Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

August 31, 2008
Russell looks to play it safe

ALAMEDA - JaMarcus Russell received some good advice from former Raiders coach Jon Gruden.

Russell met with Gruden prior to the 2007 NFL Draft. Gruden showed Russell film from his days at LSU when he got outside of the pocket and lowered the boom on smaller players.

Gruden's message was simple. You wouldn't do that playing for me.

"He was telling me 'Id fine you on this play, I'd fine you on this play, I'd fine you on this play,'" Russell said.

With the season approaching, everyone is curious as to how Russell will handle coming in as the starter and knowing the balance of when not to take risks.

Russell's size gives him an advantage against smaller blitzers. The best example came in the preseason when Arizona sent a cornerback at Russell.

Russell brushed him off and ran for 12 yards. He only hopes the next time he does that, the play isn't killed by a penalty like it was that night.

There's also the safety factor. Russell realizes he can't always take on a hit, even from a smaller player.

Lest we forget, Steve Young's career ended on a hit by a cornerback.

"You can't underestimate a small guy," Russell said. "He might knock the wind out of you, knock the fire from you."

****
Now that the preseason is over, you can expect to see a lot more of Darren McFadden doing more than taking handoffs.

The game of "Where's Darren" begins against Denver on Monday, Sept. 8.

"The engine can only crank up," Russell said. "I'm ready to see that and I'm pretty sure everyone feels that way."

McFadden said he's not necessarily begging to line up wide, but is looking forward to seeing what the coaching staff can come up with.

"It's going to be real exciting when we get out there and do that," McFadden said. "I like getting out there and moving around, splitting out wide or whatever it is they want me to do, I enjoy doing it."

****
Here's another vote for division games counting more.

Lane Kiffin made it clear last year that he wasn't going to anything extra on games in the AFC West.

WR Javon Walker said this about playing against Denver to open the season.

"A divisional game puts you in contention of winning your division and obviously a playoff berth," Walker said. "Obviously other games are big, but division game were just a little bit more."

I suspect part of Kiffin's reasoning last year had to do with the Raiders having lost 17 straight in the AFC West before finally beating Kansas City last November.

With a team struggling to beat anyone, it might not have been wise to dwell on winning in the division.
But there would be no better way to get the season started then by earning a division win.

As far as playing against his old team, Walker said he harbors no bad feelings against Denver.

"I'm just a Raider," he said. "Go out and play my game...this is just a business."

****
Walker changed from No. 17 to No. 84, the number he's always worn in the NFL.

He wore No. 80 at Florida State and No. 33 in high school.

Walker said grabbing No. 17 was a spur of the moment decision in the spring, but he's glad to be back in his old number. Actually he said he was "excited."

Arman Shields had No. 84, but is now on injured reserve.

Walker said he didn't pay Shields for the number, but would have because he "treats everybody the same," even rookies like Shields.

****
Kiffin didn't give the team a big speech because chances are when the team meets again for practice on Wednesday the roster will be different.

The Raiders have 10 offensive linemen and could also shave a linebacker and defensive lineman or two from the roster.

Kiffin would really like a fullback to backup Justin Griffith.

"We run the ball a whole lot and the fullback is used in the running game," Griffith said. "Our system is probably one of the only few left like that."

As for other moves, Kiffin said the reason the Raiders kept DT William Joseph over Josh Shaw as a matter of size.

"(Joseph is a) bigger guy that has played the run at times," Kiffin said. "More consistent."

Health and conditioning were other factors. DE Kalimba Edwards has a groin injury two other contributors are still getting into prime shape.

"Tommy (Kelly), we're still trying to get his weight down," Kiffin said. "And (Terdell) Sands is never going to be a guy that plays the whole game."

****
RT Willie Anderson, who was cut by Cincinnati would appear to be an instant upgrade over Cornell Green.

Kiffin said the team looked into adding Anderson, who has been a Pro Bowl player, but said the Raiders zone-blocking scheme means adding a good player doesn't always make sense.

"There's good things about having this system with our offensive line and some bad things," Kiffin said. "One of the bad things is if guys haven't been trained in this system, it's hard, especially if they're bigger guys to come in and be real functional in this system."

****
WR Todd Watkins didn't drive to Sacramento to be with his girlfriend and child on Saturday, which turned out to be the right decision because he made the team.

But that didn't mean everything was easy.

Assistant receivers coach Sanjay Lal made a call to Watkins around 7 p.m. on Saturday after final cuts had been made.

"My heart stopped for a second," Watkins said. "I was like, 'What, did they change their mind?'"

After making practice squads the last two seasons, Watkins isn't resting. He still wants to prove he belongs in the NFL.

Watkins said consistency and hard work can keep him on the team.

"In this business you can never relax," Watkins said. "Especially guys that are two, three on the depth chart. There's no room for comfort."

****
Kiffin said P Greg Pakulak's inclusion on the practice squad gives the team a "security blanket" for Shane Lechler, who has been dealing with a quadriceps injury.

Lechler is expected to be able to play in the season opener.

****
Lechler, CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle), S Rashad Baker (ankle), LB Robert Thomas (knee) and Kelly (flu) did not practice.

Asomugha expects to practice on Wednesday.

S Michael Huff missed practice to attend the funeral for his grandfather. CB DeAngelo Hall was excused for the funeral of his father.

--Jason Jones

August 31, 2008
Practice players

ALAMEDA - Here's the Raiders Practice Squad:

CB Darrrick Brown
DE Greyson Gunheim
WR Jonathan Holland
DT Mauricio Lopez
P Glenn Pakulak
RB Louis Rankin
FB Marcel Reece
TE Darrell Strong
OL Brandon Torrey

*That the Raiders kept Pakulak means there's still some concern about Shane Lechler's health. He might be able to punt in a game, but at the very minimum the team might not want to waste his leg in practice.

*The Raiders have nine practice squad players because Lopez is part of the International Practice Squad program.

--Jason Jones

August 29, 2008
Watkins waits for the final word

SEATTLE - In spite of a solid training camp, WR Todd Watkins left Qwest Field wondering about the little things he could have done tonight to solidify a roster spot.

"I start thinking about things I could have done differently like like that deep ball ... a couple formations, lining up correctly. Small things."

Watkins turned the wrong way on a deep pass that would have been a touchdown.

Odds are when the Raiders report to practice on Sunday, Watkins will be among those that makes the 53-man roster.

Cutdown day is tomorrow.

*Lane Kiffin described FB Marcel Reece as "explosive with the ball" after he scored on a 25-yard touchdown pass in which he showed good hands and good balance and feet to stay in bounds and score.

Reece said he'd sleep fine knowing that he did his best and that the coaching staff has seen he can make plays.

Reece is still raw, having just moved to fullback this offseason, but chances are he'll be around on the practice squad.

*Darren McFadden's two nice runs showcased his strength. One of the criticisms of McFadden before the draft was that he was stopped easily when met head on.

Kiffin had a different take on that.

"As you look at his college film, I believe there were times when they were telling him to go down, not to fight for extra yards," Kiffin said. "... if he were to get hurt their offense would just go downhill. ... (I think) they were telling him to go down and run out of bounds at times because he was carrying it so many times. I don't think there's any issue about him breaking tackles."

*Kiffin said the team wouldn't consider only two quarterbacks on the roster.

*Kiffin said Sebastian Janikowski has made field goals from 75 yards with no rushers in practice.

Janikowski tried a 66-yard field goal that came up short.

"He wanted to do it," Kiffin said. "It's preseason. ... It's not that he can't kick that far. He actually hits the ground first on that one and eh still almost gets it there. That shows how powerful his leg is."

Kiffin didn't mind letting Janikowski try to kick from that distance because it's something he'd do at the end of a half or game in the regular season.

*There will be a 3:30 p.m. conference call with Kiffin where we'll discuss who has been cut

*Nnamdi Asomugha watched the second half of the game from the coaching booth. He wanted to get another perspective.

But what else would you expect from someone that attended the finest public university in the world?

--Jason Jones

August 28, 2008
Future for Reece begins now

SEATTLE -- Don't think tomorrow night's game is meaningless for many of the Raiders' young players.

Just look at the case of Ricky Brown.

The Raiders closed out the preseason here two years ago and Brown played before ultimately being cut. He was added to the practice squad and eventually added to the active roster.

This year he'll probably be a starting outside linebacker.

Who will be this year's Brown?

I like Marcel Reece's chances.

Lane Kiffin called him a project because he arrived in Oakland a wide receiver and is now a fullback.

His pass-catching ability in the Raiders' offense would be an asset at some point, but the Raiders don't want to put him on the field just yet.

Blocking cornerbacks as a receiver is nothing like taking on blitzing linebackers.

But the Raiders like Reece's hands enough to want to keep him around after he was invited to the team's rookie camp.

Reece was given a Raider helmet because of his efforts that weekend.

"It was a numbers' situation," said Raiders coach Lane Kififn of moving Reece to fullback with a stop at tight end in between. "Justin Griffith got hurt one day, and we didn't have enough guys so we had to move him there to play him there. We kept him there thinking that maybe someday he'll have a chance."

Reece will likely be released and re-signed to the practice squad where he can continue learning to play fullback.

He needs time to adjust to the physical style he'll need to play fullback in the NFL. If he adapts, we could be talking about Reece in a couple of years having the final preseason game off.

****
Reece played college football up here at Washington and his teammate with the Huskies, Louis Rankin, has been the subject of several emails.

Many have asked if he has a chance to make the final roster. But I can't see the Raiders keeping four tailbacks. Rankin can return kickoffs, but he'd be No. 3 at that on the depth chart and fourth once Tyvon Branch is available.

****
If you're wondering who won't make the team, watch the second half of tomorrow's game. Chances are anyone playing in the second half won't be on the team Saturday afternoon.

--Jason Jones

August 28, 2008
Future for Reece begins now

SEATTLE -- Don't think tomorrow night's game is meaningless for many of the Raiders' young players.

Just look at the case of Ricky Brown.

The Raiders closed out the preseason here two years ago and Brown played before ultimately being cut. He was added to the practice squad, eventually added to the active roster.

This year he'll probably be a starting outside linebacker.

Who will be this year's Brown?

I like Marcel Reece's chances.

Lane Kiffin called him a project because he arrived in Oakland a wide receiver and is now a fullback.

His pass-catching ability in the Raiders' offense would be an asset at some point, but the Raiders don't want to put him on the field just yet.

"It was a numbers' situation," said Raiders coach Lane Kififn of moving Reece to fullback with a stop at tight end in between. :Justin Griffith got hurt one day, and we didn't have enough guys so we had to move him there to play him there. We kept him there thinking that maybe someday he'll have a chance."

Reece will likely be released and re-signed to the practice squad where he can continue learning to play fullback.

He needs time to adjust to the physical style he'll need to play fullback in the NFL. If he adapts, we could be talking about Reece in a couple of years having the final preseason game off.

****
Reece played college football up here at Washington and his teammate with the Huskies, Louis Rankin, has been the subject of several emails.

Many have asked if he has a chance to make the final roster. But I can't see the Raiders keeping four tailbacks. Rankin can return kickoffs, but he'd be No. 3 at that on the depth chart and fourth once Tyvon Branch is available.

****
If you're wondering who won't make the team, watch the second half of tomorrow's game. Chances are anyone playing in the second half won't be on the team Saturday afternoon.

--Jason Jones

August 27, 2008
Kiffin playing it very safe

ALAMEDA -- Don't tune into Friday night's exhibition finale in Seattle expecting to see anything that resembles the Oakland Raiders that will open the regular season against Denver on Monday Night Football.

Raiders coach Lane Kiffin isn't taking any chances of losing any players.

Players that are No. 2 on the depth chart will probably play the whole first half with third-stringers finishing up the game.

None of the starters on offense will play and most of the defensive regulars will have the night off.

"This roster can't afford any more injuries right now," said Raiders coach Lane Kiffin. "We've got enough things that we've got to figure out at enough spots at the end of this, the 53 to figure out, to lose somebody else. I just don't see the value of putting these guys out there and losing one of these guys."

Andrew Walter will start at quarterback with John Wade playing center.

The team will worry about training Wade to play guard in practice rather than risk trying another center and having botched snaps in a game situation.

****
Fred Wakefield will play defensive line in the first half and go to offense in the second half.

He could make the team just because he can play so many spots. Using Wakefield on both sides of the ball could allow the Raiders to keep an extra receiver or defensive back.

****
The Raiders will have to cut 22 players on Saturday. Kififn said that's not as hard as it appears.

"Some guys will make it break it in that game but for the most part you know your team right now," he said. "The variables, when you come back the next day, are knowing all the guys, that are getting cut, having them evaluated and whether they're better than guys on the bottom of your roster."

*P Shane Lechler (quadriceps) will hold on field goals and extra points for Sebastian Janikowski, but won't punt.

*LB Robert Thomas (knee) is still being evaluated. CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle), S Rashad Baker (ankle) are also out. S Hiram Eugene "most likely won't play" Kiffin said.

*Johnnie Lee Higgins will handle kickoffs and punts in the first half. Michael Waddell will return punts in the second half and Louis Rankin will handle kickoffs.

--Jason Jones


August 27, 2008
He's on the move again

ALAMEDA -- Making an NFL team is tough enough when playing one position.

So imagine being Fred Wakefield.

He was signed by the Raiders last year to play tight end. He began playing defensive line in the offseason and was switched to the offensive line during training camp.

Today, he's back working with the defensive line.

The Raiders need a wide receiver. Wakefield has two career receptions and he's wearing No. 87.

(Those two catches would be fourth among active Raider receivers.)

Where will line up next?

****
LB Robert Thomas (knee) won't play Friday in Seattle so the team re-signed rookie LB Shane Simmons. He was with the team in the offseason and was cut before training camp. QB Jeff Otis was waived to make room for Simmons.

The Raiders recent signings aren't about adding the competition Lane Kiffin is seeking. They're mostly about having enough bodies to make it through Friday night.

FB Luke Lawton is the one signing that might be around after final cuts on Saturday.

*CB DeAngelo Hall was at practice today without a cast on his right hand. He caught a few passes during a drill.

*S Tyvon Branch is still wearing a cast. He was able to catch the ball today, something he'd grimaced while doing last week.

--Jason Jones

August 26, 2008
Starting at center ... Jake Grove

ALAMEDA - You've got to love Lane Kiffin's honesty.

When the Raiders signed center John Wade, he thought Wade would take the starting job.

But Jake Grove would have none of that.

So go ahead and make Grove the starting center on Madden 09 as he's won the job in real life.

"It was very close," Kififn said. "Both guys played extremely well in preseason, gave them both starts, gave them equal opportunities, and Jake, I wouldn't have guessed when we signed (Wade), but Jake's rehab, the way he's come back, ended up beating him out."

Grove had microfracture surgery on his right knee in January. He spent much of the offseason in the weight room getting stronger to fend off another free-agent center.

Grove was beat out by Jeremy Newberry last year.

But Grove feels healthy for the first time since his rookie season. He said he injured his right knee Sept. 18, 2005 against Kansas City, had surgery that year after the Raiders played the Cowboys, and has never felt right since.

"I couldn't move right to left," Grove said. "I couldn't go to my left. I could go to my right, I just couldn't plant off my left. You can't tell the coach, 'Nah, let's just run right.' It doesn't work too good. Getting that thing fixed has been the biggest thing for me."

The second biggest thing might be the new weight program instituted by Brad Roll.

One of the reasons Newberry won the job last year was his superior strength.

Grove started two games last season but the bad knee limited him to seven total games.

"Before Jake got hurt he was playing well but he wasn't the same Jake that we see right now," Kiffin said. "He's much stronger, quicker. He came out and took the job. He earned it. He didn't get it by default. I love the way that it went down as opposed to just being out here and not having competition. That competition pushed him when we signed him. That's two years in a row we've signed a center even though Jake's been here. I know that's made him better."

****

OK, no need to panic.

Michael Bush will not be moved to fullback.

"Michael Bush is a tailback here," Kiffin said. "We're going to look at some things in some certain personnels to utilize him because he catches the ball so well and he is a bigger tailback. But don't mistake that. We claimed a fullback (Luke Lawton). We'll look for another fullback to compete with this guy or, depending on how this guy does this week, the final waiver cut. Michael Bush isn't here to be a fullback. Michael Bush has a chance to be a spectacular tailback in this league and that's what he's here to play."

This is the right decision.

Bush's skills as a receiver make him a nice player to throw a wrinkle in a dual-halfback set. But his excellent feet and running would be wasted blocking for Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden.

I'm sure Bush is glad to hear that.

He's genuinely enjoying his role on special teams. He likes running the ball.

And it would have been a shame to see him fight back from injury to only be played out of position.

And here's another reason why Bush at fullback would be a waste of his talents.

"When you have dynamic tailbacks its hard to call a play and give the ball to the fullback unless it's short yardage," Kiffin said.

Clearly Kififn sees Bush as more than a short-yardage option.

****
Replacing Oren O'Neal isn't as easy as just dropping a big body in front of a running back.

O'Neal blocking style was all about running through someone. That's something that can't be taught and Kiffin knows that will be hard to find.

"You're probably not going to find a really good one that's an iso guy," Kiffin said. "We may find one that's more like Justin Griffith that's more of a system fit where he's not a
downhill guy. That'll probably be easier to find."

****
CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle), S Rashad Baker (ankle) and P Shane Lechler (quadriceps) are out for Friday's preseason finale.

S Hiram Eugene (hip) is questionable.

WR Javon Walker was excused from practice for personal reasons.

K Sebastian Janikowski will play at least the first half. P Greg Pakulak can handle kicking duties when Janikowski is done for the night.

Kiffin said tests were being done on LB Robert Thomas' knee. He was carted off at the start of practice this morning.

--Jason Jones

August 26, 2008
O'Neal in good spirits

ALAMEDA -- Ran into Oren O'Neal as he left team headquarters this morning.

He's scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning to repair three damaged ligaments.

O'Neal said former Raider Zack Crockett called to check on him.

(Who knows? Might Al Davis give Crockett, a favorite of his, a call to comeback?).

O'Neal said he'd need between six to eight months of rehabilitation.

****
LB Robert Thomas was carted off the field near the start of practice.

He was able to walk gingerly into the locker room.

****
S Hiram Eugene was at practice working out on a separate field. He's been out with a hip injury.

CB Nnamdi Asomugha and S Rashad Baker were not at practice. Both have ankle injuries.

****
To reach the 75-player limit, the Raiders cut WR Drisan James and K Aaron Elling.

That means K Sebastian Janikowski will kick this Friday in Seattle.

FB Luke Lawton was at practice today. He was claimed off waivers from Philadelphia yesterday.

Aug. 30 is the day teams must cut down to 53 players.

--Jason Jones

August 25, 2008
Another fullback option?

ALAMEDA - Here's an idea the Raiders are considering.

The new backup fullback is ... Michael Bush?

"Yeah ... that's all I'm going to say about that," Bush said.

The No. 3 tailback could be the No. 2 fullback.

Bush took some snaps at the position today. It's obviously not Bush's first choice. But after being off the field for nearly two years, he'll accept it.

"Yeah, that's a way to get on the field more," Bush said. "I've always been a team player, too, so it's one of those things, you just suck it up, go about your business and try to have some fun with it."

Bush said he wasn't against playing both roles in the offense. He weighs about 250 pounds, but run blocking and running with the ball takes different skills.

"I'm still waiting for my chance to carry the ball, as well," Bush said. "The more I can do the better, be a versatile player. So, that's a good thing."

There's no comment from Lane Kiffin on this because by time the media knew of this, Kiffin was done speaking with the media.

****
Here's Kiffin on Jarrod Cooper's decision to retire this morning:

"Cooper came in this morning and just decided that it was time. He played (seven) years in the league, has had three knee surgeries, he's never regained his speed on this last surgery, that was obvious in the preseason games. Whether we would have released him or not, that is really irrelevant. He came in and was just done playing and wanted to retire. He said bye to everybody. We wish him the best. He's a really neat guy who has done a lot of things here, has a lot of relationships with a lot of the players here. It maybe even something that we keep him involved during the season, coming in on Wednesdays during the special teams meetings, being around the guys and working with the young guys as well."

The player that will need to fill Cooper's role on special teams is Tyvon Branch.

The rookie looked good as a gunner on punt coverage last week against Arizona.

Kiffin even cracked a slight smile when talking about Branch:

"Every time Tyvon has a chance to do something on special teams he's looked great. He just looks faster than everybody else out there. That's a credit to him. That's not just speed, it's the way he plays and how hard he plays. The play the other night was as good as it gets. That's the second time he's had a gunner rep. He's had a rep that's looked like a Pro Bowl gunner, a guy who looks like a legitimate special teams Pro Bowler. If he can carry that over, he can be a dynamic special teams player for us."

Branch realizes that will be his role on special teams until the cast is off his hand and he can return kickoffs in addition to his other special teams duties.

"Coop is a great guy," Branch said. "He's helped me out a lot since I've been here. All I can try to do is fill his shoes."

Branch already has the right mentality to be a standout on special teams.

"I give 100 percent effort on everything I think it just pays off," he said. "Especially at gunner you've got to be relentless."

****
Arman Shields last practiced sometime before the first exhibition game. He's not sure when it was, but he was glad to be back on the field today.

He said there was no need to feel rushed during practice.

"I feel comfortable because while I was out our coach put a big emphasis on getting mental reps," Shields said. "So I made sure I was there mentally and I tried to run the plays through in my mind so I felt fine."

Shields impressed coaches when he did practice. But he has a lot of time to make up. He hasn't played in the preseason and needs all the experience he can gain if he has any chance of playing this season.

"It's hard to do what he's doing, to just come back right now as a rookie and just remember everything and be able to go in there," Kiffin said. "But movement-wise, he looked pretty good."

****
Kiffin would like another veteran receiver and not go into the season with little experience behind Javon Walker and Ronald Curry.

He's hopeful to "have someone soon."

"I'm sure that our personnel department will find us a receiver, and add it to our group and see how far we can take him," Kiffin said.

One solution will not be to use Darren McFadden as a receiver.

If you want to know why, Kiffin explains:

"It does give the guy more opportunities if it's a position that you don't have a lot of guys at. But you're not going to go out there and run receiver routes with him, as far as all the routes that they run. Those guys have been doing it for so long. For him to run deep comebacks and post corners, I think you're wasting your time and I think you're going to lessen what he's here to do. You'll look for matchup things where he's on a safety or a linebacker, where he's not necessarily replacing a receiver but is out of the backfield. It can help if you're receiver unit is not as deep and strong as you'd like it to be, yeah there could be more opportunities for him."

****
Kiffin is leaning toward not playing several regulars Friday in Seattle after having lost two key players, Drew Carter and Oren O'Neal, in last week's preseason game.

Most teams play their regulars for at least a series.

"I don't know if that's really of value," Kiffin said. "I know that's the way people usually do it, but I'm probably going to lean toward maybe not playing these starters at all. For one series of work, I don't see where that's really worth the benefit of going out there. If a guy's not ready, I don't know what one series of work is going to do."

That's the right call.

****
S Michael Huff, CB Nnamdi Asomugha and S Rashad Baker all missed practice with ankle injuries.

S Hiram Eugene (hip) and P Shane Lechler (quadriceps) are still out.

K Sebastian Janikowski could kick against the Seahawks by handling kickoffs in the first half and field goals for the entire game.

"It depends how much (Kiffin) wants to use me," Janikowski said. "It's up to him."

*DE Jay Richardson had a temperature of 105 this morning and did not practice. Kiffin said Richardson wasn't taken to the hospital.

*The Raiders signed defensive back Nate Lyles. He's an undrafted rookie from Virginia that was waived by the New York Jets on Aug. 18.

*CB John Bowie said the goal is to avoid surgery on his injured right knee that forced the team to put him on injured reserve.

He has torn cartilage in the knee.

"This year I really wanted to try to establish myself as a special teams player and possibly work myself into the rotation," Bowie said.

After playing very little as a rookie, Bowie will sit out the season as pundits slam the Raiders, who traded Randy Moss to New England for a fourth-round draft pick that ended up being Bowie.

"I know I'm going to hear a lot of that," Bowie said. "It's tough, but it's life."

*The Raiders have 77 players on their roster and will need to cut two more tomorrow.

--Jason Jones


August 25, 2008
Transactions

ALAMEDA - The Raiders made a series of roster moves today.

None of them included adding another wide reevier.

The team waived DE Greg Spires, LB Grant Irons and S Jarrod Cooper, who intends to retire.

The team claimed fullback Luke Lawton off waivers from Philadelphia and signed safety Marviel Underwood.

CB John Bowie (knee), WR Drew Carter (knee) and FB Oren O'Neal (knee) were all placed on injured reserve.

The team is also working out defensive back Nate Lyles. If he were signed, the team would have to cut two players tomorrow.

****
This is the time of the year when the media is no longer allowed to watch practice, so there will be no more details to report.

The special teams session is open. Darren McFadden was back with Johnnie Lee Higgins fielding punts and kickoffs.

*WR Arman Shields (knee) returned to practice.

*The news about Cooper is surprising. No indication he was considering retiring. The Raiders will miss him on special teams.

The coverage units looked bad without Cooper last year.

*For all those that still hate Randy Moss (and there are a lot of you) that trade really doesn't look good right now considering the Raiders will get nothing from Bowie this year.

*Lawton is well traveled. He was traded to Philadelphia from Indianapolis for a conditional draft pick before being waived by the Eagles.

He's also had stops with the New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, and the New York Jets.

*Underwood is a former teammate of LB Kirk Morrison at San Diego State and is from San Leandro. He was drafted by Green Bay in 2005 and finished last season with Denver.

Underwood tore two ligaments in his knee in 2006 and missed the season before being released by the Packers last year.

--Jason Jones


August 24, 2008
Kiffin keeps praising Russell

Tidbits from Lane Kiffin's conference call this afternoon:

*JaMarcus Russell is still playing well (and obviously better than Matt Leinart) according to coach Lane Kiffin.

"He did not force balls," Kiffin said. "He had one poor throw, the interception. Other than that, he didn't force things. He did well, especially under all the pressure he was under. He wasn't back there setting his feet a lot. He had to move around a lot and made plays on the run."

The throw to Zach Miller in the back of the end zone was close to a touchdown. Russell showed nice touch to place the ball in a spot where Miller could make a play.

Russell's throw to Ronald Curry in the end zone should have been a touchdown considering he was being covered by a linebacker, Karlos Dansby.

"Ronald slows down right as he is going to release it on him," Kiffin said. "The linebacker runs into him behind him, something that could have been called. That was a good throw."

The linebacker running into Curry is a problem, but Curry being unable to run away from a linebacker is also a problem.

****
Oren O'Neal's knee injury is one that could end his playing days.

"I never want to say that, but it's as bad as it can get as far as issues with the knee according to (trainer) Rod (Martin) this morning," Kififn said. "Unofrtunately, it'll be a long process."

Drew Carter is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Here's what Kiffin said are the team's options to replace Carter:

"Well two things. There are always a few guys who have been veterans at every position taht wait for things to happen like this, for teams to get injuries. They stay in shape and they know their bodies so they know they can still come in late in camp and still contribute. So that's one option, one way of going at it. There are a number of guys out there. Another option is to wait either until a couple of days for these first cuts or even more for the last cuts. The last cuts, some good people are getting let go on some of the good teams."

Veterans looking for work include Joe Horn and Koren Robinson.

Robinson has had some issues with the league involving alcohol but appears to have moved past them after being suspended because of those problems.

He spoke at the NFL's rookie symposium to warn young players about the trappings of alcohol and fame.

Robinson might be able to step in and contribute immediately.

A call to Robinson's agent, Alvin Keels, wasn't immediately returned.

Horn is an older receiver that might be inclined to join a team with a better chance of making the playoffs.

Replacing O'Neal will be tough. "Big O" is a punishing blocker. Kiffin called the Raiders only other backup fullback, Marcel Reece, "a project" because he played wide receiver in college.

Ideally the team probably would have liked to put Reece on the practice squad and let him learn the position and not have him forced into action.

****
Some injury and news on the depth chart"

*CB Nnamdi Asomugha and S Rashad Baker both have ankle injuries that aren't considered serious. They'll miss practice time.

K Sebastian Janikowski (hamsrting) could kick this Friday in Seattle for the preseason finale. P Shane Lechler (quadriceps) is still out.

Kiffin hopes WR Arman Shields (knee) can return to practice this week.

The rookie showed promise before his knee began acting up on him.

Now his first season could go to the wayside.

"I wouldn't want to put a ceiling on it but it would be pretty tough," Kiffin said. "These guys have had so many reps of running our offense, he's missed so much time. It would be difficult but you never want to count him out."

*Kiffin said he'd have more to say on who his starting center would be tomorrow. Jake Grove and John Wade are in line for the job.

The only other job up for grabs is between Ricky Brown and Robert Thomas at outside linebacker.

With Carter, Curry is the starting receiver opposite Javon Walker.

*Fred Wakefield saw extended time at right tackle and "struggled."

He moved to the offensive line during training camp after being a tight end and defensive end for the Raiders.

"In his defense, it's a hard thing to do," Kiffin said. "He's been moved around so many times. You get in the NFL, and you've got guys playing positions who have played them for years and he's going from d-end to d-takcle to guard to offnesive tackle. It's been a difficult transition for him."

*For those of you wondering why Darren McFadden hasn't been doing all the things advertised when he was drafted, don't worry.

"All I can say on that is I have to continue to remind you guys that it's preseason and you guys can figure out what that means," Kiffin said.

The "guys" Kiffin referred to were reporters that ask about what McFadden is/isn't doing.

But there's no doubt many fans were asking the same thing.

--Jason Jones

August 23, 2008
O'Neal, Carter out with knee injuries

OAKLAND -- Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said fullback Oren O'Neal and receiver Drew Carter both likely out for the 2008 season with left knee injuries.

Carter hurt his ACL in the first quarter. There were no details on what O'Neal exact injury is, but Kiffin said he's likely done for the year.

So the depth Kiffin complained about will really be tested, especially at wide receiver.

The Raiders didn't have much there. Now they'll have to rely on Johnnie Lee Higgins, Todd Watkins or Chaz Schilens (the likely candidates right now) to step up.

If you're wondering about talented players that might be available, Koren Robinson is still without a team.

The only other fullback besides O'Neal is undrafted rookie Marcel Reece.

*Kiffin was pleased with the Raiders run defense in the first half. The team held Arizona to 50 yards in 14 carries. The long runs the Cardinals ran off in the third quarter Kififn dismissed because several starters were out of the game.

*Here's Kiffin on the passing game:

"Unfortunately I think I saw what I already knew. If we try to throw the ball around you're going to get penalties, you're going to get the quarterback hit and he's going to be running around a lot and you're going to be in trouble."

Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush will get a lot of work this season, obviously.

*After watching Matt Leinart tonight, it looks like the Raiders weren't so wrong to go with Michael Huff in the 2006 NFL Draft.

*If I'm the Raiders, I'm not panicking too much. There's no way Kiffin ever calls a real game with so many passes just because.

As he said, we already knew what would happen if the Raiders had to pass.

Check back in about an hour for my stories and Paul Gutierrez's column on tonight's game.

--Jason Jones

August 22, 2008
Observations on an off day

Observations on a day away from team headquarters:

*This is a big weekend for Johnnie Lee Higgins.

He was dogged by mental errors last week and Lane Kiffin has made it clear Higgins is only returning kickoffs because there are no other options.

His confidence was an issue last year. He needs to show up this weekend and play with confidence.

*It would be nice to see Michael Bush work a lot with the first team. Justin Fargas won't play a lot, leaving Bush and Darren McFadden as the primary ball carriers.

With the team expected to pass a lot, Bush should be able to showcase his good hands.

*TE John Madsen is another player that should play a lot with the first team. Zach Miller isn't supposed to play a lot against Arizona.

*I can't see DeAngelo Hall or Tyvon Branch playing a lot tomorrow. The casts they are wearing clearly bother them.

*I'm keeping an eye on Shawne Merriman's knee injury. The Chargers defense will still be good without him, but Merriman makes the unit special.

No matter how deep a team is replacing an All-Pro isn't easy.

The Chargers are still the favorites in the AFC West, but if Merriman has to miss a lot of time, the talk of a Super Bowl might calm down a little bit.

****

For the first time in a long time, I answer a few reader questions.

Question: Do you have any info on the status of Nnamdi's foot?
408Raider, San Jose

A: Nnamdi Asomugha hasn't been mentioned as being injured lately and he's looked fine in practice so the assumption is his foot is doing fine. I don't expect him to play a whole lot tomorrow night, but that's more to do with him being a veteran with nothing to prove than an injury.

Question: Way to go Jason ruin your 15 minutes of fame by hanging up on ESPN (Wednesday)!!! Anyway, what were you going to say about the Raiders in that time?
Nick, Evansville, IN

Answer: Good one. I didn't hang up on ESPN. We lost the connection. Good thing is there wasn't much else to say.

Question: Is there a possibility that Seabass may be replaced by our free agent pickup and the Raiders saving some money maybe to sign players?
Da Postman, Vacaville

Answer: No. Sebastian Janikowski will be the Raiders' kicker until Al Davis says otherwise. I can't see a scenario where the Raiders bring in a kicker to compete for the job.

Question: Anyway the Raiders can go get Anquan Boldin? The Cards need help at RB. We could give them a package including Bush or Fargas and a draft pick.
Brett, Phoenix

Answer: Can't see that happening under that scenario. As much Boldin would help the Raiders, it's not as easy a player for player deal with a draft pick thrown in.

Boldin is one of the best receivers in the league so I there's no way they'd make a deal like that for the Raiders' No. 3 back or for Fargas when they have Edgerrin James.

NFL trades can be complicated in terms of what team wants in return. And I also would be shocked if the Cardinals traded Boldin.

And by the way, don't let the preseason convince you the Raiders don't need Fargas. Without him, the Raiders backfield is young and unproven.


Question: Jason, Love the blog! You are by far more informative on the Raiders than anyone else. Earlier in camp I had read that Al's son was taking a more involved role. Is that true and is it possible could lead to some more level-headed decisions at the top? Thanks
Dave, San Carlos

Answer: Mark Davis has been at more practices this offseason. He's worked on the business side a lot but appears to be taking a bigger part in the football season. But Mark isn't going to be stepping in to overrule his dad anytime soon. And there's no way to know exactly what kind of football decisions he'd make.


Question: Hey Jason. What is going on with Lane and Javon? This is the second week in a row that he's had problems. I think that Al should fire Lane and get over with too much problems with him and Javon.
Jonathan, Philadelphia

Answer: I spoke with Javon the other day about Kiffin's constant criticism of him. He doesn't seem bothered at all by anything Kiffin says.

Walker knows his dropped pass was against Tennessee was bad. But he also wants more than two passes thrown to him.

"When you look at it guys drop that many passes in a game," Walker said.

He hasn't complained to Kiffin, he said, but just wants the chance to make plays.

One of Kiffin's ways of motivating players is to call them out publicly. Maybe it will work on Walker.

--Jason Jones

August 21, 2008
More on Upshaw and practice

ALAMEDA - As you could imagine much of the day was spent talking about the loss of Gene Upshaw.

Here's what others had to say:

Raiders assistant defensive backs coach Willie Brown, who was also Upshaw's roommate.

On Upshaw's leadership qualities:

"I saw that right away with Gene because I was the one who recommended that he be my alternate as a player rep. He fought me for a while, saying 'No, I don't want anything to do with it.' But when I got elected to the executive board to the players association I told Gene, 'I need you to be the player rep.' Because I saw those qualities that other people hadn't seen. I knew right away that Gene had the leadership and qualities to be a leader on and off the football field. That's why we picked him as one of the captains of the team."


On what players of the last 20 years owe to Upshaw:

"They owe him his loyalty, his dedication, his determination to fight for the players and that's what he did, for the old players and the new players. They have to realize the things that he went through as a player trying to get things done to better it for the players coming out today. Things like that really stick out in my mind. Players should realize the impact he had on their lives and the older players lives."

On how Upshaw changed the guard position:

"In the NFL, you don't find too many players playing that position who would go in the Hall of Fame right away. Gene was eligible within five years, and he went in right away. So, I used to tease him, because I went in earlier than he did, I said, 'Well, he might make it.' We knew all along, when Mr. Davis drafted Gene Upshaw, we knew that we had an extraordinary type of ball player and that would be set in that particular spot for the rest of his career. That's why we drafted him. That's why we saw the things that Mr. Davis did. A lot of people didn't go into those small schools at that time, but Mr. Davis had the intuition and the idea knowing that getting him would be a great player, and he didn't have to worry about that spot any longer. One other reason was that, in the league the Kansas City Chiefs had a player by the name of Buck Buchanon, who was my teammate at Grambling. So, we needed somebody to control Buck Buchanon. That's the first thing that Mr. Davis thought in his mind: A guy like Gene Upshaw can contain him, can stop him."


On Upshaw as a roommate:

"Being a rookie I made him do all the extra duties, go out and get my car washed, wash my clothes, make the bed and go cook when we needed to eat. That was the thing about Gene. He just did everything I wanted him to do as a rookie. He tried to roll over me a couple of times when he tried to roll around and I tricked him. We didn't speak for a couple of days because he got me blind-sided one time. Being roommates, I'd walk in the room and he'd go to sleep or he'd leave. Or he'd walk in and I'd leave. For a couple of days we went through that."

Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin on Upshaw:

"Obviously a very tragic loss for everyone in the NFL, especially the Raiders, was such a great player here, meant so much to this organization, as well as being a great person, too. There are so many things that he's done, but the thing that sticks out to me is that everyone who has been around here, before with him, my few interactions with him, a quality person and has meant so much to older players as well as younger players."

Hall of Fame coach John Madden:

"It was a real shock waking up this morning and hearing that Gene
had passed away. And it was such a shock because we all talk about
Raiders, and Raider family, and team being family and when something
like this happens, you realize that you really are family. Today we
lost someone in our family.

Gene was a great player. He was an All-Pro. He was a Hall of Famer. If
you look at the history of the NFL you're going to find out that he was
one of the most influential people that the league has known. He did so much, not only for the players, but also for the owners, the teams, and the game of pro football. In that, he is obviously going to be missed.

He was respected by everyone, because as a player he was a tough guy,
and as the union head he was a tough guy. But he was also smart, and he could compromise, and he could make things happen. This is deeper than head of the union passing away, and it's deeper than an ex-player. This is missing someone that is and was like family. It's a tough day for all of us."

Practice notes

*Today was the final day of scout team work before Saturday night's preseason game. As a result there were plenty of false starts by the scout team offense and a few turnovers. Kirk Morrison, Michael Huff and Ricky Brown all had interceptions.

*There were three dropped passes in seven-on-seven by the offense. Drew Carter, Zach Miller and Johnnie Lee Higgins were the offenders.

*The usual list of injured Raiders this week (K Sebastian Janikowski, P Shane Lechler, CB John Bowie, LB Grant Irons, S Hiram Eugene, WR Arman Shields) will not play Saturday against Arizona.

WR Drisan James missed practice because he was ill.

*Kiffin said the plan on offense is to throw the ball this weekend. Defensively, Kiffin is going to try to make life difficult for Arizona QB Matt Leinart, who played under Kiffin at USC.

"Yeah, we're going to go old school Buddy Ryan, as they call it around here," Kiffin said. "And we'll come after him every snap and put a bounty in the locker room on him."

That's a joke, people.

*S Tyvon Branch was left shaking his hand after hitting the football with his cast.

Branch doesn't know how long he'll have to wear the cast.

But Kiffin obviously wants it off.

"It's still something really hard to do, to be able to tackle with that," Kiffin said. "What I miss the most is I know he can tackle, I wish he was back there returning kickoffs for us, and getting through rookie mistakes back there right now."

Higgins will continue retuning kickoffs in place of Branch. Kiffin just hopes Higgins holds on to the ball this week.

*I love the coaching style of James Lofton. Even when the receivers are simply running routes for the scout team, he's on them about running the proper route and technique.

--Jason Jones

August 21, 2008
Al Davis on Upshaw

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders released the following statement from team owner Al Davis on the passing of Gene Upshaw:

"The Raider Organization, the National Football League, and the world have lost a great man. Gene Upshaw's career successes as a professional football player and a union leader are unparalleled. He is as prominent a sportsman as the world has known. He was and will remain a part of the fabric of our lives and of the Raider mystique and legacy. We loved him and he loved us.We will miss him. Our hearts go out to Terri and the boys."

Also here is the full statement from Art Shell:

"Today the Shell family and the entire football world is deeply saddened
and feels a great loss. Our friend and teammate Gene Upshaw was a
dynamic leader on and off the field. Gene was a true pioneer as one of
the few African American leaders of a major union. He was the equal of
owners in negotiations and made the league a better place for all
players. Playing alongside of Gene was an honor and a privilege. He was
a pillar of strength and leadership for our great Raider teams. It is
gratifying to know that Gene's memory will live on as a member of the
Pro Football Hall of Fame. His wife his Terri and his entire family _
our thoughts and prayers are with them today."

--Jason Jones

August 21, 2008
Shell on Upshaw

Former Raiders coach Art Shell on the death of Gene Upshaw. Shell played left tackle next to Upshaw to form one of the best left sides of an an offensive line in NFL history. Shell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989, two years after Upshaw.

Upshaw was a close friend who was the godfather to Shell's son, Art III.

"Gene was a true pioneer as one of the few African American leaders of a major union. He was the equal of owners in negotiations and made the league a better place for all players. Playing alongside of Gene was an honor and a privilege. He was a pillar of strength and leadership for our great Raider teams."

--Jason Jones

August 21, 2008
Goodell on Upshaw

Statement from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that appeared in an AP story on the NFL's web site on the death of Gene Upshaw.

"Gene Upshaw did everything with great dignity, pride, and conviction. He was the rare individual who earned his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame both for his accomplishments on the field and for his leadership of the players off the field. He fought hard for the players and always kept his focus on what was best for the game. His leadership played a crucial role in taking the NFL and its players to new heights."

--Jason Jones

August 21, 2008
Upshaw dead at 63

Raiders Hall of Fame guard and Gene Upshaw has died. He was 63. He was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer

Upshaw was the Executive Director of the NFL Players Association since 1983.

In is roles as NFLPA head, he'd been criticized by former players that felt neglected watching current players make millions. Some players had begun looking for Upshaw's eventual replacement.

Below is the statement released by the NFLPA:

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by the sudden and unexpected death of our leader, Gene Upshaw. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Terri, and their three sons - Eugene, Justin and Daniel. Gene learned he was sick just this past Sunday and he died with his family at his side. We ask that the media respect our need to begin the process of dealing with this unexpected tragedy and to begin the grieving process."

Upshaw spent 15 seasons with the Raiders after being a first-round draft pick from Texas A&I in 1967. He appeared in the Super Bowls in three different decades and his 217 games played are second in team history.

Upshaw's 24 play games are tops in team history.

He played in six Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

Check back throughout the days for comments from the team and former teammates.

--Jason Jones

August 20, 2008
The lingering problem

ALAMEDA - "Back in the huddle! Discipline!"

Those were Lane Kiffin's words after Tommy Kelly jumped offsides in practice.

"That was disappointing because it was third down and it wasn't even a hard count," Kiffin said.

Discipline is a yearly issue with the Raiders, who usually rank near the top in penalties committed.

Kiffin noted in spite of all the good-feelings about the running game the Raiders' offensive line ranked first in penalties last year.

"We're not skipping over that," he said. "That has been talked about this offseason a lot with them and it's somewhere that we have to improve, and through two games in the preseason we have improved in that. We need to continue to improve in that."

Kiffin (thankfully) doesn't buy into the conspiracies that the NFL is out to get the Raiders.

He believes the Raiders need to develop a mental toughness to prevent penalties.

"If you look at the breakdown of our offensive line penalties; where were they? Third down, fourth quarter and, especially, on the road," Kiffin said. "Well, what is that? Well, that's crowd noise and that's being tired. So, we try to put them in those situations as much as we can."

****
One of the next steps in JaMarcus Russell's development is having the savvy to know when to get rid of the ball.

He showed a knack for when to move in the pocket last week in Tennessee. Kiffin said having the so-called internal clock only comes from game experience.

"You can't do it in practice," Kiffin said. "You can say as much as you want: 'Ball gone, ball gone' when it's got to be gone but it's not the same as getting hit in the back of the head when you hold onto it too long. That's why we're playing him a lot in the preseason."

To help aid that, Russell will only play with the starting offensive line.

Because if you saw the hit Andrew Walter took last week with Mario Henderson at left tackle, it's easy to understand Kiffin doesn't want Russell's clock skewed.

If Russell weren't going to be in the game, Kiffin would sit the starters up front earlier.

"I (normally) wouldn't play that offensive line that long because I'm so worried about those guys with injuries," Kififn said. "(But) they need to play with JaMarcus because you can't put JaMarcus in there with the seconds."

So when you do get in, keep your head on a swivel Mr. Walter.

****

Practice tidbits

*Another down day for Raiders receivers. It's been a while since Kiffin has praised the unit.

So apparently Kiffin coming out and saying the passing game would be fine if the receivers did their part hasn't fired the group up.

" I don't how many today, probably seven drops today, and a number of them with our frontline guys," Kiffin said. "So we'll see. We'll come out here tomorrow and the plan is for these guys to play a lot in the game and get some shots to produce."

*When Kelly ran his lap for his penalty, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan joined him for a few yards to get him to pick up the pace.

*Russell has a pass intercepted by undrafted rookie defensive lineman Derrick Gray who leapt to snag a pass after dropping into coverage.

Oddly enough, Gray admitted after practice he doesn't have good hands. Well, they looked good for a play.

*Owner Al Davis watched practice from a golf cart on the sidelines.

*K Sebastian Janikowski (hamstring), P Shane Lechler (quadriceps), CB John Bowie (knee), LB Grant Irons (lower back) and S Hiram Eugene (hip) all missed practice.

Eugene is the only injured player that could see time this weekend.

--Jason Jones

August 20, 2008
Boldin would be nice in black

If the Raiders have another $11 million to spend on a wide receiver, there's a wideout on his way to Oakland this weekend worth it.

Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin wants to be traded.

It's unlikely the Cardinals would deal a two-time Pro Bowl player that is only 27. He's under contract through 2010.

And receivers are moody. Didn't Chad Johnson want no part of the Bengals a few months ago?

If there's a package the Raiders could put together to somehow land Boldin, they should.

Just don't expect it to happen. Chances are Boldin's preseason appearance this weekend is the closest he will get to being a Raider.

But I'll be asking around because you never know...

--Jason Jones

August 19, 2008
So far, so good, handling the ball

ALAMEDA - Lane Kiffin didn't really want to mention it.

The subject made JaMarcus Russell knock on wood.

Through two preseason appearances Russell hasn't "come close" to a turnover Kiffin said.

Russell said he's been made aware of ball security for a long time and Raiders coaches have emphasized that when he's on the move.

"The thing coach told me in high school was, the best play is the next play, when you still have the ball," Russell said. "... As far as being on the run, just try not to make any dumb decisions, just have the ball for the next play, keep the chains moving, and get some positive yards."

The Raiders are going to do their best to keep it simple for Russell similar to how Pittsburgh handled Ben Roethlisberger.

Rely on the running game, the defense and don't force the young quarterback to win games by himself.

It's not always the most exciting football to watch, but it's a good way not to put too much pressure on Russell.

So far, Russell understands his role and is happy with it.

****
Kiffin said the last doctor to examine X-rays of CB DeAngelo Hall's hand found no break.

Hall is still practicing with a cast covering the index and middle fingers of his right hand.

And it's clearly bothering him. He tried to intercept a pass from Marques Tuiasosopo and when the ball hit his hand, Hall didn't catch it and shook his hand before leaving the field.

Hall said during a television interview he had torn tendons. Could be ligaments. Who knows?

"There's nothing telling us that there's going to be surgery," Kiffin said. Everything tells us that he's going to be OK for the opener. The problem is he's got to wear that cast throughout all these practices and probably will still have to have it on this week. It's hard to tackle. It's hard to be a corner with a cast on, but it's the situation that it is and we'll make the best of it."

Kififn would like to see Hall play this week.

****
Kiffin was asked about his comments about the lack of roster movement. He didn't have much to say today.

The team still hasn't made any changes.

"I think that's kind of a dead issue," Kiffin said. "I said what I said and it's the situation it is. To keep dwelling on it is not going to do us any good."

He was then asked if he sought advice from his father, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

"No I don't really talk to him too much about it because unless you've been here, you don't understand it so he doesn't really have any advice for me," Kiffin said.

****
Practice notes

*WR Javon Walker had the chance to make an easy catch. He dropped the ball. The he dropped his head and walked over to the sidelines for 10 punishment push-ups.

Earlier in practice Walker made a nice play on a pass behind him.

*Robert Thomas took snaps with the first-team defense at outside linebacker. After the Tennessee game Kiffin said that job was Ricky Brown's to lose. Brown took snaps with the first team and was also the backup middle linebacker.

*Hall and the other player wearing a cast, S Tyvon Branch, did not catch passes during interception drills for defensive backs.

*WR Chaz Schilens continues to look good in practice.

*The Raiders ran a couple of two-minute drills at the end of practice. The first-team offense lost to the first team defense when after a Russell run for a first down put the ball at the offense's 49, there were four straight incompletions.

The second-team offense had a better time. There was a 17-yard completion from Andrew Walter to Todd Watkins followed by a 45-yard touchdown pass to Johnnie Lee Higgins on the next play.

That led starting right tackle Cornell Green to decry the playcalling.

"Y'all give them a go route?" he bellowed after watching Higgins score easily.

*K Sebastian Janikowski (hamstring), P Shane Lechler (quadriceps), CB John Bowie (knee), LB Grant Irons (back), S Hiram Eugene (hip) and WR Arman Shields (knee) did not practice.

--Jason Jones


August 18, 2008
Exit strategy?

Lane Kiffin has had no problem taking jabs at Al Davis publicly since training camp started.

He rips the roster Davis ultimately decides on and makes it known the weird things that make the Raiders the Raiders have nothing to do with him.

If this keeps up, you have to wonder if Davis would take Kiffin's words, assign "conduct detrimental to the team" to them and use it as a reason to fire (and not have to pay) the coach he wanted to force to resign.

Wide receivers coach James Lofton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan interviewed for the head coaching job back in 2007 and could step in immediately. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has also been looked at by Davis as a potential head coach.

But for now, the Raiders have the candid Kiffin.

Kiffin is no dummy. He knows what he says has to irk a lot of people at team headquarters (even if what he's saying is true).

But the honesty is refreshing. Too many Raider coaches stuck with players who had no business in the NFL and said nothing. They played and even started those players.

Kiffin is in the same situation, except he's speaking his mind.

We'll have to wait and see if Davis responds in his own way.

****
Kiffin is concerned about the lack of depth on the Raiders' roster. So where might he be most worried?

Offensive line

The only position where the Raiders don't have to worry is center with Jake Grove and John Wade.

Everywhere else the Raiders would be in big trouble.

Wide receiver

The only proven possible No. 1 option is Javon Walker. But would you be comfortable entrusting the passing game to him yet?

Ronald Curry and Drew Carter haven't been full-time starters much of their careers.

The most consistent player is an Atlanta Falcons castoff (Todd Watkins), with the rest of the group a mix of young players who need to prove they can be trusted on the field.

Linebacker

Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard are stars-in-the-making. Ricky Brown will start with them.

How the rest of the unit shapes up is anyone's guess.

Jon Alston and Robert Thomas figure to stick around, but that could easily change.

And I'm still not sure what Ed Hartwell did to be released.

Cornerback

Recent practices have shown how thin the Raiders are here. Nnamdi Asomugha, DeAngelo Hall and Stanford Routt are as good as any trio.

If one of them is injured ... uh oh.

Kick/punt return

Johnnie Lee Higgins, even if he took a step back in Tennessee, is the only viable option right now.

--Jason Jones

August 17, 2008
Making the best of what you've got

The Raiders wore a little more than irked when former receivers coach Fred Biletnikoff said in a radio interview part of the team's problem was it was using backup players in starting roles.

Lane Kiffin added to that today by noting the Raiders have "borderline guys that as of today would make it just because we don't have anybody else."

The makeup of the Raider roster is always an issue because of the involvement of owner Al Davis, who has a penchant certain players that are jokingly deemed "scholarship" Raiders.

Kiffin said a team has to be willing to release players that are always hurt in order to bring in new players.

When asked if he was hesitant to do that, Kiffin said: "No, I'm not."

LB Grant Irons, CB John Bowie and S Greg Wesley are Raiders that have spent more time hurt than practicing.

Irons returned to practice last week. After being out since the second day of camp.

Wesley was finally cut to make room for Adam Archuleta. Wesley a lot of practice time, too.

Bowie was the player selected with the draft choice for Randy Moss, so he won't be getting cut. He's been out since July 29.

Kiffin has continued to be open in discussing his relationship with Davis and defining what aspects of the job he controls.

The complete makeup of the roster is something Kiffin wants the world to know falls on Davis.

So with backups as starters and fringe players that wouldn't make another NFL team on the 53-man roster, who is blame?

Kiffin clearly doesn't want to be the fall guy.

****
Speaking of the roster, the development of LB Ricky Brown is a credit to his hardwork and the coaching staff.

"When we first got Ricky on the field, I went back into our meetings with our coaches and I couldn't even understand why the guy was here, watching him," Kiffin said. "But he's completely different."

Brown has the strongside linebacker job locked up provided he doesn't have a major setback on the field.

Brown was Kirk Morrison's backup last year.

"Once you play (middle linebacker) you're calling the defense, " Brown said Friday night. "You really understand how the defense works ... (now) it's about recognizing the formation and doing my job."

****
Kiffin said he told WR Javon Walker that Saturday's exhibition game against Arizona is "big" for him.

"I expect Javon to have a big game," Kiffin said. "I'm putting in a game plan and he should see some balls early in this game. Hopefully he'll make some plays."

Kiffin said Walker isn't the No. 1 receiver and that Ronald Curry and Drew Carter aren't battling to be No. 2.

They're fighting to be the "Z" and Walker is the "X" in the offense.

But the X in the offense is essentially the No. 1 because he needs to be dynamic and a playmaker.

It's the spot Randy Moss would have played if he weren't traded to New England.

"In the end if it becomes something where Javon is not playing as well as we need him to play, both of those guys have learned 'X' so they can go over there," Kiffin said. "I don't feel the need to do that right now."

****
*Raider receivers were dropping passes again in practice. Curry had two on one series. TE John Madsen had a drop, too. The inconsistency continues to hinder the passing game.

*TE Tony Stewart (toe), Bowie (knee), S Hiram Eugene (hip), S Michael Huff (ankle) and WR Arman Shields (knee) did not practice.

Shields and Huff came out to practice but were bothered enough to be pulled.

*P Shane Lechler and K Sebastian Janikowski are still out with leg injuries and could be out the rest of the preseason.

They aren't expected to play this week and Kiffin said if they're healthy, he would like to use them in the final exhibition game.
*CB DeAngelo Hall and S Tyvon Branch both practice wearing casts on their right hands.

*The team is off tomorrow and will treat this weekend's exhibition game like a regular season contest by planning for the opponent as opposed to running plays and not focusing too much on the opposition.

--Jason Jones

August 16, 2008
The receivers leave much to be desired

Took a break from Madden 09 to take part in Lane Kiffin's conference call to discuss Friday night's exhibition game in Tennessee.

The conference call, like the Monday press conference during the season, usually provides more insight because the coach has reviewed game film.

And in case you didn't watch the game or choose to ignore the obvious: the Raider wideouts weren't very good last night (except for rookie Chaz Schilens).

Kiffin was able to resume criticizing Javon Walker after he let a third-down pass on the Raiders' opening drive hit him in the hands and fall for an incompletion.

Walker also didn't come down with a catch on a fade route.

"For him to not go out there and make those plays, it's discouraging," Kiffin said. "He was paid an awful lot of money, paid like one of the top-5 receivers in the NFL so we need him to make those plays."

To recap, Kiffin has critiqued Walker's weight, desire, mental stability and effort. Now he's reminding Walker he's already cashed an $11 million check.

Kiffin said there wasn't enough from the Titans game to decide whether Ronald Curry or Drew Carter will start opposite Walker.

Curry had three catches for 19 yards. Walker and Carter failed to make a catch.

Kiffin noted any problems in the passing game last night weren't Russell's fault.

"Either things weren't there or a guy wasn't making a play for him," Kiffin said. "I thought he played really well."

Kiffin said mental errors by Johnnie Lee Higgins like last night's running an in route when he was supposed to run an out were reasons why he didn't play a lot last season.

The only receiver to receive any praise was Schilens (three catches, 45 yards).

****
The Raiders also remain undecided about their starting center after Kiffin said Jake Grove and John Wade both played well.

But it looks as if the starting defense is set with Ricky Brown taking the third linebacking spot.

"In that case it's Ricky's job to lose," Kiffin said.

****
Raider fans and defensive players aren't the only people that want to see more blitzing this season.

Add Kiffin to the list.

"We need to (blitz)," he said. "It's something that especially with as good as our back four can cover with our two corners and out two safeties. The more we can do to create more sacks and turnovers which were categories we weren't very good at last year."

I've always found it hard to believe the son of Buddy Ryan who also worked under Bill Belichick, Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, was against blitzing. But a certain Raiders owner isn't fond of too much blitzing.

So it's good to see more of Ryan's personality coming out in the playcalling.

****
Tackles Kwame Harris and Cornell Green "held their own" against Tennessee defensvie ends Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jevon Kearse, Kiffin said.

There weren't a lot of five and seven-step drops and JaMarcus Russell's mobility helps, too.

****
Kiffin said DeAngelo Hall won't be a candidate to return until he's no longer wearing a cast to play.

Darren McFadden remains the option if Higgins can't hold on to the ball on kickoffs.

--Jason Jones

August 16, 2008
Postgame notes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Johnnie Lee Higgins is still the Raiders' punt returner.

Lane Kiffin said he doesn't have any other options, even if Higgins' fumbling issues return again. He said after the game the team lacks another dynamic player to return punts.

Well, they do have someone, but he's hurt.

DeAngelo Hall.

He wasn't brought to Oakland to return punts. But he can.

Hall has only returned 13 punts for 123 yards in his career. He does have three fumbles.

But why not put Hall back there at some point?

It's not likely to happen, but it's worth a thought.

Higgins made two crucial errors before he fumbled.

First, he caught the ball at the five-yard line.

Some say a punt returner should stand at the 10 and if the ball goes over his head, just let it go. That would have been a good decision by Higgins.

Secondly, he tried to reverse field, which put him right by the goal line and made his fumble an easy touchdown for the Titans.

After four fumbles last season, Higgins knows ball security is a must. Without someone threatening to take his job, Higgins can focus on that without the fear of being benched.

"You just can't make a play all the time," Higgins said.

Right now, Higgins needs to focus on holding on to the ball or plays like his 53-yard punt return for a score last week won't matter.

Because Higgins would force Kiffin to put someone who at the very least won't fumble his chances away.

Kiffin said Darren McFadden would be the choice to replace Higgins on kickoffs while Tyvon Branch is out following surgery on his thumb.

But Kiffin really doesn't want to have McFadden return kickoffs.

That's probably why Kiffin ran an end around to Higgins on the first play on offense after the fumble. The team can't afford for Higgins' confidence to be crushed and force Kiffin to use one or two stars to handle Higgins' duties.

****

*Kiffin remained pleased with his starters on both sides of the ball.

The defense kept the Titans out of the red zone and the offense didn't commit any turnovers.

Kiffin had a lot of good things to say about JaMarcus Russell's play, especially on the touchdown drive.

"That drive was six passes, no runs," Kiffin said. "To put it in JaMarcus' hands and telling him after the drive 'This is how we're going to throw the ball. We're going to continue to call passes if you make the right decisions.'"

It wasn't just Russell's passes that Kiffin liked. He loved the way Russell moved in the pocket and showed he could make plays on the run.

*Kiffin said Hall could have played with a cast on his injured right hand but said it wasn't worth the risk to play him.

*Branch was supposed to play on defense wearing a cast to protect his broken right thumb. Kiffin said Branch was still in too much pain after surgery to play.

*Ran into Chris Carr after the game chatting with Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff. Carr is happy out here. He's a big boxing fan that still can't believe Miguel Cotto lost to Antonio Margarito.

*Kiffin took the blame for Oren O'Neal's fumble in the fourth quarter. He put him back in the game after an extended break because O'Neal had family at the game and wanted to let him score.

*Kiffin said there weren't many opportunities for wide receivers in the passing game. He noted it would have been nice if Javon Walker would have caught a slant from Russell on the opening drive on third down.

*Higgins' mistakes weren't limited to his fumble. An incompletion by Russell in the second quarter came because Higgins ran an in route instead of an out.

*If I'm Kiffin, I'm still wondering when one of my top-3 receiver will stand out. Ronald Curry showed some moves, but Walker and Drew Carter haven't done anything memorable yet in two exhibition games.

*Kiffin purposely played Tommy Kelly, Gerard Warren and Terdell Sands a lot to help their conditioning.

*The offensive gameplan was designed not to put tackles Cornell Green and Kwame Harris in tough situations.

That said, both did decent jobs against Jevon Kearse and Kyle Vanden Bosch, respectively.

It was also good to see Harris show some fight when Albert Haynesworth was in his face.

*If you kept watching the game in the second half and saw the hit Andrew Walter took, you know why Kiffin wanted no part of Mario Henderson blocking for Russell.

*We know Michael Bush can run over second-string players. I'd like to see Bush get more action against first-team defenses.

*McFadden looked good again. It's hard to believe the Titans didn't realize a draw was coming up when McFadden too Bush's place on the second-to last play of the first half.

He made them pay with a 26-yard gain to set up Aaron Elling's 56-yard field goal.

*Chaz Schilens made a couple of nice catches. Looks like James Lofton's prodding is starting to pay off.

*The Raiders blitzed on their first three plays. The players are quietly hoping the team isn't teasing with the blitzes as the players have wanted to do more of that for a while.

*I didn't blog during the game after giving that a try last week. I use the preseason for experiments, too. I didn't like that one.

--Jason Jones

August 15, 2008
Hall is out tonight

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In the end the Raiders are doing the sensible thing with CB DeAngelo Hall.

He won't play in tonight's exhibition game against the Tennessee Titans.

While the severity of his right hand injury is still being determined, it's only smart to sit Hall and not risk further injury.

Hall expressed concern about practicing with the hand injury that has bother him for a couple of weeks to the point he was wearing a cast on it.

TE Darrell Strong, who was thought to have a serious shoulder injury is suited up and warming up right now.

LT Kwame Harris is dressed for the game, which should prevent Mario Henderson from having to deal with Kyle Vanden Bosch tonight.

As Lane Kiffin said, that would have been a very interesting match up between Vanden Bosch and Super Mario.

CB John Bowie, TE Tony Stewart, K Sebastian Janikowski, P Shane Lechler and WR Arman Shields also won't play.

--Jason Jones

August 14, 2008
The truth can hurt

NASHVILLE - Face it. A lot of professional athletes are very sensitive.

They don't want to hear anything critical about themselves. Anything their coach says publicly is taken as a slight.

Lane Kiffin hurt some player's feelings last season with comments about the lack of talent on the team.

And Kiffin hasn't been kind with some Raiders during training camp.

Bill Callahan learned the hard way public critiques can lead to mutiny, especially when coupled with a losing record.

So far, no one (publicly) has a problem with Kiffin's blunt assessments of players.

"The good thing about this staff is they're brutally honest," said guard Robert Gallery. "I think that's good. It hurts some guy's egos but that's the way it is. You're either in or out."

Gallery noted it's better to be told the truth than to find out the hard way the team isn't good.

Past Raider coaches have tried to sugarcoat the obvious. It led to players with inflated views of themselves and a lot of losses.

That's why it isn't bad that Kiffin calls out his players publicly as long as he does it privately, too.

Either way, the truth will come out.

"You can't hide what you are," Gallery said. "It's the preseason but when it comes to that first game you'll know what type of team you are."

****
Award time

Training camp Offensive MVP

Darren McFadden

He looked as good as advertised.

Runner up

2. Michael Bush

He looks as if he's going to be a force.

3. Todd Watkins

Nondescript wideout caught almost everything thrown to him.

Defensive MVP

Gibril Wilson

Not so much for his play, but the attitude he's brought to the defense. Now all the Raiders want to hit someone.

2. Derrick Burgess

He looks as good as ever and should be in contention to return to the Pro Bowl.

3. Nnamdi Asomugha

One of the best cornerbacks excelled all of camp.

What needs work

*The entire passing game. Russell needs to be accurate, but he also needs receivers that get open and better protection.

*All the offensive tackles. The coaching staff gave Mario Henderson the opportunity to win a starting job and his performance did not impress.

Kwame Harris improved throughout camp whle the player Henderson was supposed to push at RT, Cornell Green, didn't have much to worry about.

The tackles will decide if the Raiders can throw more than short passes this season.

****
Things to look for in tomorrow night's game against Tennessee:

*Can the Raiders run the ball with Albert Haynewsorth in the middle of the defense. He gave the Raiders fits in last year's regular-season game.

*The wide receivers need to become involved in the passing game. And not just backup Todd Watkins.

Javon Walker, Ronald Curry or Drew Carter need to prove they can be a reliable target in the passing game. The passing attack has looked ragged much of training camp with poor timing being a big reason for that.

*The offensive tackles need to show they can pass block with some consistency. If not, tight end Zach Miller's receiving skills will be wasted because he'll have to pass block.

*The Raiders need to be strong up front on defense. Linebackers need to be aggressive and make sure the collisions happen in the backfield or at the line, not five yards past the line of scrimmage.

*How will Johnnie Lee Higgins handle returning kickoffs?

*Will Ricky Brown step up and assume the role as the third starting linebacker?

*Will Stanford Routt's solid training camp carryover?

*Justin Fargas won't play much so McFadden and Bush need to put together solid efforts.

--Jason Jones

August 13, 2008
Training camp is over

NAPA -- The Raiders just finished up the last practice of training camp here at the Napa Valley Marriott.

Tonight's practice featured offense and defense in preparation for Friday night's exhibition game at Tennessee. The team leaves tomorrow for Nashville.

Some quick hits:

*The Raiders signed P Glenn Pakulak to fill in for the injured Shane Lechler.

Pakulak was a backup punter during training camp in 2006.

LB Ed Hartwell was cut to make room on the roster.

*RB Adimchinobe Echemandu was not at practice. He's in Los Angeles to take his citizenship test and will meet the team in Nashville.

*James Lofton is extremely detailed in his coaching. He made rookie WR Chaz Schilens run a route three times and still pulled him aside to discuss his footwork.

*Even against the scout team, there were times the passing game didn't look crisp. CB Nick Sanchez picked off a pass that bounced of WR Drew Carter's hands.

*RB Darren McFadden had to run a lap for a false start.

*S Tyvon Branch was at practice but didn't participate. He'll play Friday wearing a cast after surgery on his broken thumb yesterday.

Coach Lane Kiffin said the effects of medication kept Branch in this morning.

*TE Tony Stewart was at practice in a walking boot.

*RB Justin Fargas had the night off as did WRs Javon Walker and Ronald Curry.

*LT Kwame Harris (sore shoulder) practiced.

--Jason Jones

August 13, 2008
Hall's hand still being checked out

NAPA - DeAngelo Hall will have his injured right hand looked at again Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said after this morning's practice.

According to Kiffin, to all that's known is there is a bruise and a "possible" sprain. Kiffin said there is nothing that says there is broken bone in the hand, even thought that's what Hall said.

Hall hurt the hand prior to last Friday's exhibition game during a practice and it's bothered him since.

"Well this is actually the third opinion," Hall said. "The second opinion was the team's idea. I still hadn't heard much from that. Somebody asked me, 'How do you feel knowing it's not broken?' That was the first time I've heard that. I guess I feel good. I know something still hurts, though. We're just going to try to get down to the bottom of it. I still can't touch anything. I can't put my hand down. Still very painful. My main thing is even if it's broken, it doesn't mean anything. If I can go out there and play then I can go out there and play. If something hurts something hurts. I gotta try to get to the bottom of it. I didn't sign a one-year deal. I'm looking more for the long term rather than a quick fix."

Hall expressed concern over having to practice and play in exhibition games with the injury.

Kiffin spoke with Hall about that this morning.

"Lane sat down with me earlier today and told me he didn't want me to play in the game but I practiced so far up to this week so it's no biggie to go in there and get a couple snaps," Hall said. "Just depends on how it goes. Obviously we're trying to figure out what is wrong. Like I said, they're sending me to a third guy just to kind of figure it out."

****
Nnamdi Asomugha's X-rays showed no bone damage to his right foot that he hurt in practice.

"It hurts when I walk," he said. "It definitely hurts breaking on the football. I'll continue to be limited in whatever I'm doing but I don't think it's a big issue."

The Raiders are thin at cornerback right now so Hall and Asomugha are practicing when rest would probably be the best for both.

Backup Michael Waddell didn't practice and another backup, John Bowie, is still out.

"We don't have much depth," Asomugha said. "It's very evident, you can see that. So it's definitely something that we've got to push through right now. If we had more depth we'd be able to take a little more time off and let stuff heal but it's training camp. We don't have many other bodies so we've kind of got to play through everything right now."

****
Add Shane Lechler to the list of injured players. He hurt his quadriceps at the end of yesterday's practice and will miss a week to 10 days according to Kiffin.

The team is flying in a punter to tryout rather than have Aaron Elling, who is filling in for injured kicker Sebastian Janikowski, handle both jobs.

****
Kiffin, after being critical of Javon Walker much of the offseason noted the recevier has put together some good practices of late.

Kiffin added Walker appears to be in a good state of mind after telling the team he wanted to retire almost two weeks ago.

Walker agreed and it's shown in his play of late.

"Obviously if you can make it through the training camp the hard part is done," Walker said. "So it's kind of like why make it through training camp and stop now."

Walker said he weighs about 206 pounds after spending much of his career closer to 220 pounds.

Kiffin was critical of Walker's conditioning during offseason workouts.

****
LT Kwame Harris is nursing a sore right shoulder that he doesn't believe is serious.

If he doesn't play, someone who the coaching staff doesn't believe is ready for the responsibility would.

Super Mario (Henderson) would start for us on JaMarcus' backside and that'll be interesting versus ... (Kyle) Vanden Bosch."

Vanden Bosch is a Pro Bowl defensive end. Henderson is "a long ways away from being ready to play," Kiffin said.

****
LB Ricky Brown will start instead of Robert Thomas against Tennessee. C John Wade gets the nod over Jake Grove and WR Ronald Curry will start ahead of Drew Carter.

Curry and Brown both missed the exhibition opener against the 49ers.

Kiffin hopes to have those issues settled soon and go into next Saturday's game against Arizona with the starting lineup settled.

Johnnie Lee Higgins will return kickoffs and punts. Kiffin noted that setup works well for Chicago.

But Higgins is far from being Devin Hester.

Higgins is returning kicks while S Tyvon Branch wears a cast on his right arm.

Players out for the game are Lechler, Janikowsk (hamstring)i, Bowie (knee) and TE Darrell Strong (shoulder). Rookie WR Arman Shields (knee) is "likely" out according to Kiffin.

--Jason Jones

August 12, 2008
Hall practicing with broken bone in his hand

NAPA - DeAngelo Hall intercepted another pass in practice this afternoon while wearing a cast on his right hand.

He hurt the hand several practices ago and banged it up some more in the Raiders exhibition season opener last Friday.

Hall said the injury the team said was a sprain is worse than reported and that the injury "affects everything."

"I've got a little broken bone in there," Hall said. "It affects everything. I don't even feel like I should be out here practicing or going into the preseason but it's something nobody else feels like its affecting anything so I'm out there practicing and playing games."

Raiders coach Lane Kiffin has already said he is powerless in adding players to the roster, which means Hall might have to stay on the field.

The team has been dealing with injuries at cornerback lately. To make it worse, Nnamdi Asomugha left practice have on his foot prove to be a serious injury.

Hall said he is practicing because he is being told to. He didn't practice Monday morning while getting an MRI on his hand, but returned for the night practice.

"No, it ain't my choice," Hall said. "But I'm employee 23. I do what I'm told."

I will update later with more on the practice and coach Lane Kiffin saying this team isn't very good right now and needs as much practice as possible.

(UPDATES)

The Raiders' next exhibition game is Friday. Kiffin has already said the team needs to get tough and could use more practice.

"I wish we had more time," Kiffin said. "The reality is I don't think we're very good right now as a team. Whatever that first game was, I think we're going to have a big test going into Tennessee against that team. If we don't have our stuff right and our guys aren't right we'll get run out of that stadium real quick."

Hall wasn't bothered by Kiffin's assessment.

"Any coach is going to say that but I think we're ready," Hall said. "A lot of guys aren't ready to do things in life until they're thrown in the fire. Then you've either got to man up or bitch up. I think we're ready to man up."

And as Hall is showing, just because the team signs you to a deal worth up to $70 million, doesn't mean you don't have to "man up" in practice with an injury.

****
Today's practice wasn't exactly a display in the excellent execution.

"I didn't think we were very crisp, especially early," Kiffin said. "A number of penalties early. We restarted the whole 9-on-7 down there due to that. I didn't think we were very crisp in the passing game until we got to 7 on 7. Lot of incompletions, lot of poor timing so that's continuing to be disappointing."

The passing game continues to raggedy, as Kiffin noted with his comment about the timing being off.

Kiffin won't allow the fact that the Raiders' secondary has two Pro Bowl cornerbacks to be a reason to continue to struggle.

"That's part of it but that's no excuse," Kiffin said. "We have to improve our timing, consistency. It's going to continue to hurt us until we have all of our receivers practicing every day with our quarterback and we're in good enough shape that they can do that."

If you take that as Kiffin reminding Javon Walker to be on the field as much as possible, you're probably on the right track.

JaMarcus Russell would appear to have a rapport with his running backs and tight ends because they haven't missed nearly as many practices.

Russell is often throwing check downs to them rather than going deep, especially during seven-on-seven drills.

"JaMarcus went 5-for-5 and a number of those were check downs but that's what was there," Kiffin said. "In that drill our linebackers play really deep in general in zone coverage so you're going to deal with a lot of check downs versus our defense. And when you're in 7 on 7 you're going to deal with check downs."

****

Just because the Raiders are closing up camp doesn't mean two-a-days are over.

So perhaps Kiffin's declaration that practices would be so hard that games would be easy could come true in Alameda.

"It's going to be how they respond," Kiffin said. "If we go down there and we're not practicing the way we need to be, if we go out in Tennessee and get our butts kicked and come back and don't practice the way we need to then we can always go back to that format."

****
*With cornerbacks playing hurt and getting hurt, the Raiders signed rookie CB Nick Sanchez and cut LB Malik Jackson.

*Sanchez, Hall, Thomas Howard and Michael Huff had interceptions for the defense.

*LB Grant Irons is called "Game Ready" but he won't be playing in any games if he does what he did today and tackle starting running back Justin Fargas when players aren't supposed to be tackling.

"Irons stay the (expletive) up," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan yelled at him.

*Kiffin said Walker's practice today was probably his second best of camp without having reviewed the film. Walker looked like the best receiver on the field today.

"I thought he had a really good (practice) against San Francisco," Kiffin said. "But I thought he did some things today."

*TE Darrell Strong (shoulder), K Sebastian Janikowski (hamstring) and CB John Bowie (knee) won't play in Tennessee. TE Tony Stewart (toe) is expected to play.

S Tyvon Branch (thumb) had surgery today but will play with a cast on it.

WR Johnnie Lee Higgins is the favorite to return kickoffs in place of Branch.

*Actor Antonio Fargas of "Huggy Bear" fame attended practice to watch his son, Justin.

Kiffin said Fargas is the most game ready of all the players on offense and will likely play the least on Friday.

--Jason Jones

August 12, 2008
Eugene rebounds from tough end to 2007

NAPA - Hiram Eugene was given the opportunity to be the Raiders starting free safety last year.

After five starts in the last six games where Eugene struggled with his tackling it was clear the Raiders needed an upgrade. That led to the addition of Gibril Wilson and Michael Huff moving to free safety.

Eugene hasn't sulked. He looks like a better player.

"Coach (Rob) Ryan always says 'I'm going to see what you can do,'" Eugene said. "And he'll put me in the position and I've just got to show up."

Eugene has a knack for intercepting passes in practice and is showing versatility.

With the team short on cornerbacks Eugene filled in covering receivers in the slot.

"He looks bigger, he looks stronger and he looks more confident," said Raiders coach Lane Kiffin. "He has a better look about himself. He looked more confident in the game so I think it was valuable for him to go through last year and struggle at times and get that out of his system, just like Johnnie Lee (Higgins) did hopefully. I'm excited about both those guys."

Eugene said he played cornerback in college so covering slot receivers in dime packages isn't completely new.

He credits dedication to studying the playbook with making the transition easier.

Eugene intercepted a pass in the exhibition opener and had an interception in the preseason last year, too.

His work on special teams is lauded, too.

"I take it one day at a time and I take it for what it's worth," Eugene said. "And if I get a chance to start again I'm just going to be happy and go hard for it. And like I said, take it one day at a time and see how it goes and prepare like I'm a starter."

--Jason Jones

August 11, 2008
Archuleta "jazzed" to be a linebacker

NAPA - The newest Raiders linebacker made his debut in practice.

Adam Archuleta said after being released by Chicago in May he decided he wanted to make a team playing linebacker rather than safety, where he'd been much of his career.

"It's been in the back of my mind for a while," Archuleta said. "I enjoy playing in the box and that's what gets me jazzed so I decided I was going to try to make a run at linebacker."

Outside of Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard, the linebacker situation with the Raiders is unsettled at best.

The team has looked at Ricky Brown, Robert Thomas and Sam Williams to play strongside linebacker. The team now has 11 linebackers on the roster not including longsnapper Jon Condo.

"There's two guys that have made this team," said Raiders coach Lane Kiffin. "The rest of the guys are battling."

Archuleta's best shot at starting would be at strongside linebacker even though Kiffin said Archuleta would play the strong and weakside.

"Anybody we can add, especially somebody that's got some experience and that's played that can make us better, deeper, add more competition ... I'm all about that," Kiffin said.

Archuleta has tried to add weight to play linebacker but said he basically played linebacker for St. Louis even though he was listed as a safety and was a linebacker in college.

He's listed at 5-11, 225 pounds.

"You've just got to make plays," Archuleta said. "You've got to be smart, use your speed ... played four years at (Arizona State) at 200 pounds. I played inside the box my whole career in the NFL. I basically played nickel linebacker for four years so it's really a matter of just learning the keys. Being down there with the big boys is really nothing new to me."

Archuleta is on his third team in three years after being a first-round pick of St. Louis in 2001.

He was traded to Chicago in 2007 after signing a big contract with Washington in 2006.

"It was just a matter of not taking advantage of my opportunities and here I am, so it just didn't work out," Archuleta said of his last two stops. "I just didn't play very well."

****
CB DeAngelo Hall returned to practice after an MRI this morning showed he had a sprained right hand.

He wore a cast on the hand and will continue to do so.

The injury seemed to energize Hall tonight. He put a hit on WR Johnnie Lee Higgins on a pass and a diving interception off a pass that slipped out of JaMarcus Russell's hand around the goal line. Hall also showed up big against the run.

"A lot of guys would have pulled themselves out of that goal line period with the cast on but he stepped right up and there was play right there where he stepped up even though we weren't live, hit as hard as he could," Kiffin said. "... Our team needs to feel that. From a corner to go up and fit inside the C gap like that on the goal line and make a hit like that, I'm not going to slow that up."

****
Offense didn't look great tonight. The passing game continues to rely on underneath passes with not much going on with the wide receivers.

Part of that is due to the Raiders' cornerbacks. But if the offense is to be successful, there has to be completions to someone other than tight ends and running backs.

The team tried a two-minute drill featuring Russell and the backup offensive line and backup receivers.

Russell couldn't complete passes, missing the likes of Chris McFoy badly.
As you can imagine, it wasn't pretty.


****
*RB Adimchinobe Echemandu (hand) left practice and his injury. Kiffin said the injury could keep him out of Friday's exhibition game at Tennessee.

*RB Michael Bush left practice with a stinger but is expected to play.

*WR Javon Walker practiced tonight. It's the second time he's taken part in both practices on a day where there are two.

*WR Ronald Curry, OLs Cornell Green and Robert Gallery and DLs Terdell Sands and Derrick Burgess had the night off.

*LB Ricky Brown worked with the first-team defense along with Morrison and Howard.

*S Tyvon Branch is still getting used to the "club" better known as his right arm in a cast. He came out of practice briefly shaking his right arm after a collision with Bush.

*Howard picked off a pass that bounced of RB Darren McFadden's hands.

*Tonight's penalty runners were:

T Kwame Harris
DT Tommy Kelly (twice, and he went nice and slow on his jogs)
Walker (twice, even though he didn't finish the second lap)
DT Jay Richardson
T Mario Henderson

*International practice squad player DT Mauricio Lopez nearly took a handoff intended for McFadden.

He came through the line and QB Marques Tuiasosopo attempted to give the ball to McFadden on a draw but Lopez was in the way. The ball came free and Tui fell on it.

--Jason Jones

August 11, 2008
Are the Raiders ready for the Titans?

NAPA - The Raiders run defense suffered a lot in recent years because too often the defenders were either easily moved out of the way or seemingly wanted no part of physical play around the line of scrimmage.

That's why Lane Kiffin is looking forward to Friday night's exhibition game in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans.

It will be an early indication after a strong effort in the exhibition opener as to whether the Raiders want to be the aggressors.

"I love the matchup of a very physical team, not a team that tries to trick you," Kiffin said. "They come right out you so I'm really glad. It's the perfect opponent that we can have right now."

The Raiders lack of aggression in the run was embarrassing at times. Watching (fill in the blank) run through the defense for 100-yard games should have hurt the pride of the group.

For the short stint the starters were in, the defense showed some early strides in stopping the run.

"We tackled well," Kiffin said. "That was the whole key, was us tackling."

Discipline also helps. As one coach put it, in a one-gap scheme like the Raiders play with a safety back deep, one player out of position guarantees a seven or eight-yard gain if the back sees the hole.

That happened a lot last year, along with the missed tackles.

Early in the exhibition season the Gibril Wilson effect is being felt.

"We got ourselves a real strong safety, that was obvious in the few plays he was in there," Kiffin said. "I like the direction we're going but we're going to have a heck of a test this week. They put up 350 something on the ground, Tennessee, so I love the test that we have the week."

--Jason Jones

August 11, 2008
Archuleta is on board

NAPA -- Per the Raiders web site, the signing of Adam Archuleta is official. The team lists him as a safety.

To make room for Archuleta, the Raiders released safety Greg Wesley.

--Jason Jones

August 11, 2008
They don't roll deep

NAPA - Lane Kiffin believes the Raiders roster is more talented than a year ago but he's still looking for a deeper team.

And he'd like to have a problem of needing to hide players at the end of the exhibition season so they aren't picked up after they are released and can be quickly added to the practice squad.

"We don't worry too much about it because we've got to figure out our team," Kiffin said. "To hold a guy back and try to save him so someone else doesn't see him, we're a long ways from getting to that position. Our roster's not deep enough to worry about that. We've got to find who can play for us. Maybe someday we'll worry about that."

That said, the Raiders haven't brought in a lot of players during camp. The only player released since practices began was injured offensive lineman Mark Wilson.

That's not Kiffin's call.

"It's been a situation that unfortunately, we haven't brought guys in," Kiffin said. "I control what I can control, come out every day and get our guys as good as we can. I'm pleased with the top of our roster but we need to add to the bottom of our roster. We need more competition."

The areas lack depth the most are cornerback and the offensive line. With a rash of injuries in the secondary, the Raiders had only four corners.

Safety Hiram Eugene helped fill in for some drills.

"Yeah, it's hard," Kiffin said. "You don't get many one-on-ones so our receivers end up going on air. We put Hiram down there today in slot a little bit to help us out but it's a situation we've been in now for awhile. It is what it is."

****
Speaking of guys that need a break, the Raiders don't have an extra punter and didn't have an extra kicker until signing Aaron Elling to fill-in for injured kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

"You know we talk about that every time," Janikowski. "That's between me and Shane what we talk about, I couldn't tell you. It would help but it's not my decision."

Janikowski said his injured hamstring is progressing fine. He hurt it on a kickoff in practice last Wednesday.

He's not expected to play until Aug. 23 when the Raiders host Arizona.

Janikowski did some light jogging, something he said wasn't possible two days ago. If it weren't the preseason, he said he'd be available.

"Yeah, if I had to I probably could," Janikowski said. "Just make sure it's going to be healthy."

****
Kirk Morrison is one of two Raider defenders that will wear the helmet that will allow communication from the sidelines via a headphone inside.

The team can have two players wear it, but hasn't decided who the other player will be. Only one player can wear the headset on the field for defense.

****
The teams went light in practice today and will wear pads tonight.

There were a few fumbles today. Darren McFadden had two fumbles and Zach Miller fumbled, too.

Not exactly the way to follow up a turnover-free exhibition debut.

****
Here's the injury report

*TE Darrell Strong left practice with what the Raiders believe might be a separated right shoulder.

*LB Ricky Brown(knee, back) is probable for Friday's game. He moved well in some individual drills.

*TE Tony Stewart (toe), CB Michael Waddell (back) CB John Bowie (knee) and CB DeAngelo Hall (hand) all missed practice. Hall had an MRI on his hand after X-rays were negative.

"We just have to be real safe with it because obviously that's a big part of him is how well he can play the ball," Kiffin said. "We took it to the best guy we could find and he'll be back in a minute."

*Funny moment of practice: Rob Ryan singing "Teddy's Jam" in honor of Chris Johnson jamming Johnathan Holland at the line of scrimmage.

For those that don't know what I'm talking about, enjoy some New Jack Swing:

--Jason Jones

August 11, 2008
Another safety plan

NAPA -- The Raiders will announce the signing of safety Adam Archuleta sometime soon.

The Raiders will need to release a player to make room for Archuleta or place a player on injured reserve.

The San Francisco Chronicle says Archuleta is going to be a linebacker.

Archuleta, 30, was a first-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2001. He spent last year with Chicago after a year in Washington.

The addition doesn't help the Raiders need at cornerback where the team is thin.

John Bowie is still out, DeAngelo Hall missed practice to have an MRI on his hand and Michael Waddell is out with a lower back injury.

More from Lane Kiffin's press conference and practice still to come.

--Jason Jones

August 10, 2008
Kiffin teases fans with McFadden

OAKLAND - Raider fans can't say Lane Kiffin doesn't think about them.

He tried a couple of things to give the Raiders reason to cheer at the Raider Nation Celebration at McAfee Coliseum.

So will Darren McFadden return punts as he did in practice today?

"No," Kiffin said. "He can. I was just trying to give our fans something to cheer about. He was standing there on the sidelines so I threw him out there

The second time was when Kiffin tried to have McFadden catch a pass on a fake field goal only to have defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and safety Hiram Eugene run interference.

"I was trying to excite the fans again," Kiffin said. "So, I had Darren stand next to me and told Shane (Lechler) to throw him the ball. It was good to see Rob compete. Rob heard me whisper that, so he whispered to Hiram about 10 yards ahead of him to go cover him. So, it really didn't work."

Eugene picked off Lechler's pass with one hand while holding his helmet in the other hand.

Eugene also picked off a pass during seven-on-seven drills.

****
Tyvon Branch practiced with a cast on his right hand because of a broken thumb.

"Hopefully I can use it as a weapon for a while," Branch said with a laugh. "You have to look at the glass half full instead of half empty."

The injury means Branch won't be returning kickoffs, but Branch isn't down. He'll have surgery on the thumb but will still be able to practice and play.

"He's going to have surgery within the next 48 hours on it, and hopefully he'll be out (of the return game) for about three weeks," Kiffin said.

It's just a new experience trying to tackle someone with a cast on.

"After I get used to wrapping up with it I think I'll be all right," Branch said. "...It doesn't hurt. It's just bulky."

****
Branch wasn't the only Raider wearing a cast.

DeAngelo Hall had a cast on his right hand.

Hall originally hurt his hand during a training camp practice. Hall had a cast put on over his gloved hand.

"It keeps bothering him every once in awhile," Kiffin said. "He took a rep in one-on-ones and I think I saw out of the corner of my eye he banged it again because he went off the field to go see the trainers. It continues to bother him. It hurts him especially on contract drills."

****
*JaMarcus Russell continues to practice with a sleeve on his right arm but there are no limitations on him, Kiffin said.

*Kiffin said he was pleased with the effort he saw today. Even though it was a day for the fans, Kiffin stressed the team needed to get work done.

"We're not in a position where we can have a practice that isn't full speed for
us right now," Kiffin said.

*Kiffin on LB Grant Irons, who dressed for practice but didn't take part in team work:

"He had a great workout yesterday, so he's about as ready as he's going
to get. Hopefully we'll get him back out there and get to take a look at him."

*LB Ricky Brown (knee, back) didn't take part in contact drills but is expected to play Friday in Nashville.

*Kiffin was pleased with how WR Todd Watkins played on special teams against the 49ers. He also caught three passes for 39 yards.

"You can't ask much more out of him right now for what he does," Kiffin said. "He keeps making plays."

Watkins has been a training camp star with the catches he's made but will need to play special teams to secure a roster spot with Javon Walker, Ronald Curry, Drew Carter and Johnnie Lee Higgins assured roster spots.

"It really has not been a team that has used its receivers on special teams (outside of returning kicks)," Kiffin said. "So, it would be great to get a guy like him, or a guy like Chaz (Schilens), if they were able to make the team, they both are guys that can contribute on special teams."

*Even though rookie Arman Shields' injured knee is the same knee he hurt in college, Kiffin said the problems that have limited him lately aren't related to the college injury.

"We drained it the other day," Kiffin said. "He'll feel fine, then he'll go back and it will bother him a little bit. We hope it's not a long-term thing because he needs to get out there and play."

*There 14,378 fans in attendance today.

*The team returns to Napa tomorrow and will finish camp in Napa on Wednesday.

--Jason Jones

August 10, 2008
Raider Nation time

OAKLAND -- I'm at the Raider Nation Celebration waiting for practice to start.

Unlike last year's event, the team plans on holding an actual practice.

Raiders not practicing are CB John Bowie, K Sebastian Janikowski, WR Arman Shields, TE Tony Stewart.

(Update) S Greg Wesley and LB Grant Irons are dressed and doing drills on the side. It doesn't look as if either will take part in the full practice. CB Michael Waddell is also watching practice.

--Jason Jones

August 9, 2008
No Run DMC on kickoffs yet

Notes from Lane Kiffin's conference call today:

He said the thumb injury to Tyvon Branch won't cause him to miss any games but would likely cost him the kickoff return job because he'll have a cast on his right arm.

"I don't know how he'd be able to do that," Kiffin said. "We don't know the time frame on how long it'll be until he can do that again so we'll have to look at some other guys."

One of those guys won't be Darren McFadden.

"In preseason games to put him back there would be a little bit dangerous," Kiffin said.

McFadden has practiced kickoff returns. Kiffin said McFadden could be an option in the regular season.

Johnnie Lee Higgins and Jonathan Holland are candidates to fill Branch's role on kickoffs. Chris Johnson filled in last night.
****
Kiffin had praise for Andrew Walter. He was beaten down physically in 2006 only to be beaten more mentally last season when he was the fourth quarterback and not even dressing for games.

Walter completed 10 of 12 passes for 82 yards and remains the leader to be JaMarcus Russell's backcup.

"It was only one game and we've got to keep it up for the rest of the preseason," Kiffin said. "Anytime someone does that well, especially at that position, it builds your confidence in them. Like I said before Andrew's gone through a lot and I think it's made him stronger."

****
Javon Walker didn't make any catches in his brief time on the field. Here's Kiffin's assessment of Walker.

"Unfortunately the one ball he went up for he wasn't able to get. But he came back well off the line of scrimmage on one of Andrew's two incompletions, he overthrew him. It really wasn't a difficult throw. Javon made a good move at the line and got himself in position to make a play. Unfortunately we overthrew him."

****
Speaking of the passing game, Kiffin is still far from confident in relying on the offense to win a shootout with Russell throwing the ball a lot.

Kiffin was adamant last year the Raiders couldn't win games throwing the ball. That hasn't changed yet, even with the new additions.

In fact, the new faces give Kiffin more reason to be cautious.

"I'm not confident in that yet. The first unit didn't play that long and I don't know that we can be a pass-heavy team and throw the ball all over the place. With the right tackle (Cornell Green) that was injured the last half of the year coming back and a new left tackle (Kwame Harris) and not very much line depth there's no part in me right now that could tell you we could change from where we were last year."

Simply put, I hope you all enjoyed the Fargas-McFadden-Bush Show because chances are they will have to carry the Raiders on offense.

****
Kiffin sees improvement from this time a year ago in run blocking which can be attributed to many of the players having a year's worth of experience in the zone-blocking scheme.

They're cutting defensive linemen better this time around.

"At the same time John Wade's new here, Kwame's new here so they're like rookies as far as the system goes," Kiffin said.

****
Last night's unheradled player that played well was running back Louis Rankin. He ran for 91 yards with a long run of 72 in only eight carries.

But earning a roster spot at running back is about as daunting a job as there can be with the Raiders.

Fargas, Bush and McFadden have tailback taken care of. Justin Griffith and Oren O'Neal are the fullbacks. Griffith can also carry the ball if needed.

"It'll be a tough unit for (Rankin) to crack but it'll be similar to what Adimchinobe (Echemandu) went through last year," Kiffin said. "I think he was the second leading rusher in the AFC in the preseason or something like that."

Echemandu made the team out of camp but was eventually released to make room for Dominic Rhodes when he returned from his suspension.

Echemandu is one of the backs competing with Rankin for a job this camp, too.

If Rankin continues to play well, the Raiders will be in a tough spot if they want to keep him.

Rankin is an ideal practice squad player. Rankin can return kickoffs so he's a nice player to stash away in case of an injury to a running back.

But with good play, he might be snatched up by another team if let go by the Raiders and not have a chance to be added to the practice squad.

And to think the Raiders weren't even sure Rankin would make the training camp roster.

****
Kiffin mentioned Tommy Kelly, Derrick Burgess and Thomas Howard that stood out on the first-team defense.

Kelly looked strong in the middle while Burgess was in some different spots as the team continues to move him around to free him up to make more plays. Kiffin liked the way Howard attacked the fullback at the line of scrimmage rather than meeting him on the Raiders side of the line.

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
Postgame notes

OAKLAND -- Michael Bush said he was halfway in tears prior to going on the field for the first time.

If Lane Kiffin had any tears, they would be of joy because he saw exactly what he wanted from Bush.

Kiffin said he was especially impressed with Bush's feet. He weighs almost 250 pounds, but moves extremely well.

Bush said he knows because he's a big guy and defenders like to go for his legs, he has to have quick feet.

Bush ran for 27 yards in eight carries and a five-yard touchdown, stepping through Niners safety D.J. Parker on the way.

*Darren McFadden said he was nervous until he got hit.

*It looks like if Kififn has more than one running back he likes, he will mix it up. Last year he rarely did that, but with Bush, McFadden and Justin Fargas he said he likes the idea of changing things up.

He said it's what USC did with Reggie Bush and LenDale White to keep defenses off balance.

*Kiffin was happy the Raiders didn't have any turnovers and came away with four.

*Tommy Kelly looked strong in the middle. That's good news for the run defense. He'll get better as he gets into better shape. Kelly was left in for a few extra snaps along with Gerard Warren to get some extra work for conditioning purposes.

*The passing game still needs work and thankfully for the Raiders they have a little time. I have to wonder if the long pass Javon Walker didn't go up and catch from JaMarcus Russell might have been different if he were in better shape. Expect Kiffin to really push Walker now that he has game film of him not getting up high to make a catch.

*Johnnie Lee Higgins returning a punt for a touchdown and another punt for good yardage that was negated by a penalty was another positive. Kiffin attributed Higgins play (which included a snag of a quick slant from Russell for a first down) to improved confidence and work in the weight room.

Maybe new strength coach Brad Roll will end up being the team MVP.

*Kiffin said Sebastian Janikowski hurt his left leg in practice on Wednesday. He doesn't expect it to be a major issue and hopes Jano will be able to kick in the next preseason game.

*Tyvon Branch will have surgery on his injured right thumb. It's another injury Kiffin doesn't think is serious, even though Branch will have surgery. Branch came back into the game wearing a cast.

"I ran down on punt and caught a helmet in the pile," Branch said.

*Kiffin liked what he saw from the first-team in run defense.

*Didn't talk to Russell after the game. By time reporters got into the locker room, Russell was gone.

*Kiffin also noted the play of Greg Spires at defensive as a plus with the second unit.

*The Raiders ran for 248 yards and averaged six yards a run. The 49ers netted 70 yards on the ground.

*In an attempt to rest Shane Lechler, expect the Raiders to go for it on fourth down in the preseason more often than they would during the regular season.

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
Something don't change

OAKLAND -- Mario Henderson owes the team two laps around the field. His back-to-back penalties are typical of what's been happening with him during training camp.

Henderson has had a few false starts in camp. But his second penalty is one the Raiders might want to watch for more in practice.

Henderson wasn't on the scrimmage in his stance and earned an illegal formation penalty.

Henderson does that a lot in practice on passing downs but it's not something the Raiders call in practice or punish with a lap.

That might change.

August 8, 2008
Game ball

OAKLAND -- The game isn't over, but Michael Bush is looking like the star of tonight. He's playing like someone truly excited to be on the field for the first time in nearly two years.

Bush has shown quick feet, good hands and the willingness to run someone over.

It looks the Raiders' backfield will be special ... if you buy into how a guy does this time of year.

*And props to Michael Waddell for forcing a fumble. He's been beat more than his fair share of times in coverage during camp. It's nice to see something good happen for him.

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
Flip time

OAKLAND -- Johnnie Lee Higgins does it again.

He returned a punt for a score during the preseason last year and just did again with a 53-yard return for a score.

And his he did last year, Higgins celebrated by turning flips in the end zone.

As long as he doesn't fumble like he did last year during the regular season, that's one part of special teams that should be fine this season.

Higgins is looking forward to a bigger role in the offense. I spoke with him the other day about being the slot receiver this year and it's something he's excited about getting more opportunities to do.

He's actually played slot and on the outside and really doesn't care where he gets his chance.

But if he can use the same shiftiness in the slot he's shown on punt returns, that would appear to be an ideal spot in the offense.

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
Bush gets his turn

OAKLAND -- Michael Bush takes the field in an NFL uniform and runs for seven yards. But you have to wonder if Kiffin saw what he wanted on the fourth and 2 from Bush. I guess Bush could have just lowered his head for no reason into a crowd, but it didn't look like there was anywhere for him to run.

Based on what Bush showed, I still think Bush might have been able to help the Raiders last year.

But hey, at least LaMont Jordan didn't end up in Denver, right.

*Holding, 65, offense.

That was the call on 49ers tackle Barry Sims on a run in the second quarter. Haven't we heard that before?

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
Bush gets his turn

OAKLAND -- Michael Bush takes the field in an NFL uniform and runs for seven yards. But you have to wonder if Kiffin saw what he wanted on the fourth and 2 from Bush. I guess Bush could have just lowered his head for no reason into a crowd, but it didn't look like there was anywhere for him to run.

Based on what Bush showed, I still think Bush might have been able to help the Raiders last year.

But hey, at least LaMont Jordan didn't end up in Denver, right.

*Holding, 65, offense.

That was the call on 49ers tackle Barry Sims on a run in the second quarter. Haven't we heard that before.

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
So much for...

OAKLAND -- That story that JaMarcus Russell would play a lot ... not.

Lane Kiffin got Russell out after two series which is exactly how long most regulars play. Kiffin said Russell would play longer that most regulars but with the starting offensive line out, that didn't happen.

Apparently Russell won't be treated like a player that needs a lot of work.

*And who said Terdell Sands has no hustle? He made it downfield to recover Stanford Routt's fumble after he intercepted a pass that J.T. O'Sullivan appeared to throw to no one in particular.

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
Defensive notes

OAKLAND -- Nnamdi Asomugha, DeAngelo Hall, Gibril Willson, Michael Huff, Derrick Burgess, Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard were all pulled after two defensive series.

By the start of the second quarter all the starters except Robert Thomas were done.

Thomas will play a lot with Ricky Brown out.

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
They love Run DMC

OAKLAND - Random notes during the first quarter...

*Darren McFadden's first run was for four yards in the first quarter. It might have been the most celebrated four-yard run in a preseason game in some time.

He also received an ovation after his second run for three yards.

*Tommy Kelly looks strong in the middle. It helps that the defense has gotten off the field quickly so he hasn't had to expend too much energy.

*Two penalties by the Raiders we aren't out of the first quarter. Will some things ever change?

*Can someone email me and tell me where Ronald Curry is?

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
Not so fast, rookie

OAKLAND - Darren McFadden ran over to the south end zone with the starters to be introduced to fans at McAfee Coliseum.

One problem. He's not a starter. So McFadden joined the rest of his teammates to welcome the starters.

The biggest cheers were for Justin Fargas and JaMarcus Russell.

The only addition to the list of players not dressed for the game is WR Arman Shields.

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
Jano won't play tonight

OAKLAND - Could there be something wrong with SeaBass?

Sebastian Janikowski isn't suited up tonight.

New addition Aaron Elling is dressed for the game and will presumably handle all the kicking duties.

Other Raiders not dressed for the game include LB Ricky Brown, LB Grant Irons, S Greg Wesley and CB John Bowie.

A full list of players that aren't dressed will come later. And check back for random commentary during the game (if you're the watch the game with your computer type).

--Jason Jones

August 8, 2008
SeaBass can rest

The Raiders signed kicker Aaron Elling. It will be his job to make sure Sebastian Janikowski doesn't have a tired leg when the season starts.

The team was using the JUGS machine recently on kickoffs during practice. Shane Lechler even kicked a few kickoffs the other day. Janikowski kicked too.

The Raiders waived injured offensive lineman Mark Wilson to make room for Elling. Wilson broke his leg during special teams practice earlier in camp.

--Jason Jone

August 7, 2008
Preseason preview (Game 1)

No practice today. The Raiders will have a brief walkthrough in preparation for Friday night's preseason game against the 49ers in Oakland.

Here are some players to watch (other than the obvious, QB JaMarcus Russell):

WR Javon Walker. He's been handled gently during training camp as he recovers from a knee injury suffered with Denver last year. He's also been in a fragile mental state, having offered to retire last week. Raiders coach Lane Kiffin wants to see more of a commitment from Walker to be on the field and to give it his all when he's on the field. He looked as "in" to a practice as he as on Wednesday night. Perhaps it's a sign that Walker is committed to playing football.

RB Michael Bush. Kiffin wants this 246-pound runner to punish ballcarriers every chance he gets. Bush being a big back that shies away from contact would be a disappointment, so look for him to lower the boom when needed. But Bush shouldn't be so intent on running defenders over that he forgets to use his elusiveness in the open field when he has the opportunity.

RB Darren McFadden: This will be his first time against NFL competition. McFadden looks fast and explosive in practice, but how will that translate in a game situation? Also, will McFadden line up all over the field or will the Raiders allow him to focus on playing running back?

LT Kwame Harris: He continues to look more comfortable with each practice, but performing in game situations is paramount to Harris' growth. And don't think the 49ers don't know how to beat their former first-round pick.

QB Andrew Walter: The No. 2 quarterback needs to show he is a reliable backup. He's missed practice with what the team is calling a tired arm. If that's a lingering problem, Marques Tuiasosopo better be ready.

All LBs not named Kirk Morrison or Thomas Howard: Kiffin has let it be known everyone other than his two star linebackers better be good on defense and on special teams to make the team. Realistically Ricky Brown and Robert Thomas are probably safe, too. But expect everyone in this group to try to do something to impress.

The DT trio of Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands and Gerard Warren: Kelly is working himself back into shape after knee surgery while Sands and Warren have been dinged a little bit Conditioning will be the thing to watch with Kelly and Sands, who has been slowed by a knee that had to be drained. Warren missed some time with a thigh injury but has practiced lately. Before a thigh injury last season, Warren was playing well.

--Jason Jones

August 6, 2008
Walker wants to play

NAPA - Maybe there is something to the lights.

Javon Walker looked more into this practice than he's looked all of camp.

He was running with enthusiasm, and making jokes to the sidelines.

"I'm going to be ill," Walker said. "Friday."

(For those of you who don't know, ill is good in this case.)

Then he gestured as if he were making a one-handed catch and spinning it to the turf.

While working against a scout defense, Walker made a catch on a post route that was at least 20 yards down field, sprinted to the end zone which was about another 20 yards away and tossed the ball in the air to himself before a faux dunk on the goal post.

This doesn't mean Walker is OK and everything is smooth sailing from here. But maybe Walker is getting the message that Lane Kiffin wants a good effort every time out.

Walker looked really eager to run routes well during drills, too. He'd looked lethargic at times, dropping passes and receivers coach James Lofton stayed on him to do more.

Night practice notes

*Walker, S Jarrod Cooper, LB Ricky Brown, G Cooper Carlisle, C Jake Grove, QB Andrew Walter, WR Ronald Curry, WR Drew Carter, DT Tommy Kelly and OL Fred Wakefield are all the players that missed the morning practice that were back on the field.

LB Grant Irons (hamstring), CB John Bowie (knee) and S Greg Wesley (back) did not practice.

Walter threw a few passes after being rested because of a tired arm.

*DT Terdell Sands did not practice to rest his knee.

*During special teams practice, DE Jay Richardson and DT Josh Shaw were teasing T Mario Henderson, who was practicing fielding a fair catch in case a team decided to kick to one of the up men. They were willing to bet $100 Henderson wouldn't catch it. Henderson did, jumping to catch the football. Richardson, a former tight end, casually caught the ball on his turn.

*Without a backup kicker in camp, the Raiders let the JUGS machine do the work for K Sebastian Janikowski for much of kickoff practice. KR/S Tyvon Branch handled the bulk of the duties with Chris Johnson chipping in.

*The offense and defense worked against scout teams in preparation for Friday's game. Tomorrow the team will have a short walkthrough in preparation.

*WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, S Rashad Baker, WR Drisan James and CB Michael Waddell took turns fielding punts after practice.

--Jason Jones

August 6, 2008
Bush is "special" this morning

NAPA - The MVP of the morning practice was running back Michael Bush.

It seems like every chance Lane Kiffin gets to mention Bush, Kiffin suggests Bush needs to be physical.

Bush was that this morning.

"Michael Bush was really special today," Kiffin said. "Boy, if he could practice like that every day, we'd really have something. Gibril Wilson came on a blitz today. He picked him up as good as you pick a guy up, put him to the ground, a couple of physical runs. If we can get him to continue to grow and continue to be that guy, we'll have a pretty special backfield."

Bush also put a nice hit on defensive end Greg Spires after he broke free.

At 246 pounds, it's clear what Kiffin wants Bush to be - the thunder to Darren McFadden's lightning the same way LenDale White complemented Reggie Bush at USC.

"It's not a problem," Bush said. "I can be a bruiser if I need to be."

Kiffin wants to see hits like that from Bush every practice.

Another big hit

Linebacker Thomas Howard flattened McFadden on a pass in the flats.

The coaches told McFadden to get up and finish the play by running down the field but Howard had already finished McFadden.

"D-Mac knows what kind of player I am," Howard said. "It was a good read by me ... I got there so fast. I wanted to be able to break down and make sure I could make the tackle in a game. ... They say speed plus mass and you get hits like that."

Still looking for more

It was expected Javon Walker would be joining the Raiders for two-a-days. Instead Walker continues to practice once on days the Raiders are on the field twice.

Walker has yet to have the dominant practice performance everyone is waiting for, especially if he supposed to be the top threat in the passing game.

Walker said his knee that was operated on is fine, but it doesn't always look that way and the team continues to monitor him.

"He did the one day of two-a-days (last Saturday) and then felt a little sore," Kiffin said. "He'll work tonight and I'd really like for after this game to get him to a two-a-day format. I believe he really needs it."

Not quite a legend

Darrick "Little Willie Brown" Brown was again being heckled for not being the second coming of the Hall of Fame cornerback.

Darrick is an undrafted rookie that is gets made fun of for getting beat in coverage.

And today the cornerbacks took on the receivers in a tackling drill. Darrick whiffed a few times.

"C'mon Little Willie," Kiffin yelled at him.

Receivers ran between cones that forced the defender to wrap up in tight space, but Darrick still managed to miss.

Brown might have a future as a practice squad player with the Raiders.

Meet the refs

The media had its time with NFL officials today to learn about rule changes and points of emphasis.

Some highlights:

Three Raiders (well two are former Raiders) were shown in the "what not to do" portion.

*There was Warren Sapp's meltdown in Jacksonville in which he had three personal fouls and was ejected was an example of not respecting officials. Stuart Schweigert standing over Tony Gonzalez after a hit was an example of taunting. Jay Richardson was caught on tape doing a throat slashing gesture as an example of a menacing gesture.

*There are no more force-outs. Unless a player is carried out of bounds after a catch, he must get two feet down inbounds.

So look for some receivers to get knocked silly.

*No more five-yard facemask penalties. Only grabbing and twisting the helmet will be called. The same goes for offensive players. If they grab the facemask and twist while running with the ball, it's a 15-yard penalty.

*The team that wins the coin toss can now defer to the second half, just like the college rule.

Practice notes

*Walker, WR Drew Carter, WR Ronald Curry, C Jake Grove, G Cooper Carlisle, OL Fred Wakefield, LB Ricky Brown, QB Andrew Waler, LB Grant Irons, CB John Bowie and S Greg Wesley did not practice in the morning.

Irons (hamstring), Bowie (knee) and Wesley (back) aren't expected to join the team for tonight's practice.

Kiffin said Walter's sore arm isn't expected to be a long-term problem and that he will practice tonight.

*DE Derrick Burgess worked with the linebackers during tackling drills.

*With the officials at practice, Hiram Eugene was called for pass interference. Robert Gallery ran a lap for a false start while Burgess and Gerard Warren had to run for being offsides.

*CB Nnamdi Asomugha returned to practice after missing two days because he was sick. He said he's only eating bananas and yogurt right now, but wanted to get on the field in case he has to play in Friday night's preseason game.

*Today's lone turnover was forced by S Rashad Baker, who picked off a Marques Tuiasosopo pass intended for WR Johnnie Lee Higgins.
--Jason Jones

August 5, 2008
Notes from a soft practice

NAPA - Lane Kiffin and I are in agreement.

Practice in the "soft pads" is kind of ... soft.

Those weren't Kiffin's exact words but trust me, there isn't a whole lot of fun watching practice without shoulder pads, which guarantees no real contact.

"Whenever you put soft gear on like that, it's hard for me out here because they can only do so much," Kiffin said. "They don't have their shoulder pads on. But I thought they were OK today."

As expected, the Raiders went a little easier today after two practices with the 49ers. Kiffin has kept practices shorter in his second training camp and today was no different.

And is often the case in these practices, there were plenty of opportunities for the receivers to work against defensive backs because the run game is hard to gauge.

Today's whipping boy from the peanut gallery (better known as starters resting) was rookie cornerback Darrick Brown.

After Marques Tuiasosopo connected on a long touchdown to Drisan James, the defensive linemen laughed because it was Brown being beat again.

"First down, second down, third down ... throw to me ... 39 is on me," Tommy Kelly yelled in between laughter in mocking Brown.

"The next Willile Brown my (butt)," someone else bellowed.

It wouldn't surprise me if Brown would boast that he is the next Willie Brown. The rookie did brag about putting a move on an eight-year old at the Raiders youth camp when chatting with the rookies.

JaMarcus Russell tested the secondary with a deep pass to Jonathan Holland. It was broken up on a nice play by DeAngelo Hall.

"That ain't 39," Derrick Burgess yelled.

Preseason plans

Russell won't get the one series and done treatment on Friday. Kiffin plans to keep Russell in for some time while keeping this in mind:

"I just want to be careful with him as far as who's in front of him with the linemen and the backs and protection."

Darren McFadden won't return kickoffs, Kiffin said. But he will a significant amount of time.

The bug

Nnamdi Asomugha was out for a second straight day because he's sick. Whatever he has is spreading, as is often the case in training camp. Asomugha had "a couple of IVs" according to Kiffin.

Jarrod Cooper didn't practice today because he's sick.

Asomugha is expected back in the morning.

Linebacker watch

Ricky Brown (back, knee) was out so Robert Thomas continues to start at strongside linebacker.

"Robert is playing Mike and Sam (linebacker) for us," Kiffin said. "Robert's got to play special teams and I've talked to him about that, and he's going to have to do it all to make the team, so there's a lot of competition there at linebackers. There's only two guys there that I know are going to make this team and the rest of the guys better play special teams and contribute."

One of those two guys is on the brink of being a Pro Bowl player if he can be tougher against the run, Kiffin said.

Thomas Howard had six interceptions last season, but Kiffin is looking for more against the run.

"Thomas has to be more physical at the point of attack," Kiffin said. "Take on fullbacks more aggressively and not play so high, and he'll be looking at the Pro Bowl if he can do that."

The other backer that has a roster spot secured is Kirk Morrison, in case you didn't know.

Practice notes

*The Raiders still have no answer for Burgess, who continues to get to the quarterbacks. DE Greg Spires went through RT Cornell Green and TE Darrell Strong to blow up a running play.

*NFL officials were at practice today and will give the team and media a presentation on rule changes and points of emphasis while in Napa. The media session is tomorrow.

*In the final scrimmage portion of practice, the defense won the best-of-five set 3-1.

The offense struck first with a completion to FB Justin Griffith. But a sack by Kalimba Edwards, a competition from Russell to TE Tony Stewart a yard short of a first down and the secondary blanketing the receivers on the third play gave the defense the win.

*WR Drew Carter (rest), SS Gibril Wilson (knee) and QB Andrew Walter (tired arm) did not practice. Kiffin said only CB John Bowie (knee) and LB Grant Irons (hamstring) definitely wouldn't play Friday. S Greg Wesley (back) will be evaluated in the morning.

--Jason Jones

August 5, 2008
Depth Chart!!!!!

NAPA - Ladies and gentlemen... your Raiders depth chart for this Friday's preseason game.

Offense

WR Javon Walker Johnnie Lee Higgins Chaz Schilens
LT Kwame Harris Mario Henderson
LG Robert Gallery Paul McQuistan Brandon Rodd
C Jake Grove/John Wade Chris Morris
RG Cooper Carlisle Fred Wakefield Jesse Boone
RT Cornell Green Seth Wand
TE Zach Miller John Madsen Tony Steward
WR Drew Carter/Ronald Curry Todd Watkins Arman Shileds
QB JaMarcus Russell Andrew Walter Marques Tuiasosopo
FB Justin Griffith Oren O'Neal Marcel Reece

(UPDATE) In my rush to get out to practice I didn't put the running backs down.

RB Justin Fargas Darren McFadden Michael Bush

Defense

DE Derrick Burgess Greg Spires Trevor Scott
DT Tommy Kelly Josh Shaw Derrick Gray
DT Gerard Warren Terdell Sands William Joseph
DE Jay Richardson Kalimba Edwards Greyson Gunheim
OLB Ricky Brown Robert Thomas Sam Williams
MLB Kirk Morrison Ed Hartwell
OLB Thomas Howard Jon Alston Isaiah Ekejiuba
CB DeAngelo Hall Stanford Routt John Bowie
CB Nnamdi Asomugha Chris Johnson Michael Waddell
FS Michael Huff Hiram Eugene Rashad Baker
SS Gibril Wilson Jarrod Cooper Tyvon Branch

KR Tyvon Branch Johnnie Lee Higgins
PR Johnnie Lee Higgins
LS Jon Condo
K Sebastian Janikowski
P Shane Lechler

Comments:

*Walker with no slash next to his name is a bit of a surprise as is the slash at center.
Grove has been the first-team center whenever he's practiced.

*The receivers are still interchangeable at this point so expect to see a variety of combinations in this group.

*Don't be surprised to see Wade and Morris playing either guard spot on Friday.
*Overall, the first-team offense looks pretty set.

*Wand and Henderson have played left and right tackle. When Harris was out with a bad back, Wand was the starting left tackle and Henderson remained a backup.
*The defense has no real surprises unless Ricky Brown being on the first team counts. He's split time with Robert Thomas during camp and that position might not be decided until the first game of the regular season.

*Oft-injured safety Greg Wesley isn't listed at all. There's no room on a roster for seven safeties and Wesley is No. 7 right now.

*Alston has looked good backing up Thomas Howard lately.

*Edwards is the nickel pass rusher right now, replacing Richardson in those situations.

--Jason Jones

August 5, 2008
Kiffin gets right to the point

NAPA - Lane Kiffin has a way of getting his point across.

Sometimes it's through messages in press conferences where he calls out players for sub par effort.

The latest to get that message was Javon Walker, of whom Kiffin said he didn't the mentality of a player giving his best because the "lights" are on.

Kiffn also does this during practices.

Lately during team sessions, Kiffin can be heard calling out both of his right tackles, Cornell Green and Mario Henderson.

As they walk to the line, Kiffin will yell out something like "C'mon Mario, let's see something."

Kiffin isn't berating them, more like challenging them.

It is obvious Kiffin sees the right tackle spot as an area that needs some fire under it. Green is a veteran, but was a career backup before becoming a starter for the Raiders last season.

Kiffin has called out Green last year when asked why tight end Zach Miller had to stay to pass block so much by saying whether Green was limping because it was the second quarter factored into the decision.

Henderson is a second-year player that coaches worry if he has the tenacity and confidence to play in the NFL.

Green will be the starter because Henderson has done nothing to warrant playing time in camp. Seth Wand or Fred Wakefield would be likely candidates to be the backup right tackle.

Kiffin will continue to yell at his right tackles. For the sack of the offense, Kiffin hopes that keeps him from having to yell at them during games for missing a block.

--Jason Jones

August 4, 2008
Taking an offensive view

NAPA - With the Raiders giving several key defenders the night off I focused on the offense.

After looking miserable in the morning practice, the offense was noticeably better.

The team ran a lot early. That's probably going to be the case a lot this season. But in practices runs up the middle don't always look good.

It's tough to tell exactly how good the team is run blocking because they weren't in full pads (shoulder pads and helmets tonight) and there's no way of knowing if a back would break a tackle.

And there's a natural tendency to let up when it's not full contact.

Cut blocking also isn't allowed in practice, so the line isn't using all of its tools to open up holes.

There are times when the offensive line moved 49ers out of the way, other times where they were blown back or couldn't seal off the backside. I can only assume some of those situations Tom Cable would have them cutting the defensive linemen.

Overall, the offensive line did look better. I'll have a better assessment after Friday night.

*JaMarcus Russell's arm looked as good as it's been since he injured his elbow last Tuesday.

He made good decisions to pass the ball to outlet receivers when deep routes were taken away.

Russell also showed some zip on passes over the middle. The highlight as a laser that whizzed by the head of linebacker Jeff Ulbrich's head to tight end Zach Miller.

It probably would have been a good 30-yard touchdown, assuming Miller would have run over the DB trying to tackle him.

Russell showed good pocket awareness and knew when to step up and get rid of the ball.

Russell found Todd Watkins (who else?) for an acrobatic grab just after Watkins failed to hold on to a pass after being hit.

The one no-no of the night came when Russell was running to the right and tried to throw back to the left for Miller. The ball came so fast it was incomplete, but there were at least three red jerseys near Miller.

The offensive line looked better for the most part. Kwame Harris did a good job of riding outside rushers pass Russell and to the grass. Cornell Green looked better, too.

Harris is definitely improving with each practice.

The second-team offensive line had its moments.

Chris Morris and Seth Wand opened a huge hole on the right side on a draw play for Justin Fargas. That combination also made a pair of good blocks on a screen pass for Michael Bush during a two-minute drill.

The blocking from the running backs improved. Adimchinobe Echemandu blocked 49ers defensive end Justin Smith to give Russell time to find Chris McFoy for a touchdown.

Darrren McFadden continues to impress. He caught a wheel route during seven-on-seven and his speed left Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis chasing him.

McFadden also looked good running the ball. When there were creases to run through, he hit them with speed and looked to make moves at the second level.

Overall observations

After the first time seeing the Raiders against another opponent...

*Pass protection needs to be a high priority. Teams are going to blitz the Raiders in all kinds of ways so the offensive line and running backs need to be sound. The tackles also need to be able to block one-on-one consistently so that Miller doesn't spend too much time pass blocking.

*The three-headed monster at tailback is going to be fun to watch. Fargas, McFadden and Bush have three distinct styles that should help diversify the offense.

*Derrick Burgess needs the season to start ASAP. He looks ready to roll. And the linebackers showed progress filling holes in the run defense.

*Russell will be throwing a lot of short passes if he doesn't get better protection and his receivers don't prove they can get open against press coverage.


Night practice notes

*Russell had passes batted down by defensive linemen on consecutive plays.

*I never like seeing receivers block defensive linemen and I'm sure McFoy doesn't after tonight. Smith leveled him after McFoy went in motion and trying to seal off the backside on a run.

*The lone false start of the evening belonged to Robert Gallery.

*Two-minute drills were ended by made field goals (49, 40) by Sebastian Janikowski.

*Raiders owner Al Davis attended both practices today. He usually skips the morning practice during two-a-days.

*Burgess, DT Terdell Sands, DT Tommy Kelly, QB Andrew Walter, OL Fred Wakefield, C Jake Grove and WR Ronald Curry all had the night off.

S Greg Wesley (back), CB John Bowie (knee), LB Grant Irons (hamstring) and CB Nnamdi Asomugha (illness) did not practice.

--Jason Jones

August 4, 2008
Is Steve Smith available?

NAPA -- If the rumors that the Carolina Panthers would consider trading Steve Smith are true the Raiders would be wise to look into acquiring Smith.

Javon Walker isn't dependable and hasn't looked like a No. 1 receiver. Smith is a legitimate elite receiver.

The Raiders have other receivers, but none approaching Smith's talent and productivity.

Sure, he'd come with some baggage, but the Raiders have never shied away from players with issues.

After all, Smith wouldn't be the first Raider to have punched out a teammate at some point in his career.

Maybe the Panthers have no intention of dealing Smith. But I'd at least make a phone call to find out.

--Jason Jones

August 4, 2008
Burgess poised for a big season

NAPA - Derrick Burgess is going to have a big year.

Just a hunch, but from what he's done in training camp, Burgess looks like the Pro Bowl player he was after the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Burgess wasn't bad last year, but also wasn't healthy. Burgess is 100 percent right now and playing with a swagger.

During this morning's practice he crashed down the line of scrimmage to whack 49ers running back Thomas Clatyon.

He was yapping it up and looks poised to do a lot of that in 2008.

One of the reasons Raider offensive tackles have looked bad is because Burgess' quick first step and underrated power moves have them looking silly.

With teams focusing on Burgess and if the Raiders continue to move him from the left and right side, expect a double-digit sack season.

****
Good news for the Raiders.

The NFL Network (and would the NFL report false information?) reports Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall will be suspended for three games after his repeated arrests over the last year or so.

Marshall is Denver's best receiver and the Raiders open the season hosting the Broncos.

****

The next practice with the 49ers is at 7 p.m.

--Jason Jones

August 4, 2008
(Practice) Battle of the Bay Part I

NAPA - It wasn't easy keeping tabs on the Raiders today with the offense and defense on separate fields going against the 49ers.

Here's the good:

The defense looked to be the more solid of the two units. Linebackers were stepping into holes and meeting offensive linemen violently.

Defensive end Derrick Burgess was especially impressive, as he's been all of camp. The front seven looked extremely aggressive.

Now the bad:

The offense struggled in pass protection against the 49ers' 3-4 scheme. More times than not there were 49er linebackers coming through unblocked.

Lane Kiffin said that was to be expected.

"They're a primary three-down front and a movement team, so there's a lot of rules that go into it," Kiffin said. "It was really good for us to see. I would have probably predicted that you would have seen some guys go free because of the different looks and different fronts. And also they're running things that they didn't run last year because they're looking at different things. It makes for a difficult day but that's the exact situation we want to put our guys in."

The problems in pass protection made it tough for the quarterbacks. Several Raider completions came on plays that would have been sacks if the quarterbacks could be hit.

It will be interesting to see how the offense adjusts to the pressure for tonight's practice. The responsiblity falls on the running backs as well as the offensive line to pick up blitzes.

Fight time

As expected, there were a few times where a few brief fights.

The first was between Raiders defensive tackle William Joseph and 49ers guard Chilo Rachal during a run-blocking drill.

There was some more action on a separate field. Raiders linebacker Edgerton Hartwell and 49ers fullback Moran Norris got into it, too.

"He came across the middle," Hartwell said. "I'm a hard-thud guy, I wasn't trying to take him to the ground. It was just that when I hit him it kind of lifted him up. I guess it was kind of too hard for him. I didn't really hit him that hard but he got kind of upset. I can understand that if you don't like contact."

The person I had my money on to start a fight was Jarrod Cooper (he did get into it with Frank Gore).

Cooper blamed Hartwell for starting trouble.

Flip the switch

After saying he wanted to retire last week, a lot of attention was on Javon Walker. He looked to have more energy than he'd shown in recent practices.

"I think you saw him ready to come out against another team," Kiffin said. "I think as we continue to learn Javon, he had kind of a different look today at the beginning of practice than our normal practices because I think he was more competitive to go against somebody else. We're going to continue to try to build that mentality in him, that that's how we want him to be at every practice, not just because we're going to play somebody else."

Walker made a nice diving catch near the sidelines against the 49ers. But the last thing the Raiders want is for him to only show up for competition and struggle through practices.

Walker practiced twice in a day for the first time during camp on Saturday. The Raiders will probably put him back on the field tonight, too.

Kififn is worried about how Walker, who had surgery last season, responds to another practice.

"I'm more concerned to see just to push him as hard as we can, make him work as long as he's physically ready to go," Kiffin said. "From a training-room standpoint, we need to continue to push him. I'm not into the whole 'Well, when the lights go on, they play well.' That's not my deal. I'm trying to work him out of that mentality."

Camp notes

*Both teams were in full gear. It's only the second time the Raiders have worn full gear during training camp.

*RB Michael Bush looked the best among the Raiders in picking up blitzes. RB Darren McFadden showed good speed and instincts in the running game.

*LB Jon Alston was impressive against the run. He stepped and took on offensive linemen behind the line of scrimmage.

*Rookie DE Trevor Scott received a rude welcome from 49ers T Jonas Jennings, who manhandled him on a running play.

*CB Nnamdi Asomugha woke up sick and did not practice this morning. DT Gerard Warren (thigh) returned to practice.

*QB JaMarcus Russell's arm is close to 100 percent and Kiffin expects him to be 100 percent for Friday night's preseason game.

--Jason Jones

August 2, 2008
Kiffin is worried, Javon thinks it's all good.

NAPA - Wow.

I'm not sure how to describe Javon Walker.

He acted as if he didn't tell the Raiders he wanted to retire after tonight's practice.

But he did.

"That's a done issue," Walker said. "That was something, I'm not really sure what happened but that's a done issue. That's something that obviously people hear stuff ... I'm here practicing, waiting, obviously can't wait till the season starts."

Huh?

Lane Kiffin said Walker approached him two days ago and told him he was thinking of retiring.

But Walker's not sure what happened?

"I told him to take a little bit of time," Kiffin said. "Go back to his room, talk to people close to him, then I put him in touch with Al (Davis). They had a conversation, and then Javon came back the next morning, and said he wanted to keep going."

Kiffin, however, is worried about Walker, who was signed to a six year, $55 million deal and has already received $11 million up front.

He'd have to give back the bonus money he's been paid if he retired.

"It caught me off guard because he's 29 years old," Kiffin said. "I'd had a couple of conversations with him and it seemed like there might be something going on, so he came in and sure, it was surprise."

Walker also had no clue what anyone was talking about when asked if he was OK after being robbed and beaten in Las Vegas in June.

Kiffin has good reason to be worried. He said he didn't see any signs something might be wrong until after the Las Vegas incident.

"I think there are a lot of things going on with him, in his mind," Kiffin said. "A lot has happened, from signing a big contract, to being injured, being released, signing another big contact, Las Vegas, and I'm sure he's been a little disappointed in his play out here, and battling back from injuries, there's a lot going on in his mind."

Walker, however, sees nothing wrong.

"I'm in a great frame of mind," he said. "Why wouldn't I? I'm with a new team, a great bunch of guys. As far as me being young, that's a done issue, that's far from my mind. I'm looking forward to getting this season on the road and actually looking forward to going into next week and try to put everything together as a team and as an offense."

Kiffin said Walker talked to his parents, agent, Davis before deciding on Friday he wanted to keep playing football.

Walker hasn't looked good in practice lately, which Kiffin attributed to Walker having a lot on his mind.

It's just that when you go into training camp there's always ups and downs with everybody just because you're doing the same thing every day and everybody tries to be great every day," Walker said. "But that's not going to be the nature of this game. I look forward, going into the season to where each week you have a new week and a new team to prepare (for), you get to see somebody new.

"I'm sure, along with myself and a lot of guys on this team, it's going to be exciting going into next week because we finally get to face a different opponent and see what everybody else has to offer and see what we've learned and what we've been coached and put it all together."

Kiffin remains concerned.

"I worry a lot about it," he said. "For someone to discuss retirement, and then to come back and change his mind a day later - I'm worried a lot about it.

"I'm worried about where he's at mentally, because these things happen sometimes and they come back up again, because maybe they come back and maybe it isn't necessarily for the right reasons, so we're going to continue to communicate with him and push him out there on the field and get him better."

That is, assuming Walker still wants to be on the field when the Raiders practice again.
This won't go over well in the locker room, either. Players don't respect quitters and if they label Walker one, there will be problems.

But with all that Walker has been through, including the death of Darrent Williams, there had to be concerns about his mental state before training camp.

There's even more reason to be concerned about Walker.

Night practice notes

*Walker took a positive tonight by joining the team for practice tonight. He'd been limited to one practice on double days.

"He did that on his own, and this was an easier practice, right here," Kiffin said. "He did that on his own, come out and get some work. When that was going through his mind, as you guys noticed, he was not working as hard as he had been because he was obviously distracted with a lot of different thoughts. So it was good to see him come out and work both times today."

*Kiffin called the team together at the start of team scrimmaging and let them know with some colorful language he wasn't happy with the effort.

*QB JaMarcus Russell unleashed a deep pass to WR Todd Watkins, who got by CB DeAngelo Hall. It was the best deep pass since he hurt his elbow on Tuesday.

*Russell ended a two-minute drill with a touchdown to WR Chris McFoy with no time on the clock.

*Tonight's practice ended on a deep pass from Marques Tuiasosopo that was intercepted by Hall.

*Today was family day and several players' parents, wives, girlfriends and children were at tonight's practice.

The players are off Sunday. The team will be back on the field Monday morning when the 49ers are here for two joint practices.

--Jason Jones


August 2, 2008
Walker does not want to talk

NAPA - Javon Walker was spotted by reporters but declined discussing whether he wants to retire.

Walker's agent hasn't returned a call asking about the situation.

But back to more from this morning's practice:

*There was a Greg Wesley sighting. He picked off a pass that bounced off the hands of rookie tight end Darrell Strong.

*Marcel Reece said he's not sure what his exact position is. The rookie switched to No. 45, shedding the No. 81 he wore as a receiver.

He's worked with the running backs after playing receiver in college. He's been a fullback and could see time at H-back in the preseason.

"We moved him a little bit around and stuff because he does bring a lot to us and he's a guy that you know may have a future with us because he can do so many things," said coach Lane Kiffin.

WR Chaz Schilens now wears No. 81. Strong went from No. 45 to No. 82

*Sebastian Janikowski made three 38-yard field goals.

*Kiffin said tonight's practice would probably be 30 minutes shorter than normal. Players are off tomorrow.

--Jason Jones

August 2, 2008
Javon Walker wanted to retire?

NAPA - ESPN.com reported Javon Walker wanted to retire but Raiders owner Al Davis talked him out of it.

Why?

The Raiders were reportedly offered a way out of their riskiest signing of free agency and get their money back and they said no?

Walker signed a six year, $55 million deal with the Raiders in the offseason. He was coming off his second knee surgery in three years and received $11 million in a signing bonus.

But Walker has hardly looked the part of a star wideout in training camp. Today might have been his worst practice.

He couldn't get open, even with undrafted rookies covering him.

By time the story broke, Walker had already left the locker room, as had head coach Lane Kiffin.

Walker was robbed, beaten and left unconscious in Las Vegas in June with injuries the team said wouldn't impact his play.

But if that and a tough go at it in training camp have impacted Walker to the point he wants to retire, the Raiders should let him go.

Quitters don't do well in locker rooms and his teammates aren't likely to take kindly to the news Walker wanted out.

They won't trust him and anytime he struggles, there will be questions about his desire.

This might have been a one-day deal and Walker might not feel that way anymore.

He better clear this up soon.

Russell elbow update

JaMarcus Russell participated in the team practice session this morning. He's not 100 percent, but able to compete.

"He feels it a little bit," Kififn said. "He doesn't want to push it and there's no reason for it now. As I said yesterday, you guys notice it because of what you're used to with him.

"But he still throws. ... He can function right now in a game. He just doesn't have what he normally has. We don't anticipate that being an issue at all."

Kiffin is pleased with Russell's progress in understanding the mental part of playing quarterback.

He knows Russell can throw the ball. Kiffin just wants to make sure he's making the best decisions.

"You saw a bunch of (good decisiosn) today in 7-on-7 red zone which is hard to do because there's the touchdowns," Kiffin said. "You see that little window and you want to stick it in there and you want to throw a touchdown to the guy. That's the hardest place to be a disciplined quarterback."

Who needs the offseason?

Nnamdi Asomugha picked off a Russell pass today, continuing his impressive showing during training camp.

He surprised many by showing up on time for camp and not holding out in protest of being the team's franchise player and not agreeing to a new contract.

"He's made so many plays, more than anybody else, maybe everybody else
combined in the passing game," Kiffin said.

Kiffin attributes Asomugha's study habits for his penchant of picking off passes in practice along with his skill.

Part of that is he does know our offense, he knows our audibles," Kiffin said. "He studies really hard. That's part of that.
He's come out and hasn't missed a beat. It doesn't say much for really
needing minicamps and OTA days really."

Asomugha had good coverage on a pass to Johnnie Lee Higgins, which elicited some heckling from safety Jarrod Cooper.

"Johnnie Lee don't be scared of Nnamdi," Cooper said. "He wasn't even here this offseason."

But that hasn't mattered.

Something new

The Raiders put the players through a "long drive period" to test their stamina.

It's not a bad idea and several players were seen looking fatigued.

"I didn't let the coaches pull guys out, so they had to stay in there for 10 plays," Kiffin said. "As you saw we tried to push the tempo as fast as we could, we were getting plays off in 35 seconds."

Injury update

WR Arman Shields (knee) did not practice. LB Grant Irons (hamstring) and DT Gerard Warren (thigh) also remain out.


--Jason Jones

August 1, 2008
Russell's passes look like a normal QB's

NAPA - JaMarcus Russell's passes picked up some steam today. He's still not his normal self according to his coach.

"He's still being safe with it," Lane Kiffin said. "If it wasn't him you wouldn't even notice. But because he's throwing the ball like other quarterbacks do now velocity wise as opposed to what he usually does. We had it checked by a number of people and nobody sees it being a long-term issue."

Russell hurt the elbow Tuesday morning when he hit it against Darren McFadden's helmet during a throw.

Russell's first two of passes during the team session were dump offs to McFadden. As practice progressed Russell's throws looked stronger.

He wore a sleeve on his arm during practice as well as after practice.

Kiffin said he's taken some reps away from Russell because of the arm injury but hasn't altered the playcalling.

Upon further review

Last night's practice collision involving Michael Bush was against Kirk Morrison on the goal line in the first live practice of camp.

The winner, Kiffin said, was Bush.

"Him and Morrison were unblocked in the hole and that was our first chance to see what we've all hoped that Mike's going to be," Kiffin said. "He lowered his pads and ran over him and got us in the end zone. Probably out of the eight live plays on the goal line ... it was worth it to go live, nobody got hurt, just really to see Michael do that."

A play like that was a long time coming for Bush. It was his first full-contact action since his last college game in Sept. 2006 when he broke his leg.

"I just wanted some contact," Bush said. "I'm still waiting for the game so I can strap it on and have some fun against guys other than my teammates. It's one of those things, I haven't been in pads for a long time and the low man wins. It was a good battle."

Watkins still impressive

A training camp practice seems incomplete unless Todd Watkins makes a hard catch look easy.

Watkins was up to it again today. His acrobatic catch over Darrick Brown set up a touchdown pass to Chaz Schilens to end practice.

"A year ago, we tried him out and ended up bringing him back," Kiffin said of Watkins. "The guy's made a number of plays. We were going through some lists today and some different people back in the rooms, I'm not going to tell you exactly where, but a number of guys on the staff had him extremely high on their list."

Joseph evaluation

DT William Joseph has begun to show up against the run in recent practices.

He was signed as a free agent in the offseason after an injury-filled stint with the New York Giants.

Joseph was a first-round pick in 2003 and missed all of last season with a back injury.

"He made a number of plays last night and it was good to see too because we had pads on when he was doing it and that's what matters in the end," Kiffin said. "He's got to be more consistent in his play. He is powerful and big but he gets reached and cut off too much right now for us and that's where we really need to improve him. He really needs to be a more consistent player. He's not played a lot of football since he's been in the NFL."

Henderson has "work" to do

Second-year tackle Mario Henderson said he is improving but still has room for improvement.

He's focusing on the mental side of the game and not taking plays off, he said.

"I could (start if needed) but right now I still have a lot of work to do," Henderson said. "That's why I'm just taking this training camp one day at a time."

Kiffin was blunt in his assessment of Henderson on Thursday. He said Henderson wasn't close to pushing for a starting job and his overall game needed improvement.

"I'm sure he's probably trying to fire me up because that's his job," Henderson said. "Like I said, I'm just coming out here to work every day. They're the coaches, they know a lot better than I do. I still do have a lot to work on. So, that's the one thing I got to do is just work hard."

The Raiders traded this year's third-round draft choice last year to move up to select Henderson in the third round.

That's not lost on him.

"I think about that every day and I say, 'I'm glad I'm not a first-round pick because that would be a whole bunch of pressure,'" Henderson said. "Not that it's not a lot of pressure, first of all, them just drafting me first year, no matter what round, because they believe that you can play. I just have to work hard to show them that I was worth that pick that I was picked up at

Henderson takes solace in knowing that he took time to develop in college, too. He didn't start until his senior season. But this, he admits, is different.

"When you come here, you don't have any scholarships," Henderson said. "You can't sit around for four years. You better get it now. I still can get cut, drafted or not. So, that's the one thing that I got to keep on my mind."

Camp notes

*DT Terdell Sands had his knee drained and did not practice. Kiffin said Sands would be put on a one-a-day practice schedule when there two practices in a day.

*DT Gerard Warren (thigh) is still out as are CB John Bowie (knee) and LB Grant Irons (hamstring). WR Arman Shields (knee) did not practice.

*The offense had to work from it's own end zone with loud music again.

*C Jesse Boone ran a lap after he moved the ball before snapping it causing the entire defensive line to jump.

*LB Robert Thomas was back with the first-team linebackers. He and Ricky Brown have taken turns at the strongside linebacker spot in camp.

*Kiffin said he would like to carry five receivers on the roster.

*The team didn't practice in pads after wearing full gear Thursday night. There will be two practices Saturday and the team will be off Sunday before practicing with the 49ers on Monday.

--Jason Jones

August 1, 2008
Kiffin turns a familiar face for highlights

NAPA -- Lane Kiffin's time at USC has a direct impact on how he looks for free agents.

Linebacker Jon Alston was picked up last year because Kiffin remembered Alston running down Reggie Bush from behind.

So the arrival of receiver of Todd Watkins this offseason makes sense. Watkins, a seventh-round pick of Arizona in 2006, was claimed off waivers from Atlanta.

Watkins has been making highlight catches all of training camp. And his work in Napa isn't the first time Kiffin has seen Watkins show up big.

"He's made a number of plays for us down the field on balls," Kiffin said. "We played (BYU) at SC his junior year and he had a great junior season, was all over the field, beat us on a deep ball. The only deep ball we gave up all year was him. He does make a lot of down-the-field plays and he's great to have around, he's been here the whole offseason working really hard."

Watkins remembers the catch very well.

USC's Bush and offensive lineman Travis Watkins, Todd's brother. Bush and Watkins were teammates at Helix High School in the San Diego area.

"That was probably one of the highlights of my career," Watkins said. "I was playing against Reggie and my brother and I really wanted to make an impact. It was about a 69-yard go route down the left sideline, in front of their bench so I was real excited to make a play."

As for the impressive grabs he's made in camp:

"I try not to think about anything else or who's around me," he said. "I just try to hang on to the ball. I don't actually see how it goes down until I get back in the film room and I say 'wow that was a crazy catch.' I just try to go out there and make it happen."

Assuming the Raiders keep six receivers, Watkins appears to be in a three-man race for two spots.

Javon Walker, Ronald Curry, Drew Carter and Johnnie Lee Higgins would appear to be safe. That would leave Watkins, and draft picks Arman Shields and Chaz Schilens leading the group for the final two spots.

Even though Kiffin hasn't been saying "Everything counts" like he did last year, if that is true, it's a race between the rookies for the last spot.

Safety watch

Greg Wesley is practicing again, but he is on pace to be this year's Donovin Darius.

Right now, Jarrod Cooper is looking good with the second-team defense at safety. Rookie Tyvon Branch hasn't shown up as much as Cooper, but his kick return skills make him a keeper.

Cooper is also a big part of special teams.

Is there a place on the roster for a fifth safety that doesn't play special teams? That would be very unlikely.

It'll be interesting to see what Wesley does at practice this afternoon and the rest of training camp.

I'll check back in after this afternoon's practice.

--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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