ALAMEDA - Starting fullback Justin Griffith is out for the season after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament during Sunday's 29-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Griffith is well versed in the zone-blocking scheme the Raiders use. He's also a steadying influence on an offense with a lot of young players in key positions.
"You lose a terrific person, a lot of leadership," said interim head coach Tom Cable. "He's solid as a rock. He comes to work every day. He does things to the best of his ability every opportunity he gets. Someone who's familiar with the system. You're losing quite a bit there. But we'll get Luke to step up, and we'll get someone in here and get him trained as quick as we can."
Cable said using Michael Bush as a fullback could be an option. But with Darren McFadden hobbled, that might not be the best idea.
Using one of the tight ends as an extra blocker is an option, too.
*Some Raider defenders have bemoaned that teams are beating them with "trick" plays like reverses and using two quarterbacks like Baltimore did.
Those plays work when players aren't disciplined.
"That's why you run them, to take advantage of something you see," Cable said. "Something, a flaw in someone's scheme or maybe an over aggressive player. And if you look at the plays that they ran, it was based on that, being too aggressive in a couple of spots."
And don't be surprised to see the Atlanta Falcons try some different looks this weekend.
"As you know this is a copycat league so we're going to really have to address those more than we have because we're going to seem them again," Cable said. "Maybe this week, maybe the next week, who knows? We'll have to definitely pay a ton of attention to that."
*Cable continues to stand up for players and not single them out even when they've obviously blown a play.
When asked about the 70-yard touchdown catch by Demetrius Williams on Sunday in which there wasn't a Raider anywhere near him, Cable said yesterday the safety abandoned his coverage to follow the quarterback.
The only safety on that side of the field was Gibril Wilson. Cable, however, refused to say the play was Wilson's fault, opting to say "we" didn't play the coverage right.
"No," said Cable when asked about Wilson's role on the play. "We just blew the coverage."
*The Raiders were in Cover 2 on that play. That's interesting because the way the team tried to spin things earlier in the season, they only used Cover 2 because Lane Kiffin made them and it cost them three big plays against Denver.
DeAngelo Hall said not playing a lot of Cover 2 was no excuse to leave anyone wide open.
Though players might want to play more zone, whenever something goes wrong in zone, the first excuse is "We don't play a lot of man."
"Guys just weren't covered," Hall said. "It ain't got nothing to do with that. We practiced those things, we executed them in practice. To go out in the game and not execute it is just not being disciplined. It has nothing to do with how little we do something. We're not executing. The same thing happened on Monday night. We didn't execute and we got beat. It happened in Baltimore and we gave up the big play."
*For those bashing Kwame Harris, Cable has news for you:
Harris is an upgrade over Barry Sims.
Harris gave up a sack to Terrell Suggs on the second play of the game in Baltimore, but Cable likes what Harris has brought to the Raiders.
"We've upgraded from where we were before in terms of the number of hits on the quarterback, number of hits on the quarterbacks from that spot," Cable said. "Certainly in the run game he's improved us there. Really only the first one, that second play of the game, couldn't hear and got out late and that's what it was. It's going to happen. You don't want it to happen. You do everything you can to keep it from happening but it's part of the game."
*Cable said there is improvement in the passing game. JaMarcus Russell isn't holding the ball as long and the receivers seem to be doing better as they become comfortable with Russell and vice versa.
While Russell might not be ready to run the offense with no problems, Cable likes that he knows the mistakes he makes before being told and is showing better awareness in the pocket.
"Now he's moving away (from pressure) with his eyes upfield," Cable said. "He's moving up and out in the pocket. He's starting to be active in the pocket the way you're supposed to be, and that's just being comfortable. That's being able to feel the rush and slide away from it rather than run away from it, and then just huck it out of bounds or do something like that."
*Here's Cable when asked about the Raiders being in contention (don't laugh) in the AFC West. Oakland is 2-5, two games behind first-place Denver.
"We don't put it out of our mind," Cable said. "We talked about it today. Why wouldn't you talk about it? It's anybody's deal right now. Both Kansas City and San Diego got beat yesterday. We got beat yesterday. Nothing really changed. Denver had a bye. So here we are kind of setting where we were when we went into this weekend. I don't think you can put it out of your mind, cause if you don't ultimately have that as your prize, then what are you doing this for. And yet, right now, the most important thing is the process to get there. I mean, let's be real about that, too. And that's winning football games."
*Cable said he has no problems with players celebrating making a play when on the wrong side of a blowout.
"I'll tell you how I really feel. I think that's for someone to write about that wants to say, 'You're down so you shouldn't act that way.' That's BS. This is football. And football is emotional and intense. When you make a great play, celebrate. That's what it's about. That's just what I believe. It may not be what you all want to hear. I want them to light their hair on fire and go crazy and have fun doing it. To say is it appropriate when you're 20 down? I don't know if it is or not. But I know good defensive football teams go ballistic. If you watch and they're a great defensive football team, but every series, every time we came out to the field offensively, Ray Lewis actually paraded around the field if you watched him, inspiring the crowd, bringing the crowd up the entire time. You say, 'Well that's because they're a good defense.' No that's the way they play, the emotion and energy they play the game with. You have to respect that. I like it when our players have fun playing the game and enjoy playing the game. I'd like to be ahead by 20 though, because maybe it's a little more fun, you know?"
I know it would a lot more fun, and a lot more meaningful, to showboat up by 20.
*McFadden (toe), DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) and LB Jon Alston (foot) are day-to-day.