and Dre will attest to that too. I talk to them all the time so they’ll definitely tell you me and Nnamdi, we’ve got them beat.”
Ever spoken to Nnamdi:
“I have. I talked to him on the phone several times. My old DB coach at Virginia Tech, Lorenzo Ward, was actually out here the year that the Raiders were number one in pass defense so I had a chance to talk to him several times.”
On playing Atlanta and Carolina (and nemesis WR Steve Smith) back-to-back weeks:
“Oh man. Probably Atlanta. Me and Steve obviously have a little tumultuous relationship but I love the guy to death. Me and him were at the Combine together during the advisory committee with the commissioner. We talked, had lunch together. I don’t have a problem with Steve. On the field me and him get a little riled up but that’s just the game. That’s part of the game, part of the emotions. It’s probably what makes great players great. But Atlanta’s definitely one that I’m going to have circled. I trained a lot of those young guys, the receiving corps. So I can’t wait to get on the field with those guys and see if they’ve got a little better.”
On meeting with Al Davis before reaching a contract agreement with the Raiders:
“ It was good. Very interesting. The first time I flew out here, I did the physical and did a couple things here. My agents were here with me. Really didn’t get a whole lot done. Then I think a couple days later they flew me back out and I just sat down and talked with him for about five or six hours, just in the room locked upstairs conversating about everything from football, where I grew up at. The guy’s just a sponge. He knows everything. He was shouting out high school stats and guys who graduated from my high school in 1980 when I wasn’t even born yet. It was just amazing.”
On his tackling ability:
“I do see myself as an all-around corner. By saying that, I’m not a safety though. I’m not a linebacker. I’m not going to be a guy that gets you 150 tackles a year. I’m not a linebacker in that sense but I am a guy, if you need a tackle on the edge, I am capable of coming up to make that tackle. I do feel like I can do that. But just being around a lot of the guys I don’t know how that’s a problem, stopping the run. We’re going to definitely get that fixed. We’ll be able to put a couple more down in the box. Definitely put Gibril (Wilson) down there, take Mike Huff and throw him back where he needs to be in the free, let him roam around a little bit.”
Does he want to return punts?
“Want and I guess have to is two different things. I don’t know if I’m going to have to but I always want to. Even in Atlanta I wanted to but they didn’t want me to get hurt or this and that so they kind of kept me away from the action. I’m definitely looking forward to doing what they need me to do, whatever they allow me to do.”
Living down South, did he follow Russell in college?
“Didn’t follow him a whole lot in college. Started to watch him a lot when he was coming out for the draft. I love watching guys come out for the draft, watching guys rise to the occasion. I got a chance to follow him there. Didn’t really get to follow him last season when he got to play here but just looking at him, man, he has all the intangibles. The way he throws the ball. I can’t wait to get out on the field and try to break on a route, to try to compare his ball speed versus Mike’s ball speed. Mike was a guy who no matter if you were breaking on that ball he still found a way to squeeze it in. I think JaMarcus has that same kind of arm strength, to just be able to throw balls into tight places.”
Does he talk to Michael Vick at all?
“I haven’t talked to him in a while. I can contact him if I need to or if I want to. I haven’t talked to him in a while.”
It’s interesting to note Hall thinks (as do a lot of people) that Huff would be best suited at free safety.
Here’s what Kiffin said about that in regards to drafting a safety now that he has Huff and Gibril Wilson together:
“Well, we're excited about that both those guys can play both spots. Physically, they can play both spots. Michael has already played the one that you would think physically he can't. So, that helps us there, where that hasn't been the situation here in the past. They haven't had, since Michael's been here in the two years, Stuart wasn't going to go down and Michael wasn't going to go back for Stuart down. It wasn't going to work. Now you have a chance to do that with a guy who can play both. But we're also looking at safeties in the draft. If a guy's there, the guy's got to be a great special teams player for us to take him.”
And for a brief health report:
WR Javon Walker should be fine for minicamps.
S Jarrod Cooper is nearly 100 percent.
DT Tommy Kelly should be ready for training camp.
DE Derrick Burgess (per his usual routine) is not working out with the team. Remember much was made about him skipping voluntary workouts last year over not being happy with his contract. He, of course, did not hold out of training camp, even though he missed time following hernia surgery.
And with the fourth pick in the ESPN SportsCenter mock draft, I selected DE Chris Long.
That would be good fortune for the Raiders if he were available.