ALAMEDA - I fielded several questions last year that implied Derrick Burgess was milking a calf injury as a message to the Raiders that he wanted a new contract.
Completely unfair, I believed. Getting to know Burgess since 2005, the last thing I believed he would do is fake an injury.
If he didn't hold out after the Raiders didn't sign him to a new deal before training camp, why would he rehab from hernia surgery to play in a preseason game?
But since the Raiders spent the offseason making several players rich men, I asked Burgess if the team had made any assurances to him.
"Nah," Burgess said. "That's wasn't one of the things we really talked about. I only worry about the (stuff) I can control, ya dig?"
Burgess is the team's best defensive lineman but the five-year, $17.5 million deal with $6 million guaranteed in 2005 is pocket change compared to the seven-year, $50.5 million pact with $18.125 million guaranteed awarded to Tommy Kelly this year.
Terdell Sands was given a four-year, $17 million deal with $4 million guaranteed last year. When Gerard Warren was acquired in a trade from Denver last year, he came with a six-year, $36 million deal with $10 million guaranteed he signed in 2006.
Burgess has been to two Pro Bowls while Kelly, Sands and Warren have combined for zero.
Much was made last year about Burgess holding out because he wasn't at voluntary workouts. But he's NEVER attended voluntary workouts. He's never showed up out of shape.
Lane Kiffin said Burgess has handled the situation with "class" but added if Burgess had one year instead of two left on his contract it would be easier to deal with in terms of a new deal.
So question what you will about Burgess. Just don't question his commitment to the team. He could have pulled a Chad Johnson-like stunt (sure he wouldn't have made the radio circuit, but he could have made it known he wasn't happy). Or he could have been like Jason Taylor, who has things to do during mandatory minicamp.
By the way, Burgess looks pretty good during practice.
*Most unfair matchup of the day: Burgess vs. Mario Henderson.
*Johnnie Lee Higgins followed up a good Tuesday with a Wednesday morning practice that saw him drop at least four passes. Kiffin said the team has been working Higgins to death with a lot of reps on offense and special teams.
*Kelly is noticeably bigger right now. Kiffin said Kelly's weight goes up in the offseason and that hasn't been helped by his knee injury, which limits his workouts.
Kiffin said the team would like him between 310-315 pounds this season to play defensive tackle.
*Kiffin continues to remind us Javon Walker's not in peak shape yet:
"Javon's a little heavy right now so we're going to continue this offseason to get him down by training camp and the regular season, the final thing that counts. He's picking up the offense fine but we've got a long way to go."
*For those of you wondering what's up with Ed Hartwell and if he's the solution to the run defense, here's Kiffin on him:
"We didn't sign Ed to a minimum contract to give him a chance. We haven't set expectations. We're giving him a chance to make the team. He hasn't played in a while so we'll let him take it as far as he can take it."
*John Wade took some snaps at center with the first-team offensive line. Chris Morris remains atop the depth chart.
*FB Oren O'Neal injured his leg near the end of practice. WR Arman Shields (hamstring) didn't practice.
*Wish I had some great stories of exciting plays from practice, but there really weren't. JaMarcus Russell fired some passes between defenders that drew some ooohs. Drew Carter made a nice, falling, one-handed grab.
But for the most part, it was a ho-hum, minicamp session.
I'll check back after the afternoon practice.