Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

October 20, 2008
Trying to explain the penalty problem

ALAMEDA - Tom Cable took a lot of the blame on Sunday for the Raiders' penalties.

A day later he wasn't so nice.

He was more pointed in addressing the Raiders penalties at today's press conference, saying the team needs better focus.

The Raiders racked up 14 penalties in their 16-13 win in overtime against the New York Jets on Sunday.

But that doesn't mean there weren't some funny stories behind the flags.

Defensive end Jay Richardson was called twice for lining up offsides on the Jets' first drive.

He said his old teammate at Ohio State, Nick Mangold, made those penalties happen.

"That's not coach Cable's fault, man," Richardson said. "...I had really no idea that what I was doing wrong. Come to find out that Mangold, 74, the center, he would get in his stance, set (the football) out here, then put it out here before he snapped it. So he called it, and our coaches screaming from the sidelines, 'You can't call that (stuff)?' And the ref is like 'Yeah, we'll look for it,' and I guess he stopped doing it. But he got Kalimba (Edwards) and I think Gerard (Warren) too on that."

Apparently this wasn't the first time Richardson had seen Mangold pull that one.

"He was doing it at school," he said of Mangold. "Should have known."

The penalties on offense included five false starts, three by left tackle Kwame Harris.

Harris now leads the NFL with six false starts.

One of his penalties could have been called on right guard Cooper Carlisle, but as Harris noted, Carlisle is a "crafty veteran."

He said not false starting comes down to paying more attention to JaMarcus Russell's voice and not getting caught up in whether a penalty was right or wrong.

After all, when's the last time a referee changed his call because a player cursed him in front of thousands in a stadium and millions watching on television?

"You don't want to start playing refs, right?" Harris said. "You don't want to start playing and worrying about the crew you're going up against. But at the same time, you want refs to make the right call. So if a ref is going to call you for something, you want that to be the penalty he's calling you for. For instance, if he's going to call you for being too far in the backfield and it's really like an offsides or something, you want him to call you for being offsides, not for being too far in the backfield. I don't want to say too much more about."

Smart idea. The NFL is fining players for verbally abusing officials during games and criticizing them after games.

Harris said each officiating crew is different, even with how they call false starts. What one official sees as a player getting off early is a false start for another.

That goes for holding, too.

"Some refs will let you get away with a little more, like maybe your hands can be a little wider on a man with one ref and another ref might call wide hands as holding," Harris said. "Or you can be right on with the ball and you'll be all right and another ref will call you offsides. I guess once it happens in a game that's when I start thinking about it. That's when I go, 'OK. Take your time a little bit more here or there.' It's hard to start thinking about it in the game. It kind of messes you up when you start thinking about them. Instead of thinking about all those little things you have to do to get the block going, you're thinking about, 'All right, don't be early.' It's just too much."

But as someone once told me, excuse are a tool of incompetence. Cable sees all of those as excuses.

"Everybody is looking for a reason why and the real reason why is your focus. You can call it how you want and whatever. But you line up offsides, or you don't line up right and got an illegal formation, whatever that is. Offensively there's eight penalties, 55 yards of offense and that cost us two touchdowns. So don't blame anybody else, let's blame ourselves. We're the culprit and it needs better focus."

One penalty that was bad was the chop block called on Darren McFadden.

Cable didn't want to comment and risk being fined. He said McFadden slipped on the lay and wasn't blocking anyone.

It also doesn't help that McFadden didn't even make contact with the defender when he fell.

*Cable was happy with the improvement of Russell. He said he was too conservative early because after botching the timeout call and giving Jay Feely two chances to tie the game at the end of regulation, he didn't want to make things worse by calling something extravagant that would result in disaster.

If anything, we learned Russell looks a lot better when the training wheels are off. He didn't look overwhelmed in overtime once the Raiders started passing.

His accuracy could be better, but that should improve as he plays more. But that should also be a lesson in knowing that Russell can do more if allowed to throw the ball down the field.

But I do like Cable admitting he was too conservative. Sounds like a coach that's learning as he goes with this team, but doesn't pretend to have all the answers.

*As for that timeout to try to freeze Feely, it's a risky thing. When I see a team with no timeouts coming onto the field to kick, I don't like the idea of a timeout.

If they're a player short, they have to run another player in, which eats up time on the play clock. And if the team tries to kick the field goal shorthanded, a block is a real possibility.

*Cable said former Raiders Kenny Stabler, Raymond Chester and Phil Villapiano addressing the team on Saturday night was pivotal, as did several players.

"In their own way, each one of them really got a point out about what it is to be a team," Cable said. "What it means to be a Raider and just important and how much you have to play for each other, how much you have to give to each other in order to succeed."

*Cable said safety Hiram Eugene was "awesome" and that Michael Huff "did some nice things" in nickel and dime coverages in place of Eugene.

Here's Cable's take on Huff's dropped interception in overtime.

"If he had made that interception there, the one that hit him in the belly there, boy, you'd say the competition really probably helped him," Cable said.

*Cable said Javon Walker played well but could do more in run blocking.

*Cable's three main concerns from the game were penalties, run defense and the inability to finish the game in the "four-minute offense."

The Jets ran for 242 yards and the Raider offense couldn't get a first down in the final minutes that would have put the game away.

*DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) will continue to be evaluated, but is improving. LB Jon Alston (foot) is having test of injuring himself on the opening kickoff in overtime. DT Gerard Warren was in a walking boot, but Cable said the injury wasn't serious and that Warren was just sore.

*Cable noted that center Jake Grove did a good job against Jets NT Kris Jenkins, especially considering the Jets' scheme didn't allow for Grove to receive a lot of help against Jenkins.

--Jason Jones

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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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