Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

July 31, 2008
Night practice with some firsts

NAPA - The Raiders practiced in full gear for the first time this training camp.

There was also the first fight of camp.

Yes, the evening practice was worth watching.

Players still weren't supposed to take each other down to the grass, but something about being fully geared up (instead of wearing shorts with the shoulder pads and helmets) added an extra notch of intensity.

Backup center Jesse Boone exchanged blows with defensive tackle Josh Shaw after one running play.

Shaw shoved Boone as he walked away from the pile so Boone went back and gave Shaw a shove and from there, the two started swinging.

As they were separated Boone lost his helmet. Then in WWE fashion, Shaw broke free from the players restraining him and jumped on Boone again and landed a few punches.

*QB JaMarcus Russell only threw three passes in the team session as the emphasis was on on running the ball when he was in. He completed one of the passes.

*We finally got to see if Michael Bush would lower his shoulders in goal line situations.

He did with a thunderous thud.

Bush collided with a pile of Raiders in black jerseys. It was easily the best collision of training camp.

Bush, however, couldn't move the pile of defenders out of the way to reach the end zone.

*S Jarrod Cooper landed a big hit on receiver Chris McFoy as he ran after a catch that sent McFoy into the air. Cooper showed up big in the run game during the team session, too.

*FB Oren O'Neal is a stud blocker in short-yardage. He will be fun to watch this season. He helped collapse the entire right edge for Justin Fargas on the goal line.

*CB Nnamdi Asomugha intercepted another pass. This time he picked off Marques Tuiasosopo as he threw to WR Johnathan Holland. Asomugha continues to have a solid camp.

*CB DeAngelo Hall nearly picked off Russell tonight. FS Michael Huff was also in position to make a play on the ball.

*Marcel Reece made his name in college as a receiver but he's playing fullback right now. He's shown good hands and made a touchdown catch on a good run fake. He faked left and flowed to the right to catch the pass from Tuiasosopo.

*Practice ended with the defense stuffing RB Darren McFadden on the goal line.

*Backup QB Andrew Walter was given the night off because of a sore arm. He is expected to practice tomorrow. DT Gerard Warren (thigh) will be evaluated in the morning.

*The Raiders Rookie Zone will be back this season. Chabot Space & Science Center and the Oakland Museum of California are new sponsors.

Field Turf will be used for the Rookie Zone now. It's located between sectiosn 234-235 and opens two hours before kickoff.

Click here for more information.

*The team will take Sunday off before it's joint practice with the 49ers on Monday.

--Jason Jones

July 31, 2008
Sands is lighter, hopefully better

NAPA -- Terdell Sands was signed to a four-year, $17 million deal be the Raiders big run stuffer last year.

Unfortunately, the only part of the equation that proved to be true was Sands was big.

He struggled to play well while not just carrying extra weight, but also the burden of having lost his mother in February of last year.

Football took a backseat to grieving.

"I wasn't doing cardio like I should and conditioning, so I kind of got behind in my workouts and stuff," Sands said. "So it was a big part of last year."

Sands wasn't the player the Raiders saw in 2006 when he emerged as a player that could stop the run.

The Raiders finished 31st against the run last season and Sands sees it as his job to fix that. In retrospect, Sands knows he didn't give his best effort in 2007.

"I take (responsibility for) it all, because they look for me to be a big part of it," Sands said. "And like I say, I wasn't mentally in it, so I did some gap responsibility and all my true effort wasn't out there. I thought I was. But when I watch film, it really wasn't like I was the year before. So I take responsibility and put it on myself."

Sands (who is listed at 6-7, 335 but probably heavier) is in better shape this year. He won't discuss how much weight he lost except to say "a bunch of it."

What a lighter Sands means he can fight off blocks and play longer.

Sands being able to do that will be key. If he and Tommy Kelly command more than one blocker, the Raiders' athletic linebackers will be free to run to the ball.

Sands sees the difference in himself already.

"I see more getting off the ball," he said. "I see myself in shape, I'm running to the ball more, and I look good. I'm slimmer, so I feel real good."

--Jason Jones

July 31, 2008
Russell returns to team practice

NAPA - JaMarcus Russell took part in team activities this morning for the first time since Tuesday morning when he hit his elbow on Darren McFadden's helmet.

There was a noticeable loss of velocity on Russell's passes, which Raiders coach Lane Kiffin assumes will come back pretty soon.

"I'm just trying to protect myself as much as I can," Russell said after practice. "I just wanted to get out here today just so I could get back in practice. I don't really like sitting out and watching guys bust their behinds when I can be out there doing something. Just anything out there I can help."

Russell did individual drills before having his elbow iced down in the previous two practices (Tuesday night, Wednesday afternoon).

Russell expects to practice tonight and not have to take the "mental reps" as he did prior to this morning.

"It is (good to watch) but at the same time you have to be out there," Russell said. "You have to be out there in the heat while the live bullets are going just to get a better feel for it."

Looking for more

Kiffin said some players that are practicing only once one double-practice days will be re-evaluated Monday to see if they can practice twice in a day.

One of those players is Javon Walker.

The receiver was signed to a big contract in the offseason and Kiffin is looking for ways to get more out of him.

"There's progress being made," Kiffin said. "I wouldn't say as much as I'd like at this point so we're going to continue to push them. I think pushing him back into two-a-days will help him as well."

Very little progress

The Raiders intended to give Mario Henderson every chance to win the starting right tackle job from Cornell Green.

How's the race, coach?

"It's not close right now," Kiffin said.

Green had the day off so Seth Wand was the first-team right tackle.

Henderson has struggled in camp in pass protection and has been called a player that isn't physical and struggles with his confidence by coaches.

Kiffin said there's no one area that Henderson is struggling.

"It's everything right now, unfortunately," Kiffin said.

The Raiders traded up (surrendering this year's third-round pick) last year to draft Henderson.

Right now, it looks like they moved up for a third-string offensive lineman. He didn't play in a game last year and doesn't look any better prepared to play right now.

Camp notes

*Green and right guard Cooper Carlisle were given the morning practice off.

Chris Morris took Carlisle's spot with the starting offensive line.

*DT Gerard Warren (thigh), LB Grant Irons (hamstring) and CB John Bowie (knee) did not practice. Kiffin does not believe Warren's injury will keep him out long term.

DT Tommy Kelly and Walker were given their usual one practice off.

*CB Nnamdi Asomugha came up with the lone turnover during the team session by picking off a Russell pass intended for Arman Shields

*Today's penalty runners were DE Jay Richardson, TE Chris Wagner, LG Robert Gallery, LT Kwame Harris and DE Greyson Gunheim.

Gunheim ran after Kiffin ruled his movement forced Henderson to false start.

--Jason Jones

July 30, 2008
Russell held out again

NAPA - JaMarcus Russell did not take part in team drills for the second straight practice because of a sore right elbow.

He was held out of team drills during last night's practice,after individual drills.

The injury occured when his elbow hit running back Darren McFadden's helmet.

"Just a little soreness from the other day," Russell said. "I bumped Darren's helmet while he was going to block, kind of full force as I was throwing, but I kind of did what I can right now."

Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said the team is being cautious, but doesn't forsee a long-term problem.

Russell will be re-evaluated in the morning. X-rays have already been taken and showed no damage. Russell said the elbow is sore and stiff "a little bit at times" and he tried to warm up as much as he could.

"We wanted to watch him throw, and our trainers watched him," Kiffin said. "They just felt that he was struggling a little bit with it, and he wanted to keep going, so we pulled him out."

Andrew Walter took first-team snaps in place of Russell.

Russell, who had the elbow iced after drills, said it was just an accident that happens when playing football.

Russell worked out throwing some short passes to offensive coordinator Greg Knapp after practice and joined the quarterbacks for some post-practice conditioning.

He doesn't know if he'll practice tomorrow.

"I'm going to try and get out and practice as much as I can, man," Russell said. "I really haven't made any decisions about it yet."

Think fast

The Raiders went through various late game situations at the end of practice today.

There were the usual drives with less than two minutes and a few with little time on the clock.

The last drive ended with a field goal attempt and Kiffin told backup tight end Chris Wagner not to go on the field.

Shane Lechler, the holder on field goals, noticed he was a man short and called timeout.

"I pulled him just to show him the scenario," Kiffin said. "There was three seconds on the clock, and the offense had a time out, so Shane calls a time out there. If offense doesn't have a time out, Shane has to take a delay of game. So I was just making sure Shane was paying attention."

Rough time

Rookie WR Chaz Schilens has good size and has shown good hands during training camp.

But he had back-to-back mental errors today.

He caught a pass in a simulated late game situation and didn't step out of bounds.

"Unless the guy falls down and there's nothing but grass get your (butt) out of bounds," quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo told him.

Schilens false started on the next play and had to take the penalty lap around the field. Schilens decided to run around both fields, though.

Voting time

Essence Magazine has two Raiders nominated for its "Do Right Men of the Year."

You can vote for Kirk Morrison or Nnamdi Asomugha by clicking here.
Camp notes

*CB John Bowie (knee), LB Grant Irons (hamstring), S Greg Wesley (back) and WR Arman Shields (knee) did not practice. DT Gerard Warren (thigh) didn't finish practice.

*Sebastian Janikowski made field goals from 54 and 37 yards. He missed from 48 yards.

*S Hiram Eugene, LB Jon Alston, S Gibril Wilson and CB DeAngelo Hall all had interceptions during practice. Alston and Eugene's picks came during seven-on-seven drills.

*McFadden took part in individual drills with the wide receivers.

*DE Derrick Burgess continues to work as a linebacker during seven-on-seven.

"That (stuff) makes me tired man," Burgess said.

*OL Paul McQuistan also had to run a lap for a penalty.

--Jason Jones

July 29, 2008
Russell (briefly) on his elbow

JaMarcus Russell on his minor injury:

"I just bumped it a little bit on the helmet. Other than that I was OK. I went through as much as I could. I'll be OK though."

--Jason Jones

July 29, 2008
More from tonight's practice (other than Russell's elbow)

NAPA - In non-JaMarcus Russell related news:

*Referees were at practice tonight.

There were two defensive penalties. Linebacker Robert Thomas and defensive end Trevor Scott were called for being offsides. Tackles Kwame Harris, Cornell Green and tight end Darrell Strong were flagged for false starts.

All had to run a lap for their penalties. Green tried to delay his penalty but was eventually called out and heckled by Derrick Burgess for having to run.

*The Raiders worked on running offense from inside their own five-yard line with Rage Against the Machine playing as background music. That's where Green, Strong and Thomas picked up their penalties.

*Cornerback John Bowie (knee) did not practice after hurting his knee in the morning and is expected to miss tomorrow's practice.

*Greg Wesley (back spasms) remains out. Tight end John Madsen didn't practice after being hit by Jarrod Cooper after a catch this morning.

*Burgess was given a break after individual drills. So he spent practice commenting on everything he saw.

*Cornerback Michael Waddell has been on the wrong end of some spectacular catches during camp.

And when he does well, he isn't always having good luck.

He made a good play on a pass to bat the ball away from Todd Watkins. But the ball bounced off Waddell's hands into Watkin's hands.

*The team didn't wear shoulder pads tonight, but if the Raiders had, Cooper could put a couple of nice hits on receivers.

When he didn't go for an interception on a high pass, some teammates mockingly jeered.

Coop's response: "I don't catch the ball, I knock (people) out."

--Jason Jones

July 29, 2008
Russell's elbow keeps him from practicing

NAPA - Quarterback JaMarcus Russell was held out of the team portion of tonight's practice after hitting his elbow on the back of Darren McFadden's helmet this morning.

Well "nicked" was the word the coach used.

"We checked him out after practice and he was fine," said coach Lane Kiffin. "He came out and warmed up, threw the ball and it just stiffened up on him so we erred on the side of safety. ... If we were playing a game today he could have very easily played. I don't foresee this being an issue at all."

Russell spent part of tonight's practice with his right arm wrapped in ice.

Russell, the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, was shaking his arm this morning and had his arm wrapped in ice after practice.

Andrew Walter took the first-team snaps in place of Russell.

--Jason Jones

July 29, 2008
Coop has a new target

NAPA - Does the "Battle of the Bay" mean something to you in the preseason?

It begins to a degree next Monday when the 49ers come to Napa for a joint practice followed by the annual preseason game that Friday.

Jarrod Cooper has already called his shot earlier today.

"I'm looking for DeShaun Foster, make sure you put that on there," Cooper said. "You know we used to play in Carolina together, we used to fight all the time."

This camp has been without any fights. If Coop weren't such a joker, I'd believe he planned to fight Foster next week just to get things going.

*You can also add tackle Barry Sims (now a 49er) to the list of players that have taken their shots at the Raiders.

"In Oakland, we only had handful of plays and just disguised them up to look different," Sims told the San Jose Mercury News. "Here, we're actually running different plays."

Take that, offensive genius Lane Kiffin, I guess. Sims, of course, is now working under a mad scientist in offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Then this on the atmosphere:

"In Oakland, it seemed like there was a lot of individuals there," Sims said. "Here, everybody kind of works together as a team. It's a good environment to be around."

--Jason Jones

July 29, 2008
Coop brings it

NAPA - Today's hitter of the day: Jarrod Cooper.

Sure, this isn't "full" contact, but Cooper laid a hit on John Madsen during seven-on-seven that jarred the ball loose for a forced fumble.

"You got grown men out here playing football, bumping into each other," Cooper said. "Somebody's going to get mad. And today, I got mad. Yesterday, somebody else got mad, but I took the mad role today. It worked."

By the way, Cooper said this while smiling.

Cooper took down rookie tight end Darrell Strong too on a play that was a little too close for Lane Kiffin's liking.

"There was the first play, which I was fine with," Kiffin said. "He hit the guy and it was straight up. We need that, we need to be more physical on defense. I've got no problem with that and our young players need to see that. ... There was a second play where he was down at the guy's legs. We don't want that obviously. We want them to protect their teammates."

Cooper conceded as much.

Well, not really.

"I got a little heated on the second one," Cooper said. "I probably shouldn't have tackled the rookie but, first of all, he's a rookie so I'm not worried about him. But you got to be smart."

Another thumper

Fullback Oren O'Neal was throwing his body into linebackers today without fear in short-yardage situations.

"They brought me here to be a hammerhead and I like to show them I can hit," O'Neal said.

Kiffin has always praised O'Neal's work ethic. He wouldn't mind having more players that enjoyed contact as much as O'Neal.

"He's never going to say a speech," Kiffin said of O'Neal. "He's never going to talk to the guys. Sometimes he doesn't talk the whole day. He lets his play do the talking and he's valuable to us on special teams as well as fullback."

Quarterback watch

JaMarcus Russell left for lunch with ice on his right elbow. Kiffin and Russell said it was nothing serious.

Russell was seen shaking his arm during practice.

Kiffin continues to stress that Russell needs to make good decisions on the field.

"The biggest priority there is to get him out of the college mode where he had such good receivers, those three guys that he played with, that are all high draft picks, that he can just throw the ball up and they'd make plays all the time," Kiffin said. "You've got to get him out of that mentality and make sure he's doing the right thing with the ball."

Backup battle

Kiffin said there is competition for the right to backup Russell between Andrew Walter and Marques Tuiasosopo.

Both will get a lot of work in the preseason behind Russell, who will probably play longer than most starters because he needs more game experience.

"They'll both play a ton in preseason and see who can move us and who can make really good decisions," Kiffin said. "The backup quarterback will be decided by who takes care of the ball the best."

Moving around

The Raiders are experimenting with moving Derrick Burgess around instead of keeping him at his usual spot at left defensive end.

He's been on the right side and also dropped into coverage like a linebacker.

Burgess, who has looked good thus far, is being moved to try to prevent him from being double teamed so much.

Today's random thing overheard during practice

"How about three of you (expletives) stay and one of you get out!"

Angry Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after he asked for a 3-4 defense and four defensive linemen were on the field. Rookie Greyson Gunheim was the (sucker) that left the field.

Camp notes

*Kiffin liked the way RB Michael Bush lowered his shoulders during short yardage.

*Watching players run their lap for penalties can be funny. Paul McQuistan was called for a false start and took his lap.

Defensive tackle William Joseph was called for being offsides and ran about half a lap before joining his teammates.

*Todd Watkins continues to make plays in the passing game. Madsen also made some nice grabs.

*Ricky Brown continued to work with the first team at strongside linebacker this morning.

*S Greg Wesley (back), LB Grant Irons and DT Tommy Kelly did not practice. CB John Bowie (knee) left practice early but said he was fine.

*Fred Wakefield worked at right tackle today, his second day as an offensive lineman. He was playing defensive end at the start of came.

--Jason Jones

July 28, 2008
Position change (again)

NAPA - Welcome to the wonderful world of Fred Wakefield.

He was signed last year as a tight end.

He played tight end and defensive during offseason workouts this year.

Wakefield had spent training camp as a defensive end.

Today, Wakefield was playing right guard.

One thing is certain. Wakefield won't be moving to quarterback.

"My wife throws better than I do so that won't happen," Wakefield said.

Wakefield's NFL career has been one of constant change. He started 10 games on the offensive line in 2005 in Arizona after being a starter on the defensive line.

He moved to tight end in 2006 when the team needed another blocker at the position before joining the Raiders.

Wakefield missed last season with a torn ACL.

So where is Wakefield comfortable?

"Guard or tackle on the offensive side just because that's what I've done more recently," he said. "It doesn't really bother me. I want to play. If I can keep bouncing around wherever they need me to do to help us win some games, I'll do it."

Wakefield weighs 285 pounds and figures he needs to add another 10-15 pounds or so to play offensive line.

He better be careful. He could be playing linebacker next week. Wakefield took reps at right guard Monday, including a few with the starting offensive line.

Weighty matters

One player told me the food being cooked for the Raiders was "on some bull..."

In other words, strength and conditioning coach Brad Roll and Lane Kiffin didn't put in for orders of pizza, burgers and ice cream when they met with chef at the Napa Valley Marriott.

"We kind of changed of the menu a lot," Kiffin said. "It's wearing on them. It's extremely healthy, whole wheat pasta and they're getting a little worn out by it."

So at the end of practice, Sebastian Janikowski made a 43-yard field goal that won the team the right to be treated to dinner by their position coaches.

Kiffin credits Roll with the improved health of several Raiders, citing a somewhat slimmer Terdell Sands as an example of Roll's work.

SeaBass missed a 57-yard kick Sunday night that would have freed the Raiders of healthy eating.

"So they had to eat the whole wheat again," Kiffin said.

Defensive end Jay Richardson plans to hit defensive line coach Keith Millard's pocket hard.

"Filet, 10 ounces, medium," is what Richardson said he plans to order.

Today's random thing overheard at practice

Wide receivers are stereotyped as vain and Javon Walker played the part with a photographer.

"Are you gonna get my picture in the magazine," Walker asked.

The response wasn't audible. But Walker expressed his preference.

"Get my left side, the good side."

Another random thing:

"Have you caught anything today, Shields?"

Safety Jarrod Cooper to rookie receiver Arman Shields, who hadn't caught a pass during team drills.

Camp notes

*Kiffin is serious about making JaMarcus Russell think fast.

When Russell was calling an audible, Kiffin yelled at him "There's a play clock!"

*Russell was seen shaking his left hand, but Kiffin said it was no big deal. Russell continued practicing.

*Ricky Brown was taking reps with the first team as the strongside linebacker. Robert Thomas had been in that spot recently.

*Nnamdi Asomugha attended a funeral earlier today and was not at practice.

*Tackle Mario Henderson had to run a lap for another false start. He was the only player punished for a penalty today.

*Russell had a great fake handoff on a playaction pass. But the interception by Rashad Baker on the play was better.

*Derrick Burgess did some work with the linebackers during seven-on-seven drills. He stood up occasionally last season.

*Offensive lineman Mark Wilson suffered a broken leg and sprained ankle last night during practice.

"Mark's probably done," Kiffin said. "Bad deal."

*Rookie tight end Darrell Strong had the catch of a day. He made a one-handed grab in which he tapped the ball to himself while being hit by Hiram Eugene.

In spite of the hard hit, Strong kept his balance and ran to the end zone.

*The other highlight catch came for Todd Watkins (again). He made a leaping grab over the head of cornerback Michael Waddell.

*Owner Al Davis was at practice for a second consecutive day.

*Defensive tackle Gerard Warren was a force as a pass rusher today.

*Safety Greg Wesley (back) and linebacker Grant Irons (hamstring) did not practice.

--Jason Jones

July 27, 2008
A special observer

NAPA - The man himself, Raiders owner Al Davis, attended his first practice of training camp tonight.

He spent a lot of the time watching the offense before it joined the defense for some light scrimmaging.

Davis stayed for the duration of practice, watching from a golf cart on the sidelines.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Davis is peeved that LaMont Jordan is with the Patriots, fearful Jordan might have a Randy Moss-like revival to his career and that Davis only agreed to release him if he didn't sign with New England or Denver.

But you had to know if New England came calling, Jordan was running there.

In his first public comments as a Patriot, Jordan hasn't joined the chorus of ex-Raiders talking bad about the organization.

"I don't think about the past," is how Jordan responed to a question from Boston-area media about the Raiders.

That's unusual for Jordan, who rarely bit his tongue as a Raider. He always had a way to get his point across.

He has defended the way Moss was portrayed and said he hopes to revive his career much like Moss did.

"Randy caught a bad rap in Oakland," Jordan said. "People don't know that he was playing hurt most of the time. From Day One, from the first time Randy and I stepped on the field together, I knew he was about one thing, and that's just winning. I think sometimes the media portrays him to be this guy that he really isn't. At the end of the day all he wants to do is win ballgames."

*Darren McFadden took turns returning kickoffs during special teams practice.

If the Raiders are looking to get the ball into McFadden's hands in different ways, kickoffs are a logical choice.

McFadden's speed might end that stretch of games without a kickoff (or a punt) for a touchdown.

The last time that happened was the season finale of the 2003 season.

But you have to imagine Davis having flashbacks of Tim Brown being injured returning a kickoff back in 1989.

In the end, don't be surprised if McFadden is back returning kickoffs along with Tyvon Branch.

It's a simple way to get him the ball without the pressure of having to do it in the offense.

After all, Brown excelled in that role early in his career.

Other players that took turns at kickoffs were Arman Shileds, Louis Rankin, Chris Johnson and Johnathan Holland.

Good Hands

Wideout Todd Watkins continues to impress with his receiving ability.

After an early uncharacteristic drop, Watkins was back to showing off his good hands.

His best of the night was a catch in which he rolled on the grass and batted the ball in the air with a defender present but managed to hold on to the ball.

Watkins also made a couple of leaping grabs near the sidelines with defenders close by.

He'll make it tough to cut him if he keeps catching the ball.

Night practice notes

*Left tackle Kwame Harris (back) returned to practice after missing yesterday and this morning's practice. Safety Greg Wesley didn't practice after taking part in the morning practice. He's missed time with back spasms.

Receiver Ronald Curry, center Jake Grove and defensive end Fred Wakefield had the night off. Wakefield has been dealing with flu-like symptoms, but stood out this morning with his play.

Curry and Grove are still slated to practice once a day. Both took part in the morning session.

Also, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and receiver Javon Walker practiced after having the morning off.

*John Wade took the first-team snaps at center in place of Grove.

*Backup offensive lineman Mark Wilson left practice with a left leg injury that had to be X-rayed. He returned to the locker room on crutches.

*Who says punters don't do anything during practice? When Willie Brown needed someone to throw passes to the cornerbacks, he summoned Shane Lechler over from the sideline.

*Nnamdi Asomugha forced the only turnover of the night in team work, intercepting a JaMarcus Russell pass.

*The drill highlight of the night was a one-handed snag by linebacker Thomas Howard while unit worked on intercepting passes.

*Sebastian Janikowski made two 43-yard field goals. He missed a 57-yard kick at the end of practice.

Those kicks usually have something on the line such as later curfew or later reporting time to practice.

The team joked around with the situation with coaches even calling timeout a la Mike Shanahan before the kick.

*By the way, no offensive linemen false started during the team session.

--Jason Jones

July 27, 2008
Tackling a familiar problem

NAPA - The Raiders are emphasizing tackling a lot in practice.

Problem is the team isn't tackling in practice.

Defenders are encouraged to be in the right place and wrap up ball carriers.

But the Raiders aren't in full gear (they're still wearing shoulder pads, helmets and shorts) so there will be no real tackling.

Old school coachers everywhere are disgusted by that. But with 80 players, no NFL Europe exemptions and fear of losing players to injury, this is the way it is.

Anytime a ball carrier hits the grass, more than one coach can be heard yelling at players to "stay up."

But this is football, and that's not always easy to do. But can you blame anyone on defense for tackling?

The Raiders trace a lot of their problems stopping the run to an inability to tackle.

But what's a team to do if can't practice tackling until a preseason game?

"You just got to work on form-tackling drills and continue to put guys in those situations as much as you can," said Raiders coach Lane Kiffin.

Also the Raiders are depending on two additions in the secondary to help out.

Gibril Wilson's pedigree as a tackler is established. But coaches are also excited about the run support cornerback DeAngelo Hall can provide.

"Nobody talks about DeAngelo, but you can make a really good case about DeAngelo coming up and tackling people," Kiffin said. "He's not just a cover corner. He's made a number of hits and he's played in a cover two so they rolled up some times, guys in the flats, so he'll throw himself in there so he's going to help as well."

Dress rehearsal

It's only a practice.

Not a scrimmage. Not a game.

Practice.

That's what Kiffin stressed when discussing the joint practice the Raiders will have with the 49ers on Aug. 4.

"I just know our guys will, we'll get a better tempo in practice than we will going against ourselves for another practice, another day," Kiffin said. "It's just a good changeup to have, I thought it would fit well as far as practicing the week that we play them because it kind of gives our guys a chance to prepare against what they're going to see."

Kiffin said he and 49ers coach Mike Nolan began discussing the idea about two months ago.

The schedule for the day is already done.

"We added a few things to assist them in what they're trying to get done," Kiffin said. "For the most part it will be the same format you guys are used to seeing. (Nolan's) been great about it. Our whole thing is just going to have to be safety, making sure our players understand this is a practice not a scrimmage. Other than that I think it will be very positive."

Hand games

Darren McFadden dropped a pass this morning and hasn't looked as sure-handed as he did in offseason workouts.

Most of the problems come when McFadden is lined up at wide receiver. He's looked fine catching screen passes.

Part of the Raiders' plan on offense is to stress defensive coordinators by putting McFadden at receiver, forcing them to decide whether to put a linebacker or defensive back on him.

But he's got to catch the ball out wide for that to work.

"He's had some inaccurate hand placement on some catches, which is a surprise because we didn't see much of that in the camp before," Kiffin said. "He's got so much going on right now and so much pressure on him and so many different plays so we're going to keep pushing him and then there will come a time when we pull back."

Oops, they did it again

Once again there were issues with the snap.

John Wade was the center on bad exchanges. The first was with the JaMarcus Russell, the second was with Andrew Walter.

With the team switching centers, this could continue to be a problem until someone wins the job.

Camp notes

*The play of the morning practice was an interception by cornerback Stanford Routt.

He made the pick while lying on receiver Drew Carter's back.

Carter was involved in one of the funnier plays of the morning, too.

He made a catch with Chris Johnson fighting for the ball as they landed on the grass. Carter yelled "tie goes to the receiver" before spending nearly 30 seconds rolling around before emerging with the ball.

*These are this morning's penalty runners:

OL Paul McQuistan

OL Mario Henderson. He ran one lap, but probably should have run at least three. He seems to have picked up Cornell Green's ability to be a split second early on the snap count, but isn't nearly as slick as Green.

TE Tony Stewart

DE Greyson Gunheim

*Safety Greg Wesley returned to practice after missing two days with back spasms. Tackle Kwame Harris (back) is supposed to practice tonight.

Receiver Javon Walker and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly had the morning off and will practice tonight.

TE/WR/RB Marcel Reece (hamstring) was able to perform some agility drills after practice.

*The kick return job is Tyvon Branch's for now. Johnnie Lee Higgins is the punt returner. Kiffin added McFadden could also be used as a returner.

*The team has about seven hours off the field. Special teams usually reports a little earlier. Media is allowed back on the field at 7 p.m.

--Jason Jones

July 26, 2008
Huff is free

NAPA - Michael Huff looks the part of a natural free safety.

He made the play of the defense for the defense with a diving interception of a JaMarcus Russell pass.

"They brought me here to make plays, and I feel like I can use my speed, use my athletic ability to make plays," Huff said. "And when you have the two best corners in the game It makes it a lot easier for me, so I don't have to lean one way. I can look at the quarterback's eyes and find the ball."

Huff played the role of the good solider in his first two seasons. He never complained publicly about his sprinter's speed being used to cover tight ends as a strong safety.

But he's been liberated of having primary duty of tracking tight ends with Gibril Wilson on the team.

Plus, Wilson would probably be insulted if he weren't allowed to be near the line of scrimmage as much as possible.

Huff weighs 205 pounds. That's the result of doing all he could to bulk up to play in the box. He doesn't feel like he's any less quick right now.

Wilson has been a welcome addition and mentor to Huff. He had Huff with him last night working on tackling backup running backs after practice.

"Gibril's played a lot of free, so he's giving me some techniques and some little things I can use," Huff said. "Being an open-field tackler, that's the hardest part, and I feel he's definitely helped me with open field tackling that's been the biggest adjustment."

O-line watch

Left tackle Kwame Harris (lower back) did not practice. Paul McQuistan replaced him as the first-team left tackle. McQuistan has been playing a lot of guard thus far.

Lane Kiffin concedes Harris needs work in pass protection, which he attributes to Harris moving back to left tackle after playing on the right side in recent seasons.

Harris has looked fine in the run game, as expected.

"We've got a lot of hopes for him, and we're going to need him," Kiffin said.

Kiffin said Mario Henderson is being "cross-trained" to play left and right tackle so that if he is the third tackle on game day, he knows both sides.

Offensive line coach Tom Cable can be seen working with Henderson on his footwork a lot during practice.

Jake Grove is still taking first-team reps at center.

The simple things

Russell has made some throws in practice that look impossible. And he does it effortlessly.

"We're not going to coach those special throws that he makes where he's running over there and he throws back and makes those great throws. That's who he is and very few people can do that."

Kiffin is stressing the little things.

"We've got to get him to do everything right, the little things, the little completions and the timing of everything," he said. "That's all the stuff that wows the fans and people watching but that's not what makes you a good quarterback. A good quarterback plays with great discipline, he takes care of the ball and he throws things on time"

Ups and downs of a rookie

During one-on-one passing drills rookie receiver Chaz Schilens beat cornerback Michael Waddell with double moves twice. Marques Tuiasosopo overthrew Schilens the first time but hit him in stride the second time.

But Schilens also drew the ire of receivers coach James Lofton on a running play later in practice.

"C'mon Chaz we might as well put 10 guys on the field," Lofton yelled as Schilens managed to block no one in particular.

Schilens came out after that play.

Camp notes

*Day 3 of training camp was by far the warmest day. Practice ended at 4:35 p.m., 25 minutes early

*The offensive tackles continue to struggle in pass protection against Derrick Burgess.

Kalimba Edwards had a decent day of practice as second defensive end in passing situations.

*Cornerback Chris Johnson was aggressive breaking on the ball. He landed on top of receivers more than once, even though the coaches don't want the players taking each other to the grass.

*McQuistan and Brandon Rodd were offensive linemen that had to run a lap for false starting.

*Sebastian Janikowski hit a 53-yard field goal during practice and made two from shorter distances.

*Rashad Baker, DeAngelo Hall and Waddell fielded punts from Shane Lechler after practice. Baker nearly knocked Kiffin down trying to catch a punt. Johnnie Lee Higgins has been the primary punt returner in practice.

*Safety Greg Wesley (back spasms), RB/WR/TE Marcel Reece (hamstring) and linebacker Grant Irons (hamstring) did not practice.

The Raiders will have two practices Sunday.

*Russell's father, Bobby Lloyd, attended practice.

--Jason Jones

July 26, 2008
The bounce back

LaMont Jordan wasn't unemployed long.

He signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots.

It's believed New Orleans was also interested in Jordan. He's always said winning was his primary goal and he held true to that.

The Patriots give him a better chance of reaching the Super Bowl, even though he might not get as much time behind Laurence Maroney.

Assuming Jordan makes the team, he'll join Randy Moss when the Patriots come to Oakland this season.

Jordan and Moss having big days at the Coliseum? That would be tough to handle for Raider fans.

--Jason Jones

July 25, 2008
Night notes from practice

NAPA - Observations from tonight's practice...

*Just so you know, the Raiders are preparing for best-case scenarios.

During special teams, the team worked on punting with the lead and two minutes left in a game and ways to run out the clock with the lead late.

*The team is serious about making player that commit penalties run a lap around the field as punishment.

Rookie defensive end Trevor Scott, Tommy Kelly and Jay Richardson all ran after jumping offsides.

Left tackle Kwame Harris clearly false started but managed to stay on the field, but not for long.

Defensive tackle Terdell Sands made a fuss during the play and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp sought out Sands to let make sure he saw Harris running his lap a few plays later.

*JaMarcus Russell threw some crisp passes that looked as if they would knock the receiver down.

The best of the night was a pass that traveled more than 20 yards I the air that Russell completed to a diving Drew Carter.

Russell was running to his right and Carter's route had him running the opposite direction.

*Defensive end Derrick Burgess seems to have his way no matter who blocks him.

*The Raiders re-signed quarterback Jeff Otis to fill the roster spot vacated when LaMont Jordan was released.

Otis was waived Thursday.

*Backup quarterback Andrew Walter missed tonight's practice with a sore right wrist. He hurt in during Friday morning's practice. Defensive end Fred Wakefield was held out with flu like symptoms. Safety Greg Wesley (back spasms) was held out after missing the morning session, too.

*Defensive end Greg Spires (hamstring) practiced for the first time during camp. He looked good backing up Burgess and earned a "way to (mess) it up" from defensive coordinator Rob Ryan after getting into the backfield to disrupt a running play.

*Marcel Reece (hamstring) didn't practice tonight after Lane Kiffin said he'd try to use him after he missed the morning practice.

Reece was a wide receiver in college, but has been hanging out with the running backs.


*Rookie Arman Shields had a long catch on a play in which he got by Nnamdi Asomugha on a deep route along the sidelines.

In a game situation it's unlikely Shields would have had the time to get 40-50 yards down the field, but it was fun to watch.

Asomugha yelled, "All right, Knapp" after the play.

Knapp had a retort.

"You've got fresh legs," a joking reminder that Asomugha wasn't with the team during the offseason before signing his franchise tender this week.

*When Scott isn't jumping offsides, he's shown some pass rush ability.

*Harris is looking more comfortable at left tackle. He won't be confused with Walter Jones, but his pass protection during drills this evening looked better than in the morning practice.

Kiffin said today if Harris is going to be successful, he's in the right system to do that.

*After wearing shoulder pads, helmets and shorts for the first two practices of camp, the team didn't practice in pads tonight.

--Jason Jones

July 25, 2008
It's official

NAPA - Goodbye, LaMont Jordan.

The team finally released Jordan today. He showed up on the transactions list sometime while I was out taking a break from staring at the laptop.

Calling this move overdue is like saying the sky is blue.

The long unhappy tailback first asked for his release last November.

One of the reasons he was kept? Fear he'd end up with Denver or Kansas City

It was assumed he'd be released after June 1, but no one figured he'd be a Raider this long.

Jordan was kept off the field during last month's minicamp and then told not to report to training camp this week.

Jordan's agent, Alvin Keels, was given permission to seek a trade but pretty much anyone with any kind of football sense knew a trade was very unlikely.

Raiders coach Lane Kiffin called the stalemate an issue between Keels and owner Al Davis.

With the team drafting Darren McFadden, re-signing Justin Fargas and eagerly wanting to see Michael Bush on the field, there was no way the Raiders planned to keep Jordan this season.

That Jordan had to be released was the only logical solution because no team would agree to take on Jordan's $4.7 million salary.

The move frees up a roster spot that the team can use to bring in an extra quarterback.

On a side note, that means the biggest WWE fan on the roster is gone.

Who will I discuss Monday Night Raw with?

I intended to end this posting with some Youtube clips of Jordan highlights with the Raiders, but those didn't pop up right away.

This did. Enjoy.

--Jason Jones

July 25, 2008
LaMont's fate

NAPA -- Profootballtalk.com is citing an anonymous source that says the Raiders will release running back LaMont Jordan.

Lane Kiffin said he expected to have an update on the Jordan situation sometime today.

Jordan was told not to report to camp by the team. But if the team isn't allowing Jordan to report, it must trade or release him.

--Jason Jones

July 25, 2008
Oops, there goes the football

NAPA - A very familiar problem showed up during this morning's practice.

Turnovers were back in a big way. The offense had five fumbles, losing four.

Three of the fumbles were the result of bad snaps to the quarterback. Two came with Marques Tuiasosopo at quarterback, the other with Andrew Walter.

Receiver Javon Walker had the ball knocked free by Gibril Wilson after making a catch. Running back Adimchinobe Echemandu coughed up the ball on a running play.

"We came out today and two of them were on the ground right away within 10 plays," said coach Lane Kiffin. "... We're looking at different avenue to improve the penalty situation."

Players that commit penalties have to run a lap around the field. On bad snaps the center and quarterback come out.

LaMont update (sort of)

Kiffin said he expected to have some news regarding the status of LaMont Jordan sometime today.

The Raiders have to either trade or release Jordan or his agent, Alvin Keels, plans to file a grievance against the team for barring Jordan to report to camp.

The Raiders only have three quarterbacks so releasing Jordan would allow the team to bring back Sam Keller or Jeff Otis. Both were cut before the start of camp.

Safety concerns

Wilson just might take someone's head off.

He throws his shoulder pads into every play. Kiffin likes it but admits Wilson's play "borderlines right now on the safety of our other players" but wants Wilson's style to ru b off on the rest of the defense.

Wilson said when he signed with the Raiders he asked to play strong safety because he wanted to be near the ball.

"I like to be physical," Wilson said. "I don't like to have guys get extra yards or anything like that. I'm a very physical guy and the other team knows it."

Extra work

Ronald Curry was supposed to take the morning practice off as one of the Raiders that is recovering from offseason surgery.

But Curry chose to join the wide receivers in drills for the first half of practice.

Almost a pick

With the offense being careless with ball, the defense didn't manage to pick off any of the Raider quarterbacks' passes.

Rookie safety Tyvon Branch came close but the ball bounced off his pads. Hiram Eugene tried to snag the ball, but it fell to the grass.

Defensive end Derrick Burgess had an interesting take on the play.

"If those were some dice you would have caught those (expletives)," Burgess yelled.

Camp notes

*Tackle Mario Henderson continues to work at left and right tackle during practice.

*Today's first-team linebackers were Thomas Howard, Kirk Morrison and Robert Thomas. Ricky Brown joined Morrison and Howard on Thursday.

*Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly had the morning practice off and was replaced by Josh Shaw with the first team.

Defensive end Greg Spires (hamstring) is expected to practice tonight, as is Kelly.

*Safety Greg Wesley (back spasms) didn't practice this morning.

*Tight end/defensive end Fred Wakefield left practice early with an undisclosed injury.

*Former Raider Jon Parella was on the sidelines at practice. He's a high school football coach in the Bay Area and had players with him.

*The defensive line was dominant in practice. Kiffin called the group "phenomenal."

*The linebackers got the best of the running backs in the one-on-one drill that focused on blitz pickups. Kiffin conceded it is a drill that favors the defense.

--Jason Jones

July 24, 2008
Javon doesn't know what you're talking about

NAPA - Javon Walker talked about being robbed in Las Vegas last month.

Well, he didn't.

Those injuries in the police report (fractured jaw, orbital) were news to him.

"Ya'll telling me something new for the first time," Walker said. "... I haven't really seen nothing about it. I just let everybody go into speculations of what they heard and what they think they know, to when I get ready to come out and tell what really happened, I'll clear it up then."

Today was not the day to clear things up.

Walker practiced today and said he is about 15 pounds later than he was at the start of the offseason program.

He said his weight fluctuates, but he'll be fine now that camp has started.

And the notoriety that comes with this big contract and being a professional athlete that was a victim of violent crime doesn't bother Walker.

"I'm not afraid of the spotlight, the spotlight is always good depending on how you look at it," he said "People that already got a different spotlight of me is based on really what I've done in football. But if people want a real respect of light of me, just tell them to go look at my record. I don't have a record. I don't have a rap sheet.

"You don't hear about Javon Walker getting arrested. People's light of me is like, hmm, he just leaves different teams because he's not happy. Well, like any other American, that's my right if I don't like a job. That's people's perspective of me. But, outside the field, I mean, you talk to people anywhere around this country, they say I'm the nicest person off the field."

Believe it or not
Tommy Kelly has always been a nice guy.

He just hasn't been talkative.

So it was a bit shocking when Kelly consented to be interviewed by a group of reporters, admitting he had been told he "had" to finally talk.

It's part of the responsibility of being a leader, he admitted. And it also comes when you sign a seven-year deal worth up to $50.5 million.

"I understand a lot of things come with being a professional athlete,
but I just like to play," Kelly said. "I don't like to be bothered with all the other stuff. I'm not saying the media is a nuisance or anything. I just like to go to work and come home. Now you know you have to be a leader and everything, you got to take on stuff you probably don't want to do in the past but you have to do it."

More Kelly

He admitted he was "surprised" by the contract he received from the Raiders.

"It makes you feel like you're wanted," he said. "Somebody really wants you as a player and thinks a lot of you and that type of player you can become for them."

He'll be asked to fill at Warren Sapp's old spot. Kelly is glad to be playing one spot after moving around and said he prefers defensive tackle to defensive end.

Kelly said he's more of an aggressive player whereas Sapp was more about finesse.

"Me and Sapp, we cool," Kelly said. "I learned a lot from. He's got his way, but he's a legend in the game so you can't do nothing but learn from him."

And it turns out the day Kelly tore his ACL was one of the best days of his life.

His son, Jamison, was born at 8 a.m. that morning.

"It was disappointment," Kelly said of the injury. "It was 50-50 disappointed but I was happy I got a new baby."

Just like old times

Nnamdi Asomugha had one pass thrown his way today in practice.

He intercepted the pass from Andrew Walter intended for Walker.

"It was good to make the most of it and that's what we're hoping for this year," Asomugha said. "A few more passing and a few more plays made, on both ends."

Asomugha said he decided to report to camp Monday night and officially signed the one-year franchise tender for $9.765 million around midnight after arriving late yesterday.

He considered holding out in protest.

"I had a lot of people saying don't show up and I had enough people saying show it up so it helped me out," Asomugha said. "I sought out the counsel that was needed in this situation and I was able to come and be here."

Among those he spoke to was Charles Woodson.

It's obvious he didn't take Woodson's advice.

"I'm not going to tell you what he said, but you can probably figure it out," Asomugha said. "But yeah, I didn't speak to him as of late. He just said let him know what was going to happen and I spoke to him afterward."

In the end, Asomugha's desire to be with his teammates and try to win games outweighed sitting out part of camp, unhappy about being franchised.

Asomugha said he'd heard "apocryphal stories" of how bad negotiations were going, but said talks were never antagonistic.

He admitted he was initially taken aback by the amount of the money the Raiders spent in the offseason while he had no deal, but in the end decided to put everything behind him and join his teammates.

"It's actually signed so there's nothing you can say about it," Asomugha said. "You don't want to keep bringing it up. So it was like it's definitely over and done now."

Camp notes

*JaMarcus Russell said he weighed 269 points. He joked that he was 300 at the end of last season, but said he was really 276.

*Darren McFadden's speed stood out in practice. If he was going half speed, his half speed is faster than most everyone's top speed. Kiffin praised McFadden for showing explosive-play ability.

*The first-team linebackers were Thomas Howard, Kirk Morrison and ... Ricky Brown today.

*Fred Wakefield worked at defensive end, but will still work at tight end, too.

*Backup tackle Mario Henderson played left and right tackle today.

*Jake Grove began the day as the starting center. The other centers, John Wade and Chris Morris, took a few snaps at right guard with the second team during practice.

*The starting defensive line was Kelly, and Gerard Warren at DT with Jay Richardson and Derrick Burgess at the end spots.

*Michael Huff's range is evident at free safety. He made what would have been a good play in a game on a lob pass by Russell for tight end Tony Stewart.

I joked with Huff about his picture with Vince Young that caused a stir (for Young) and he had a laugh about no one recognizing him.

"Nobody knew and I'm glad," he said.

*Rookie defensive end Trevor Scott showed some good pass rush skills in drills against the offense.

*Burgess was pretty much unblockable no matter who was against him. Kiffin said Burgess is about eight pounds heavier. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wanted Burgess to add some weight.

*Defensive end Greg Spires (hamstring) didn't practice. LB Grant Irons (hamstring) left practice early.

--Jason Jones

July 24, 2008
Kiffin knows who is in charge

NAPA - Lane Kiffin knows his role.

Perhaps the offseason drama served as a figurative smack down.

Maybe Kiffin is just choosing his words carefully.

But he's making it clear: all of the weird things about being an Oakland Raider that Warren Sapp, Stuart Schweigert, Mike Lombardi, Randy Moss or any other former Raider have complained about don't fall on him and he can't change them.

"What they're discussing I can't change so that subject is what it is," Kiffin said in his first press conference of training camp. "I go about and I control what I can control and get us as good as we can get with what I can control. I don't have control of that."

The Raiders job is unique in that Al Davis is not just the owner, but essentially the general manager, director of player personnel and college scouting.

Kiffin has learned to work with the constraints of being a coach under Davis, making headway where he can.

"I think you try to change anything there is as far as what you can do to be a better team," Kiffin said. "I'm always going to find the best way to do things that I can and the best way we can put our players in the best situation to win. That doesn't necessarily create a smooth environment or a smooth relationship but that's my job to our staff and our players, I feel."

Kiffin said he and Davis have a "working relationship" and they share the same goal of winning.

Kiffin said he wasn't worried that he wouldn't return as coach. As the old saying goes, he knew the job was dangerous when he took it.

"I think as we've discussed before, when you take this job you realize who the owner is and you realize most guys don't last really long so that is what it is," Kiffin said. "If you sit there and worry about that and you think about that you're not doing the best that you can for your team."

Kiffin begins controlling his domain, the practice field, today about 3 p.m.

Here are some highlights of Kiffin's chat:

LaMont Jordan update

"That's Al and LaMont's agent on that and I'm out of that. They're handling it so all the information I've got for you that was relayed to me is that they're continuing to work on it. LaMont won't be here and we won't be fining him."

Jordan's agent, Alvin Keels, will file a grievance if this isn't resolved soon. NFL rules prohibit teams from not allowing players to report.

On Javon Walker, who suffered a fractured jaw and orbital when robbed last month in Las Vegas according to a police report.

"I don't know about all those reports. I know this. I know he's here, that he's going to practice, and it's as if nothing happened as far as him being on the field. No restrictions at all that have to do with that. We're going to start out with him as one-a-days as far as two-a-days, but that has nothing to do with that."

Kififn said Walker's knee is fine and that he's in good shape after mentioning Walker needed to lose some weight multiple times this offseason.

"He ran well today. He's actually down about eight pounds about where he was last time we had him, and his body fat measurements were down as well. So I'm anticipating that he's in much better shape. He looked it, just what he did right there, but we'll see in the two-hour practice this afternoon."


Kiffin believes Walker will be more careful after being robbed.

"We all make mistakes as far as situations we put ourselves in, and I know Javon is going to be more safe as far as who he's around and having the right people around him. Javon's a really nice guy that is very trustworthy -- to a fault sometimes -- and has had a lot of people around him, maybe with not the proper security around him that you should have, especially (since) that it's so well known how much money he makes, so it was a learning experience for him.

Nnamdi Asomugha reporting in time for the first practice rather than holding out in protest of being the team's franchise player.

"I think it's a statement about who he is. Obviously he didn't have to be here. He could have stayed out of camp, and for him to be here the first day to run the conditioning test with us today, shows what a team player he is and who he is."

Every player passed the conditioning test, including Terdell Sands, listed at 335 pounds but was close to 400 pounds last season.

"Sands made his conditioning test today. I know there were some guys worried because in position groups if everybody didn't make a certain number they had to keep going. If everybody made a certain number they didn't have to do their final one. So a lot of guys were over there stretching Sands, giving him some extra Gatorade, they were cheering him on. But it was good because the position groups went at different times so guys were on the sidelines, other position groups, cheering him on."

Kiffin estimates there will be seven or eight new starters on the team. His goal of "fixing the locker room" is moving and he thinks he's seen progress.

"I think we work better," Kiffin said. "I think our players are more positive in the way they go about things. They don't look to the negative as much as when we got here. There was so much negativity when we got here, so much losing, so much the players were always complaining about this or whining about that. And I think we've gotten rid a lot of that. We've got some guys out here that were that way and we have some guys that were on the fence that we got to change. I know our environment is better and the way our players go about their work is better. Now we've just got to put this new guys together and form a team."


Kiffin is happy to have Darren McFadden in camp and ready to go after not having JaMarcus Russell all of camp last year.

Kiffin reports Russell is in good shape and did fine in the conditioning test even though he's 50 pounds heavier than some of the quarterbacks.

McFadden spent a lot of time in the Bay Area preparing for camp. Kiffin already likes how McFadden and Russell carry themselves.

"Darren's been here most of the last month even though guys were off and didn't' have to be here," Kiffin said. "He was here working out and is in phenomenal shape. The thing that I really like about both of them is they're real football guys. They really do like football, they like being out here. I think Darren will practice for four hours if you let him. Since I've known him I've never heard one negative thing come out of his mouth."


Camp notes

*The 49ers will be in Napa on Aug. 4 for two practices prior to their Aug. 8 preseason game against the Raiders.

The day will be fun like a regular Raiders two-a-day session. The first practice will be 9-11 a.m. followed by a 7-9 p.m. practice.

*Today's practice will be in pads.

*Walker (knee), WR Ronald Curry (foot), DT Tommy Kelly (knee), center Jake Grove (knee) and safety Jarrod Cooper (knee) will be limited to one practice a day to start training camp.

All spent part of the offseason rehabbing from their injuries. Kiffin said they would be re-evaluated in a week.

Kelly is heavier than the team would like but Kiffin doesn't believe it will be a problem getting Kelly ready for the season.

--Jason Jones


July 23, 2008
Nnamdi personality shows

No reporter likes to have his Myspace, Facebook or email time interupted with work (well, no one does, right?).

But the news Nnamdi Asomugha decided to sign the one-year franchise tender is only shocking in that he didn't do it sooner.

Asomugha isn't the kind of guy that likes to be a distraction. He isn't big on speaking to the media, even when he's doing well.

All of the charity work he does? You have to pry and plead to find out about it. And even then, he won't take credit for the work he does.

When I first found out about Asomugha taking some youngsters on a fishing trip, he insisted I speak with everyone except him.

That's just the way he is.

So when word came that he didn't plan to report to camp on time, I was surprised.

I understand the business of football. Franchise players holding out is their way of punishing the team for franchising them.

But the Raiders are lucky to have someone like Asomugha.

In the end, he decided not to miss camp, but get to work now.

He did so without the team promising not to franchise him next year.

If the Raiders do right be Asomugha at the end of the season, this won't be an issue because the team will take care of Asomugha at the end of the season.

He cannot sign a long-term deal until the end of the season, but his agent, Steve Baker, and the Raiders can continue to talk.

--Jason Jones

July 23, 2008
Nnamdi checks in

Did cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha decide to cut his vacation short?

The NFL Network is reporting Asomguha reported to Raiders camp today and signed his one-year franchise tender for $9.765 million.

All indications were Asomugha planned not to report for the start of training camp, but would sign in time for the regular season.

--Jason Jones

July 23, 2008
Reporting day

NAPA - The Raiders began checking in today for the start of training camp.

Players don't officially need to be here until tomorrow in time for a team meeting. Practice is at 3 p.m.

RB LaMont Jordan remains away at the request of the team. This is against league rules so there needs to be a resolution ASAP. If not, Jordan's agent will likely file a grievance unless Jordan is traded or released.

The team also told Jordan to stay from last month's mandatory minicamp.

*CB Nnamdi Asomugha isn't here and likely won't be anytime soon. Until he signs his franchise tender worth $9.765 million, he doesn't have to be in camp.

CB DeAngelo Hall thinks Asomugha will be fine whenever he shows up.

"I don't think it's going to hurt him too much," Hall said. "Obviously, we would love to see him here. We would love to build chemistry with him but we understand the business side of things too."

There was no comment from the team on those matters. Lane Kiffin isn't scheduled to address the media until tomorrow at noon.

*DE Derrick Burgess on whether it's exciting to see everyone again:

"It's part of the job. I get sick of seeing these (expletives) after three days, you know what I'm saying?"

It's nice seeing you too, Derrick.

*Rookie DE Trevor Scott (sixth-round pick) said he got his contract done signed about 10:30 a.m. He arrived on the bus that brought several rookies and a few veterans.

WR Arman Shields (fourth round) also signed today.

*S Greg Wesley arrived and has revenge on his mind.

He didn't like the way he was treated in Kansas City when he lost his starting job. Wesley said he is still an impact player.

"That was their choice to try to go young in Kansas City," Wesley said. "Unfortunately they didn't get rid of me, but they had chances to trade me, they had offers that they didn't want to take. And one of the reasons why is because they didn't want to trade me to the division. So I can't control their choice of starting a younger guy over me. It wasn't a competition. They just gave the position to him. And I'm here to show it's still there, it ain't went nowhere."
*Former NFL head coach and oft-mentioned Raiders coaching candidate and former assistant Jim Fassel is here as a guest of head coach Lane Kiffin.

Fassel had double knee-replacement surgery about 2 ½ months ago, but had no problem getting in a workout Wednesday afternoon.

Fassel's son, John, is a quality control assistant for special teams for the Raiders.

"He was a ball boy when I was coaching here," Jim said. "It's kind of fun for him. He really likes it here. He likes the staff. He likes everything here, he really does. So, I was really happy for him."

*RB Darren McFadden arrived. He managed to duck into the Marriott while media was speaking with Hall.

--Jason Jones

July 23, 2008
LaMont's not welcome

So much for a basic day of reporting to training camp.

The Raiders have told former starting running back LaMont Jordan not to come to report today in Napa.

The only problem is the team can't do that.

The Raiders have to let Jordan participate, cut him or trade him. Former Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair won a grievance against the Titans a couple of years ago when the Titans barred him from working out.

I caught up with Jordan's agent, Alvin Keels. He said no trade is in place. He would know because of Jordan's contract.

Jordan is due $4.7 million in salary this season. A team could trade for him and agree to take on Jordan's salary or restructure the deal.

Keels can file a grievance to allow Jordan to practice. He's working to have this resolved in the next 24 hours.

The Raiders let this situation get to this point by not releasing Jordan last November when he asked to be let go and then going the whole offseason without making a move.

Because of his salary, teams are reluctant to trade for Jordan, assuming he'll be released. Jordan visited Detroit, but nothing materialized from the trip.

Perhaps something will happen soon. But wasn't Jordan supposed to be cut June 1?

As the Raiders turn...

--Jason Jones

July 23, 2008
The young vet

Many pundits will classify JaMarcus Russell as a rookie because he missed all of training camp last year and played for extended stretches only twice in four games last season.

While Russell is far from seasoned, calling him a rookie diminishes what he's done since joining the Raiders, particularly in the offseason.

Russell is the leader of the offense. Teammates have grown to respect him and the qualities that made him the No. 1 choice in the 2007 NFL Draft are beginning to show.

Unlike a rookie, Russell has the benefit of a full offseason working with his teammates and the coaching staff. The playbook isn't new. He's not adjusting to living in a new place. And though he played in only four games, those games were more valuable than playing in a preseason game with rookies surrounding him.

So even in his first training camp, Russell should be fairly comfortable, even if he doesn't know his way around the Napa Valley Marriott.

Russell will need to test his growth against live action. That means around the third preseason game (when the regulars tend to play the most) we'll have an idea of how much he's learned.

There will be the bumps that come with being a young quarterback. But I don't expect to see Russell look like he did in Jacksonville last year when he threw interceptions and looked befuddled at times.

After all, he looked like a rookie that day.

Quarterback preview

Russell: Must continue to how maturity in his decisions on the field.

Marques Tuiasosopo: Back with the Raiders after a year in New York. Could supplant Andrew Walter as the No. 2 quarterback if he shows some of the traits that made Lane Kiffin fall for Josh McCown. Tui has the mobility, and might be a better athlete than McCown. And Tui's passes looked good in OTAs. It will also help that he's back in an offense that fits his skills.

Walter: The guy everyone has to feel for. He was a piñata in 2006 and buried on the bench last year except for being thrown on the field in a blowout in Green Bay because Kiffin didn't want to expose Russell to the cold. He would have loved to have been traded last year.

Sam Keller: A "camp arm" that could find his way onto the practice squad. He knows about the West Coast offense after playing at Nebraska under Bill Callahan.

Jeff Otis: Back for a second year as a camp arm.

Wesley on board

The Raiders confirmed the signing of safety Greg Wesley. Receiver Will Buchanon was waived to make room for Wesley on the roster.

No word on what's going on with LaMont Jordan. As of now, he'll be reporting with the rest of the team today.

Players are scheduled to begin arriving about 2 p.m.

--Jason Jones

July 22, 2008
Who will JaMarcus play catch with?

The Raiders' passing game was really bad last year.

The explosive offense Lane Kiffin promised was more like a dud.

The Raiders ranked 31st in passing offense and tied for 24th with on 17 touchdown passes. Raider quarterbacks threw 20 interceptions.

Much to the chagrin of players, Kiffin openly criticized the personnel at receiver.

Most notable was his lament after the Raiders lost to Chicago and he complained of using three-receiver sets and the Bears didn't even bother to go to a nickel defense to adjust.

Meanwhile, Randy Moss was in New England setting records and being everything the Raiders' passing game wasn't - dynamic, explosive, etc.

It's impossible to pick a player to watch at receiver. The reality is all of them have something to prove this season.

The only option in the passing game with little to worry about is Zach Miller, who should catch more than 50 passes is he's not forced to stay in and pass block.

The play of the receivers is directly tied to the development of JaMarcus Russell and whether Kiffin proves to be an offensive genius or if the passing game is just offensive.

Tight end preview

John Madsen
: A former college receiver that should be used to create mismatches. For whatever reason on a team lacking receivers last year, Kiffin didn't turn to Madsen nearly enough.

Miller: He's a future Pro Bowl player if he's not pass blocking.

Tony Stewart
: Special teams player.

Darrell Strong: Undrafted rookie that might be practice squad material.

Chris Wagner: See above statement regarding Strong.

Fred Wakefield: Blocking tight end that might also play defensive end. He looks to be healthy after tearing his ACL during last year's training camp.

Receiver preview


Will Buchanon
: Preseason star in 2006 was cut during last year's training camp.

Drew Carter: Free agent that has already developed a good rapport with Russell. Considering the health issues with Javon Walker, Carter might prove to be the best addition to the group. He came to the Raiders, in part, to play for new receivers coach James Lofton. Carter also fits the bits the prototype of what kind receiver Kiffin likes.

Ronald Curry: Is he a No. 1 receiver? Better as a slot receiver? Quarterbacks love him because Curry is a former QB and has a knack for finding the right spot on third downs. He's coming off surgery to remove bone spurs that he said hindered him last season. He averaged 13 yards a catch, a career best, in 2007.

Johnnie Lee Higgins: Has a lot to prove as a receiver, but he must be given the chance. One of the mistakes of last season was playing Tim Dwight when Higgins could have gained experience as a rookie.

Johnathan Holland:
A seventh-round draft pick last year that never played after being injured after the draft.

Drisan James: A practice squad player from 2007.

Chris McFoy: Played for Kiffin at USC and spent part of last season on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster.

Jonathan Orr: Cut from the practice squad last year and listed on the NFL.com roster, but not on the Raiders.com roster.

Marcel Reece: Could be this year's surprise player. Earned a contract after starring in the team's rookie camp and has the size to play some tight end. He's a player that could create match up problems with his athleticism.

Chaz Schilens: A seventh-round pick that looked good in offseason workouts. Has good size and speed and has a good chance of making the team.

Arman Shields: Coming off a knee injury in college, the fourth-round pick was limited by a hamstring injury during offseason workouts.

Javon Walker: Where to begin? The knee surgery last year before the Raiders gave him an $11 million signing bonus or that same knee was operated on in 2005? That Kiffin took every chance to say Walker was out of shape?

And that was before Walker was beaten and robbed in Las Vegas and suffered a fractured jaw and orbital bone last month.

Walker is the classic "high risk, high reward" signing. If he's healthy, Walker is the best receiver on the team. But the Walker that was Pro Bowl player in Green Bay back in 2004 hasn't been on the field in some time.

Walker had a decent season with Denver in 2006, but he needs to show that he's over the effects of the knee injury and injuries from Las Vegas. There are also the mental hurdles some believe Walker is dealing with since the death of teammate of Darrent Williams, Jan. 1, 2007.

Todd Watkins: Seemed to catch everything during OTAs and Kiffin likes production. He will have to keep that up in the preseason to have a chance of making the team.

--Jason Jones

July 22, 2008
Raiders add Wesley

Reports have the Raiders agreeing to a one-year deal with safety Greg Wesley, who was recently cut by Kansas City.

With Gibril Wilson's signing, the drafting of Tyvon Branch and the return of Jarrod Cooper, I don't see the need for another safety. Don't forget Michael Huff is still on the team, too.

Best case is Wesley is somehow reborn in Oakland and makes the team and is still a hard hitter.

Worst case is Wesley is this year's Donovin Darius - a veteran who is past his prime that the Raiders bring in to see that fact in person.

Wesley lost his starting job last season and fell further on the depth chart when the Chiefs drafted safety DaJuan Morgan.

--Jason Jones

July 21, 2008
It could be Grove's time

Jake Grove and Robert Gallery were drafted in 2004 to be the foundation of the Raiders' offensive line.

After a few false starts, figuratively and literally, Gallery has found a home at left guard. No, he won't be the Pro Bowl left tackle the Raiders envisioned when he was the second overall pick in 2004.

This is the year for Jake Grove to emerge as a consistent performer on the offensive line at center.

Grove's strengths were said to be his athleticism and sound technique, both of which make him an ideal fit for the zone-blocking scheme offensive line coach Tom Cable teaches.

His weakness was a lack of strength that made it difficult for him to deal with large nose tackles. That's a big reason Grove didn't beat out Jeremy Newberry for the starting job last year.

Grove missed much of last season with a knee injury and wasn't taking part in the offseason workouts on the field. But any strength concerns appear to be alleviated.

Grove is noticeably bigger in the upper body, thanks to new strength and conditioning coach Brad Roll.

And Grove should be motivated in camp.

Newberry is gone, but the Raiders brought in another veteran center in the offseason, former Tampa Bay starter John Wade. There's also Chris Morris on the roster.

But I like Grove's chances. He played well in place of Newberry last year. And it looks like he's strong enough to handle the challenge.

Offensive line preview

C Jesse Boone: Spent all of 2007 on the practice squad, sucker punched by Warren Sapp after a training camp scrape last year.

Grove: Played in a career-low seven game last year with only two starts.

Morris: Not really big or strong so he might be a perfect fit in the system.

Wade: Started all 16 games for Tampa Bay the last three years.

G Cooper Carlisle: Probably the most consistent of the returning linemen.

Gallery: Team likes his mean streak, but wants to see him cut down on his penalties.

G Brandon Rodd: Undrafted rookie will probably handle scout team work and hope to make the practice squad.

T Cornell Green: Started 10 games before an injury ended his season. Had only eight starts his entire career before joining the Raiders. He needs to cut down on the false start penalties.

T: Kwame Harris: Free agency brought the oft-maligned former 49er across the Bay. He's expected to be the starting left tackle, so he and Gallery can share stories of being labeled busts during their careers while changing position coaches regularly. The idea of playing for Cable helped lure Harris, who Gallery would surely vouch for. If anyone can get the best out of Harris, it's Cable.

T Mario Henderson
: Lane Kiffin said Henderson isn't physical. It's also been said he struggles with his confidence. He and Green will battle for the starting right tackle job and will need to fix both of those issues to win the job.

T Paul McQuistan: Filled in at right tackle for Green last year, but the Raiders appear intent on giving Henderson every chance to win the job from Green. McQuistan can also play guard.

T Seth Wand: Signed last year to add depth after Green went down. He'll be in a fight to make the team.

T Mark Wilson: Spent most of last season on the practice squad before being elevated for the season finale. If he can play both tackle spots, that would enhance his chances of making the team.

--Jason Jones


July 21, 2008
Working at the Hotel

Former personnel executive Mike Lombardi isn't a popular person around Raiders headquarters.

Lombardi was fired shortly after the draft in 2007 and spent last season with Denver. Since being fired he has been blamed by some (fairly or unfairly) affiliated with the organization with poor personnel decisions.

Lombardi was the "fox" leaking information to the media Art Shell talked about in 2006.

But that doesn't stop me from being intrigued by his insights in to the Raiders or as he calls the organization the Hotel California.

The Raiders are tight-lipped about their operation. That means insight usually comes from former employees who speak freely, no longer in fear of drawing the ire of Al Davis.

Lombardi is now a contributor to Sportsillustrated.com and has his own site, http://www.lombardionfootball.com/

Lombardi addresses the NFL as a whole, but his insights to the Raiders are always pointed and often mesh with what's being said by others off the record.

Lombardi was on Jim Rome's radio show this morning and discussed the Raiders, among other NFL-related topics.

Rome asked with the "dictatorship" situation that surrounds Raider head coaches, who would be the ideal coach for the team.

Lombardi's response was that Al Davis should do what he really wants to do.

"There's only one person that should coach (the Raiders) and that's the owner," Lombardi said.

Lombardi believes Lane Kiffin lost credibility with the players by trying to exert power he didn't really have.

Lombardi said the Raiders' inability to honestly evaluate its own talent cost the team Super Bowl berths in 2001 and 2001.

Good teams are constantly bringing in players to upgrade all positions (think New England, Indianapolis, San Diego) while, as Lombardi points out, other teams don't do that because someone likes a player.

And when it comes to the Raiders we all know who the "someone" is holding on to a player based on what he did in college, 40 time, etc.

These are the "scholarship" players that have been on Raider rosters for years when many wonder what they are doing to justify being on the team.

Lombardi joined the Raiders in 1999 and called the first four years "fairly normal." He said things went bad after the team traded for Randy Moss.

Lombardi added Bill Callahan going into 2003 as a lame duck coach ruined the season.

All of these decisions come back to one man: Davis.

On his site, Lombardi decries the Raiders reported interest in Greg Wesley, saying he can't run or cover anymore.

Lombardi doesn't mention Davis by name, but "HIM" isn't referring to the janitor.

All (Wesley) will do is take "Someone's" money (which he loves to spend now) and not play. Do you think they remember Donovan Darius at the Hotel? Another favorite of "Someone".

Might Lombardi be angry about how things ended in Oakland? Yes.

But that doesn't make his opinions less relevant.

And I imagine he'll continue to be open about that now that he doesn't work for a certain "someone."

Niners in Napa

I listened to the 49ers conference call with coach Mike Nolan and GM Scot McCloughan today for Matt Barrows.

Here's the update on the joint practice reported last week.

"We've discussed it with them but as right now it hasn't been etched in stone," Nolan said. "... It would just be practice and not a scrimmage. And if we did it, it would be up at their place in Napa. And it would not be an open event. All their practices are closed."

--Jason Jones

July 20, 2008
FYI

Today's training camp preview story mentioned the Raiders report on Thursday. They actually report on Wednesday.

My bad.

I'm back to watching John Cena vs. JBL.

--Jason Jones

July 20, 2008
Getting the most out of Jano's kicks

After the rocky relationship special teams coach Ted Daisher had with just about everyone on the Raiders roster in 2006, Brian Schneider was like a cool drink of water on hot day.

The Raiders coverage units were much improved. Shane Lechler punted his way to another Pro Bowl.

Now it's time for Schneider, who replaced Daisher last year, to work his magic with Sebastian Janikowski.

In some ways, this is an impossible task.

Aside from making every field goal and putting every kickoff in the endzone, there's probably nothing Janikowski will ever do to justify being a first-round pick.

What Janikowski can be is consistent.

With the Raiders likely to rely a lot on the running game and playing with a quarterback with limited experience, Janikowski will probably have to boot a few 50 yarders for the Raiders to win games and hope Mike Shanahan isn't around to call timeouts.

Janikowski hasn't gotten close to topping the 89.3 percent of field goals he made back in 2004. His best since that career year was 72 percent.

That needs to be closer to 80 percent in 2008. Janikowski was solid on kickoffs. He tied his career-best 22 touchbacks. The 22.5 average allowed on kickoffs tied the second lowest average of his career.

He averaged 65.1 yards per kickoff, second best of his career.

So it's evident Schneider has helped Janikowski. But the area everyone cares most about is field goals made.

That's where Janikowski must be at his best because until the offense clicks, he might be the best offense.

Special teams preview:

Lechler: The game's best punter.

Janikowski
: Will Lane Kiffin ask him to make kicks from more than 60 yards?

PR Johnnie Lee Higgins: Showed flashes of being able to be a good punt returner. He also showed a habit of fumbling on returns, too. The job is his if he can hold on to the ball.

KR Tyvon Branch: This job might be Higgins' to start, but Branch should get a chance to win the job as a rookie. He was one of the nation's best at UConn last year. He will also have a chance to be a gunner on punt coverage.

S Jarrod Cooper
: The emotional leader of the special teams. He's an aggressive tackler that thrives on the coverage units as a gunner. When he went down with a knee injury, the punt coverage suffered and Lechler had punts returned for touchdowns against him for the first time in his career.

LB Isaiah Ekejiuba
: Another leader on special teams that can go overlooked. Extremely smart and understands where he needs to be at all times.

LS Jon Condo: Didn't hear a whole lot about him last year and that's a good thing. He was a linebacker in college and that made him an asset in covering punts.

Another safety?

Profootballtalk.com reported the Raiders will meet with veteran safety Greg Wesley who was recently released by Kansas City.

That would fall in line with what Kiffin likes to do. Bring in a player for competition's sake and see what happens.

He's played free and strong safety.

--Jason Jones

July 18, 2008
Looming question at running back

The Raiders have an abundance of running backs.

So why is LaMont Jordan still among them? I know the Raiders aren't holding on to him so that Jordan and I can continue discussing WWE highlights.

Jordan has been granted permission to seek a trade, but that's not likely to happen.

It's hard to trade a running back the rest of the NFL assumes will be released, especially when he's due $4.7 million in salary.

Jordan visited Detroit, but nothing has come of that.

The last time Jordan tried to report to work - June's mandatory minicamp - he was told not to step on the field.

Jordan hasn't wanted to be a Raider for some time and the team has made it clear it doesn't want him.

The Raiders have six days to figure this out.

But on to the running backs that will be welcomed to Napa next week.

The Raiders have to be excited about building on the running game that was sixth in the NFL last year.

And the team wasn't satisfied with that. The Raiders only added the best running back in the draft, Darren McFadden, to the mix.

The competition for time at running back will be touch. The youngsters will have to wrestle playing time away from incumbent Justin Fargas.

With coach Lane Kiffin expected to lean heavily on the road with a young JaMarcus Russell at quarterback, he should be able to keep at least three of the backs happy.

Running back preview

Michael Bush: Built like a linebacker, he can catch the ball well, too. Could be a short-yardage specialist as he returns to the field for the first time since breaking his leg Sept. 2006 while playing for Louisville.

Adimchinobe Echemandu: Training camp star in 2007 was released to make room for Dominic Rhodes last season. Could make the team again and be a special teams contributor.

Fargas: Team MVP last year as players were inspired by his play. Figures to get the bulk of the carries and look to build on his solid 2007 season that ended with two games left because of sprained knee ligament.

Justin Griffith: The starting fullback is also an option in the passing game. He's skilled being the lead blocker in the zone-blocking scheme and carry the ball if needed.

Tony Jackson: Backup fullback is around to give the regulars a rest during camp and a long shot to make the team.

Jordan: Went from starter to afterthought last season.

: The fourth overall pick in the 2008 Draft is an early favorite to be the NFL Rookie of the Year. He's already signed and the team will get him the ball a lot hoping he adds an element the offense lacked last year - excitement.

Oren O'Neal: A punishing blocker that will push Griffith for playing time. He's also a key on special teams.

Louis Rankin: An undrafted rookie with good speed. He could get a chance to return kickoffs during the preseason.

--Jason Jones

July 17, 2008
Another pick signs

The Raiders announced the signing of seventh-round draft pick Chaz Schilens today.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound wide receiver was impressive during offseason workouts.

Schilens took advantage of more reps because rookie Arman Shields was injured and Ronald Curry missing time because of offseason surgery.

Lane Kiffin liked big receivers while coaching at USC, so Schilens has a chance of making the team.

Shields (fourth round) and DE Trevor Scott (sixth round) are the remaining unsigned rookies.

--Jason Jones

July 17, 2008
Can Sands hold up in the middle?

Some of Raiders defensive tackle Terdell Sands' teammates like to joke about his size.

They say he's so big he doesn't need to use technique to stop the run. If he sticks his arm out and someone runs into it, they have no choice but to fall.

If only it were that simple.

If Sands technique isn't good, he never gets the chance to stick out that massive arm. Because if he doesn't play with good leverage, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound (if you really believe the roster weight) Sands' size means little.

Anyone can be blocked if they stand up too soon out of their stance and that was one of the problems with Sands last year.

There was a lot of hope he'd be the run-stuffing force he showed flashes of in 2006. He signed a four-year, $17 million deal in 2007, but wasn't close to being the player he was a year earlier.

Because of that, Sands was constantly being yanked in and out of games. He's the kind of player that gets better the long he's on the field.

The Raiders believe his conditioning is ahead of schedule after he missed much of the offseason program in 2007 dealing with personal issues.

The Raiders don't need Sands to be an every-down player. But they do need good technique.

And once he sticks his arm out, he better clobber people.

As for the defensive ends, it's all about Derrick Burgess.

I believe he'll be fine this season. He had only eight sacks and missed two games with a calf injury.

If Burgess is at his best, at least two opponents will need to monitor him in the passing game. That means the Raiders need to be able to get pressure up the middle and from the opposite defensive end to allow Burgess to do what he does best.

Also, at full strength, I expect Burgess to be solid against the run. That's an underrated part of his game.

Defensive line preview

Burgess: A team captain that is looking to dominate again. He had 27 sacks in 2005-06. Eight last season isn't shameful, but he'll want more in 2008.

DE Kalima Edwards: Typical Raider pickup. He's a talented player that has underachieved.

DE Derrick Gray: Undrafted rookie could end up on the practice squad.

DE Greyson Gunheim
: Another undrafted rookie that could be a practice squad player.

DE Grant Irons
: Was a linebacker last time he was a Raider, but is probably better suited on the line.

DE Jay Richardson
: If his pass-rush skills continue to improve, he could start opposite Burgess and not come out in passing situations.

DE Trevor Scott
: Rookie showed promise as a pass rusher in college after being moved from tight end.

DE Greg Spires
: Veteran could help in passing situations immediately.

DT: William Joseph: Like Edwards, a high draft pick looking to prove he can be effective on a new team.

DT Tommy Kelly
: Everyone knows about the contract worth $50.5 million. He needs to prove the ACL he tore is fully healed before worrying about proving he's worth the money.

DT Tranell Morant:
Long shot to make the team with so much money invested in the position.

Sands: Shouldn't be blocked by one person if he plays right.

DT Josh Shaw: Could earn playing time if Sands doesn't play well.

DT Gerard Warren: Looked like the Raiders best defensive tackle until getting hurt during the bye week. He had four sacks in 12 games and figures to start next to Kelly.

--Jason Jones

July 15, 2008
Branch signs

The Raiders announced the signing of fourth-round draft pick Tyvon Branch today.

The safety from UConn is expected to help on special teams as a gunner and possibly as the primary kickoff returner.

That leaves WR Arman Shields (fourth round), defensive end Trevor Scott (sixth round) and WR Chaz Schilens (seventh round) as rookies waiting for their contracts to be completed.

--Jason Jones

July 15, 2008
A business decision

The deadline for a long-term contract came and went.

Nnamdi Asomugha is unsigned.

And it's going to stay that way for a while.

Don't fret Raider fans. Asomugha isn't planning a season-long boycott with $9.765 million waiting for him once he signs with the Raiders.

But when the Raider report to training camp in Napa on July 23, I wouldn't suggest bringing your child that's looking for an Asomugha autograph.

Players don't have many ways of showing their displeasure with being franchised.

In the business of the NFL, that's done by not signing the franchise offer in time for training camp.

Asante Samuel did that last year and still played at a Pro Bowl level for New England. He signed on Aug. 28. But the Patriots agreed not to franchise him again if he hit performance benchmarks.

And the Raiders aren't going to surrender the right to keep Asomugha next season. I don't fault the franchise for doing that.

Franchising Asomugha in 2009 would guarantee him almost $12 million in salary. So he'd make approximately $22 million for two seasons and then hit free agency in 2010.

Asomugha is a professional that won't show up out of shape. He's not angry with the coaching staff or that the Raiders will pay him almost $10 million in 2008.

But if the Raiders won't agree not to franchise him next year, he knows he could be going into 2009 on another one-year contract.

This is the only leverage the player has in this situation.

And it's not personal, just the business of the NFL.

--Jason Jones

July 15, 2008
Don't expect an Asomugha deal

Back from my last brief vacation of the offseason...

Today's 1 p.m. deadline is expected to pass without exclusive franchise player Nnamdi Asomugha agreeing to a multi-year contract with the Oakland Raiders.

After the deadline passes, Asomugha can only sign a one-year deal with the Raiders.

Why hasn't Asomugha rushed to sign the one-year franchise tender is what I'm often asked.

But why should he?

When the Raiders made Asomugha an exclusive franchise player, it meant he couldn't negotiate with other teams.

So Asomugha's agent, Steve Baker, could not go to the Raiders and say "Team X is offering $XX million over X years" to try to get a deal done.

Sure, teams can look at other players' deals, but it's not like knowing what another team would pay your player.

So the Raiders are bidding against themselves.

So the only leverage Asomugha has really had is not to sign the tender.

Nothing has developed yet, so it looks like Asomugha will get almost $10 million in salary next year, with the possibility of being franchised again in 2009.

But there's still an hour before the deadline. Do you believe in miracles? If so, something might happen.

I'll check back in later.

--Jason Jones

July 10, 2008
Third man needed

The Raiders have two stars in the making at linebacker.

Kirk Morrison is among the best in coverage in the NFL. Thomas Howard is an athletic wonder that can do just about anything.

Howard even covered Pro Bowl receiver Braylon Edwards during a two-minute drill.

But the base defense has three linebackers. So the Raiders need to settle that spot.

The third linebacking spot has been manned by two players the last couple of seasons. Each has their positives and negative.

Sam Williams has the size (6-5, 260) and athleticism to be a dominant outside linebacker. But as has been the case much of his career, Williams was limited by injuries last season.

Then there's Robert Thomas who is much smaller (6-0, 235) but has great quickness and instincts.

That third linebacker won't be as vital in passing situations, though Thomas is more comfortable playing the pass against smaller receivers.

This linebacker primarily plays on the strong side, meaning he has to be a stalwart against the run.

The Raiders main issue was a lack of gap responsibility against the run. So regardless of who gets the nod, that player needs to cut down on mental errors.

And he better tackle.

As training camp progresses, this will be a battle to watch.

Also, don't rule out Ricky Brown. The coaching staff likes him. Brown has been primarily a special teams player, but began seeing time with the regular defense by the end of the 2007 season.

Some of those appearances came when the Raiders used four linebackers in an attempt to stop random running backs from piling up at least 100 rushing yards.

The Raiders certainly don't want to resort to that again. Using four linebackers puts the defense in danger of having a player in pass coverage they'd prefer not be if the offense uses playaction passes.

Plus, four linebackers didn't stop a whole lot.

Finding a consistent force on the strongside would be better than four.

Linebacker review

Jon Alston: One of the linebackers that played in the four-backer set. Fast and built like a strong safety.

Brown: Went from practice squad player to solid contributor on special teams.

Jon Condo: Technically can play linebacker, but he's a longsnapper. His tackling on special teams was a boost last season.

Isaiah Ekejiuba
: Standout on special teams.

Edgerton Hartwell
: Raiders are giving him a chance to resurrect his once promising career.

Howard: His six interceptions were best among linebackers in 2007.

Malik Jackson: Undrafted rookie will have to be very impressive to make the team.

Morrison: Will take more of a leadership role with Warren Sapp's retirement.

Thomas: Can actually play all three linebacker spots if needed.

Williams: Is looking to play in all 16 games for the first time in his career. Played in 15 in 2006, but missed five games in 2007.

--Jason Jones

July 9, 2008
Defensive backfield in motion

Stanford Routt would prefer not to be a nickelback.

Can you blame him?

Playing the nickel or covering the slot receiver is one of the hardest jobs in football.

There's no sideline to help, giving the receiver the whole field to work with.

And in quick passing situations, the slot receiver is closest to the quarterback, giving his defender less time to react.

Because the Raiders don't blitz a lot, their third cornerback is always in a pinch. Who the Raiders decided to play over the slot will go a long way in determining if the team that finished first against the pass in 2006 can regain that form.

With the addition of DeAngelo Hall, Routt might be forced to cover the slot receiver again, something he's admittedly not nearly as comfortable doing when compared to covering receivers on the outside.

There's a chance the Raiders could toy with playing Hall on the slot and allowing Routt to play left cornerback, where he was the starter most of last season. Nnamdi Asomugha probably won't be put on the slot.

Michael Huff could see some time at cornerback if the Raiders want to get creative.

But Routt will probably have the job.

In today's NFL, teams are using three receivers with regularity. The Raiders need at least three solid corners, especially if the trend of little blitzing continues with little safety help.

Teams avoided Asomugha all of last season. If Hall is up to par, that means one thing:

Whether he's on the slot or not, a lot of attention will be on Routt.

Cornerback review:

Asomugha: Elite in coverage. He still hasn't signed his one-year franchise tender worth nearly $10 million. He has until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal with the Raiders.

Darrick Brown: Undrafted rookie that was a standout track athlete at McNeese State.

John Bowie: Known as the player the Raiders selected with the pick acquired in the Randy Moss trade and little else as he played in only two games.

Hall: Might find himself in the unusual position of being the cornerback that is picked opposite Asomugha. But he's up for the challenge after appearing in two Pro Bowls in four seasons with Atlanta.

Chris Johnson: A fast player that is primarily a special teams contributor. He figures to battle with Bowie to be the fourth cornerback.

Routt: Supplanted Fabian Washington last year, but will be a reserve again behind Asomugha and Hall.

Michael Waddell: Veteran signed as free agent.

-- Jason Jones

July 7, 2008
Safety preview: Time for Huff to breakout

The Raiders hope Michael Huff doesn't play the background in 2008.

It's not that Huff has been a complete bust since being the seventh overall pick in 2006. He's been steady, but unspectacular.

Huff's profile is so low nationally that while Tennessee quarterback Vince Young was apologizing a few weeks ago after photos of himself partying shirtless with a bottle of Patron in his hand, no one seemed to notice who was next to him in one of the photos: his University of Texas teammate Huff on his left shoulder.

vince-young-shirtless.jpg

I didn't notice because I really don't care if Vince, Huff or anyone wants to take off their shirt with tequila in hand provided they aren't driving drunk and never cared too much to look at them.

(And I'm also keeping my fingers crossed no pictures of me having fun ever pop up on the internet. The things we do when we're just being silly).

The point is, if that were Bob Sanders, Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, someone would have raised a fuss about them being in the picture, too.

But the Raiders appear to be taking steps to give Huff the best chance to succeed. The lack of interceptions and other big plays isn't all Huff's fault.

The long delayed move to free safety is happening, meaning Huff won't be limited to covering tight ends. Big-money addition Gibril Wilson can share that load.

Huff has one interception in two seasons. Given the chance to play in space and use his speed should increase that number this season.

And when you think of elite safeties, it's not always easy to tell if they play strong or free safety because they move around a lot.

The Raiders should do that with Huff. Though he was solid covering tight ends, it would be intriguing to see Huff's sprinter's speed coming on a blitz, too.

Doing that could be a key in Huff becoming a big-time player in the secondary.

Then Huff might find his moves are watched a lot more closely in public.

Other safeties to watch:

Rashad Baker: Late-season pickup off waivers from New England last year.

Tyvon Branch: Rookie will learn and compete for backup time. He'll play a lot on special teams.

Jarrod Cooper: Back from an ACL injury, he could be the first safety off the bench if the Raiders use their nickel package with three safeties. He's also the leader of the coverage units on special teams.

Hiram Eugene: Took over at free safety for Stuart Schweigert late in 2007. Will need to remain a special-teams stalwart to guarantee a roster spot.

Wilson: Brought in to be a tackling machine and provide toughness. The Raiders made him the NFL's third-highest paid safety (six years, $39 million, $16 million guaranteed) so he better bring that.

--Jason Jones

July 3, 2008
Three weeks and counting

The first practice of 2008 training camp is three weeks away.

Players will report on July 23 with the first practice being in the afternoon of July 24. The team was initially due to report on July 25.

I was planning to answer some reader questions but almost all of them centered on Javon Walker.

One question is can the Raiders recoup money or void the contract of Walker if he weren't able to play this season.

First, the team says Walker will be able to play. But if he couldn't, the most recent case to look at would be that of former San Diego linebacker Steve Foley.

Foley was shot by an off-duty police officer in 2006 prior to the Chargers' season-opener against the Raiders. He was placed on the non-football injured reserve list and was not paid his base salary and he was later released.

Foley hasn't played football since, but recently reached a settlement in a civil suit.

*Many are wondering about the Raiders' options at receiver if Walker is slow to return to the field.

The team could pursue Koren Robinson who definitely fits the teams profile: talented player that has had trouble but could be an impact player. But with Ronald Curry looking healthy, Drew Carter having a good rapport with JaMarcus Russell and several young receivers, Robinson might not be needed immediately.

But Lane Kiffin loves competition. Adding Robinson would definitely make the competition for roster spots intense.

*I'm often asked are the Raiders really going to use Kwame Harris at left tackle. The answer is yes. It will be up to offensive line coach Tom Cable to tap into Harris' talent.

Harris showed good athleticism at Stanford. If that can be molded into solid play, Cable will be the coaching staff MVP for a second year in a row.

*Nnamdi Asomugha has until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal with the Raiders. If not, he can only play for the franchise tender of $9.765 million for the 2008 season once he signs it.

From what I've heard most of the offseason, don't expect a deal to get done. But who knows?

*Starting next week, I'll check in with position previews, probably focusing on one or two players at each spot. Until then, enjoy the holiday weekend.

--Jason Jones



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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