OAKLAND - Raider fans can't say Lane Kiffin doesn't think about them.
He tried a couple of things to give the Raiders reason to cheer at the Raider Nation Celebration at McAfee Coliseum.
So will Darren McFadden return punts as he did in practice today?
"No," Kiffin said. "He can. I was just trying to give our fans something to cheer about. He was standing there on the sidelines so I threw him out there
The second time was when Kiffin tried to have McFadden catch a pass on a fake field goal only to have defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and safety Hiram Eugene run interference.
"I was trying to excite the fans again," Kiffin said. "So, I had Darren stand next to me and told Shane (Lechler) to throw him the ball. It was good to see Rob compete. Rob heard me whisper that, so he whispered to Hiram about 10 yards ahead of him to go cover him. So, it really didn't work."
Eugene picked off Lechler's pass with one hand while holding his helmet in the other hand.
Eugene also picked off a pass during seven-on-seven drills.
Tyvon Branch practiced with a cast on his right hand because of a broken thumb.
"Hopefully I can use it as a weapon for a while," Branch said with a laugh. "You have to look at the glass half full instead of half empty."
The injury means Branch won't be returning kickoffs, but Branch isn't down. He'll have surgery on the thumb but will still be able to practice and play.
"He's going to have surgery within the next 48 hours on it, and hopefully he'll be out (of the return game) for about three weeks," Kiffin said.
It's just a new experience trying to tackle someone with a cast on.
"After I get used to wrapping up with it I think I'll be all right," Branch said. "...It doesn't hurt. It's just bulky."
Branch wasn't the only Raider wearing a cast.
DeAngelo Hall had a cast on his right hand.
Hall originally hurt his hand during a training camp practice. Hall had a cast put on over his gloved hand.
"It keeps bothering him every once in awhile," Kiffin said. "He took a rep in one-on-ones and I think I saw out of the corner of my eye he banged it again because he went off the field to go see the trainers. It continues to bother him. It hurts him especially on contract drills."
*JaMarcus Russell continues to practice with a sleeve on his right arm but there are no limitations on him, Kiffin said.
*Kiffin said he was pleased with the effort he saw today. Even though it was a day for the fans, Kiffin stressed the team needed to get work done.
"We're not in a position where we can have a practice that isn't full speed for
us right now," Kiffin said.
*Kiffin on LB Grant Irons, who dressed for practice but didn't take part in team work:
"He had a great workout yesterday, so he's about as ready as he's going
to get. Hopefully we'll get him back out there and get to take a look at him."
*LB Ricky Brown (knee, back) didn't take part in contact drills but is expected to play Friday in Nashville.
*Kiffin was pleased with how WR Todd Watkins played on special teams against the 49ers. He also caught three passes for 39 yards.
"You can't ask much more out of him right now for what he does," Kiffin said. "He keeps making plays."
Watkins has been a training camp star with the catches he's made but will need to play special teams to secure a roster spot with Javon Walker, Ronald Curry, Drew Carter and Johnnie Lee Higgins assured roster spots.
"It really has not been a team that has used its receivers on special teams (outside of returning kicks)," Kiffin said. "So, it would be great to get a guy like him, or a guy like Chaz (Schilens), if they were able to make the team, they both are guys that can contribute on special teams."
*Even though rookie Arman Shields' injured knee is the same knee he hurt in college, Kiffin said the problems that have limited him lately aren't related to the college injury.
"We drained it the other day," Kiffin said. "He'll feel fine, then he'll go back and it will bother him a little bit. We hope it's not a long-term thing because he needs to get out there and play."
*There 14,378 fans in attendance today.
*The team returns to Napa tomorrow and will finish camp in Napa on Wednesday.