Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

October 31, 2008
McFadden is doubtful

ALAMEDA - There will be no Run DMC this Sunday at the Coliseum unless it's coming over the loudspeakers.

Running back Darren McFadden (toe) is doubtful for Sunday's game against Atlanta, as are defensive end Derrick Burgess (triceps), linebacker Jon Alston (foot) and linebacker Ricky Brown (groin).

Robert Thomas will fill in for Brown.

Safety Gibril Wilson was moving good after practice while working on a tackling angles against practice squad running back Louis Rankin. He'd missed two practices because of a toe injury but looks ready to go.

Thomas said, "It felt like as soon as I came back here like I'd never left," of his return to the Raiders and now a starter after re-signing last week.

Because he was released with an injury settlement in September, Thomas had to wait six weeks before returning to an NFL team.

*The only depth chart update is Tyvon Branch will return kickoffs instead of Johnnie Lee Higgins.

Higgins' blunder in Baltimore of catching the ball at his own two yard-line and running out of bounds helped give the job back to Branch.

Branch averaged 14.6 yards on kickoff returns. He said film study and an emphasis on making quicker decisions should improve that.

"It's a lot faster than college," Branch said. "Guys are getting down there a lot quicker."

Higgins will remain the team's punt returner.

*The Raiders have gone more than four seasons without a punt or kickoff returned for a touchdown.

The last time the Raiders managed to do either happened was Dec. 28, 2003.

That's when Doug Gabriel returned a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and Phillip Buchanon returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown.

Higgins and Branch were expected to be an upgrade over Chris Carr, who left as a restricted free agent for Tennessee.

The Raiders have gotten improvement from Higgins over his rocky rookie season.

In 20 punt returns as a rookie in 2007, Higgins gained a meager 103 yards. And 54 of those yards came on one return get his average to 5.4 yards per return.

Without the one long return, Higgins's average was 2.6.

He also fumbled four times, which led to him losing job to Carr and journeyman Tim Dwight.

This season Higgins has 21 returns for 192 yards (9.1 average) and three returns of more than 20 yards with a long of 35.

Higgins hasn't fumbled a punt this season.

Branch's 28.9-yard average on kickoffs was a big reason the Raiders drafted him. But his injury in the preseason left most of the job to Higgins (23.6 yards per return).

Since leaving the Raiders' Carr is averaging career-highs in kickoff returns (29.6 yards) and on punts (10 yards).

*DeAngelo Hall is not happy with Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz.

Here's what Schultz wrote about Hall in his weekly picks column:

"I just took the rollercoaster through DeAngelo Hall's cranium in the AJC. He said he considered not playing football anymore. Funny. I thought he quit last season. Bounce-back week: Falcons cover 3."

So there is someone in Atlanta that Hall doesn't care for.

--Jason Jones

October 30, 2008
Russell vs. Ryan

ALAMEDA - There have been some that would make the case Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan has "outplayed" Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell this season.

Ryan's team has more wins. Ryan has more touchdown passes (seven to six) but more interceptions (five to three).

Ryan has thrown for 1441 yards compared to 1258 for Russell.

Raiders interim head coach Tom Cable said the Falcons have protected Ryan similar to how the Raiders have monitored Russell by limiting passing attempts and relying on the running game.

Cable wouldn't go as far as to say Russell has been outplayed by Ryan.

"Actually they're about the same," Cable said. "I think they've thrown for about 183 more yards than we have on the year so you wouldn't say they're playing better than JaMarcus or anything like that. I certainly didn't say that. I just think the people around him are making plays."

What makes the perception Ryan is playing so much better than Russell is that he's a rookie while Russell had some time last year.

And it's also the four wins Ryan has a s starter compared to two for Russell this season.

Russell can do a lot to change that on Sunday.

*Cable said the Raiders two-back offense wouldn't be limited with Luke Lawton starting at fullback because Justin Griffith (knee) is out for the seaosn.

Cable has liked what Lawton's done in a limited role on offense.

"The big question now is can he go out and maintain it as the starter," Cable said. "We believe he can so we feel good about him."

Being a fullback in the Raiders zone-blocking scheme is different than the traditional blocking fullback, Cable said.

"You're a runner without the ball so you have to be able to block on the move," Cable said. "In scheme play, you go block that guy. In zone play, you don't do that. You're blocking zones, areas."

That's fine with Lawton (6-0, 240 pounds). He feels he's a natural for zone blocking.

"I'm not a typical masher, 270, I'm not that guy," Lawton said. "I'm 235, 240, a little more athletic, so I like to read things like a back, and go where the ball's going. I think I'm more suited for that, although I can still hit."

*Another injury on defense. Linebacker Ricky Brown injured his groin during Wednesday's practice and is doubtful for Sunday's game.

Robert Thomas and Sam Williams would be the candidates to fill in for Brown.

Running back Darren McFadden (left toe) is still in a walking boot and would need to practice tomorrow to have a chance of playing Sunday.

Safety Gibril Wilson (toe) did not practice, but Cable expects him to play Sunday.

Tyvon Branch is Wilson's backup.
Defensive end Derrick Burgess (triceps) and linebacker Jon Alston (foot) remain out.

Backup quarterback Andrew Walter (calf) and safety Michael Huff (thumb) were limited.

Cornerback Chris Johnson (back spasms) made it out to practice and was not limited.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was given the day off.

*There has been no decision made on whether Johnnie Lee Higgins or Branch would return kickoffs on Sunday.

Branch struggled on kickoffs, but the job became open again when Higgins made a gaffe by catching a kickoff and running out of bounds at his own two-yard line.

--Jason Jones

October 30, 2008
Hall feels good ... now

ALAMEDA - What is it about being a Raider that breaks a player's spirit?

Javon Walker considered retirement.

And DeAngelo Hall to the list of Raiders that stopped liking football for a time in silver in black.

Hall is fine now after a rough start.

"I feel good," Hall told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I starting to get my swagger back. At first I didn't even know if I wanted to play football any more. But I feel good now."

You can read the entire interview here.

--Jason Jones

October 30, 2008
Morning practice update

ALAMEDA - DeAngelo Hall joined the group of Raiders not practicing today.

I doubt Hall would miss this weekend's game against his old team, the Atlanta Falcons, regardless of the reason he's sitting out today.

The rest of the Raiders out include:

DE Derrick Burgess (triceps)
RB Darren McFadden (toe)
CB Chris Johnson (back spasms)
LB Jon Alston (foot)
S Gibril Wilson (toe)

--Jason Jones

October 30, 2008
The Raiders vs. Lane Kiffin

Below is the Raiders response to the grievance filed by former coach Lane Kiffin.

The Oakland raiders received Mr. Kiffin's grievance today. It is a short letter that:

*Completely ignores the fact that Mr. Kiffin repeatedly made reckless statements that attacked players, assistant coaches and the owner of the team and were damaging to the Raiders organization.

*Does not dispute that Mr. Kiffin made a number of false statements to the media that were damaging to the Raiders organization.

*The grievance attaches Mr. Kiffin's signed contract but ignores the provisions that explicitly stated that all of his duties were "all subject to the direction and supervision of the general partner" of the Raiders and also ignores the provisions of his contract that required him to avoid any conduct "which would embarrass, discredit or disgrace" the Raiders. Mr. Kiffin failed to honor his contract.

*Ignores completely an NFL resolution that was expressly incorporated into every coach's contract and states that every coach:

"Shall have obligation to communicate openly and candidly with the principle owner and or his designated representatives; to ensure that club ownership is informed on a complete and timely basis of all matters affecting the club's operations to respect the responsibility and authority of ownership, to make decisions on behalf of the club and to avoid actions that undermine or damage the club's reputation or operating success."

Mr. Kiffin violated each and every provision of this resolution.

*Ignores the fact that Mr. Kiffin's false statements to the media were conveyed to the fans and the team further damaging the reputation and good will of the Raiders organization.

Mr. Kiffin was terminated for cause. The grievance is without merit.

The Raiders would appear to have a good case against Kiffin.

*The first point is a matter of interpretation. Kiffin would argue he was only telling the truth. The Raiders would contend Kiffin saying Al Davis' refusal to cut players and his harsh critiques of players such as WR Javon Walker and OT Mario Henderson along with distancing himself from having any say with the Raiders defense are examples of this.

*Kiffin said he had no communication with Davis for weeks and that his last communication was prior to the season opener. Davis presented a letter sent to Kiffin days after the season opener against Denver and said he spoke to Kiffin in Buffalo with strength coach Brad Roll and another coach as witnesses. That would give the Raiders the advantage in this case.

*The third point centers on Davis being the boss. When Kiffin suspended defensive assistant Randy Hanson without telling Davis, he did so without permission. Kiffin's constant criticisms discredited the Raiders and how the team is run.

*The Raiders could use Kiffin's quiet pursuit of the head-coaching job at the University of Arkansas for the fourth point. The moment Kiffin looked into the job, it could be interpreted as an action that would "undermine or damage the club's reputation or operating success."

If you don't think so, ask DeAngelo Hall or anyone in Atlanta what Bobby Petrino's act did to the team.

*Kiffin's comments can be seen as damaging to the team. Some of the things he said portrayed the team as a crazy place to be.

That the owner and coach would go weeks without speaking isn't a sign of sanity.

I'm sure Kififn will counter with he was telling the truth and that there are several others that would agree.

I'm sure Kiffin's case refutes the Raiders' claims. In his limited media appearances since, Kififn said Davis told lies about him. There were reports Kiffin considered a defamation suit.

This isn't the last we'll hear of this.

--Jason Jones

October 29, 2008
Darren's hurting toes

ALAMEDA - Remember when LeBron James shook Adidas for Nike when he made the jump from high school to the NBA?

That was a big deal because Nike paid James well to wear the Swoosh.

What shoes NFL players wear isn't nearly as big a deal because most of us have no reason to wear cleats.

Well it's an issue with the Raiders now that Darren McFadden has turf toe in his left foot to go along with the lingering problems with the right foot.

The thought is there's a problem with the support in McFadden's shoe making him injure his toes.

The Raiders made it known today last week's flare-up of McFadden's toe injury wasn't the right toe he hurt on Sept. 14. Instead it was his left that he hurt Oct. 19 against the New York Jets.

McFadden wore Adidas in college.

"I'm going to keep wearing Nike," McFadden said. "It's just one of those things where I have to talk to them, try to get a shoe that try to keep the foot from bending as much as it is with the turf toe. Just try to get it a little stiffer in the bottom of it."

Raiders coach Tom Cable said the priority is letting the injury heal and then finding the right shoe.

"Obviously, there's an issue so we've got to get it fixed," Cable said.

*Ronald Curry isn't happy being a special teams player.

"It's like the team gave up on me," Curry said. "I ain't gonna give up on myself. I'm just gonna keep fighting and one day I'll get another opportunity to go out there and make some plays."

Curry is making $2 million in base salary this season and is due $3.5 million in base salary next season.

He knows those numbers mean he's probably done with the Raiders after this season because that's too much money to pay a No. 4 or No. 5 receiver.

"It's all about finishing this year out," Curry said. "Obviously you go from playing to getting one or two snaps a game, the decision is being made. I'm going to go out there and continue to work at practice, work at games and once the season's over, the picture's pretty clear."

Chaz Schilens, who replaced Curry, Javon Walker and Johnnie Lee Higgins will all be back. Rookie Arman Shields is on injured reserve and figures to have a roster spot next season, too.

Curry, however, said he should have seen it coming. The team signed Drew Carter and put him ahead of Curry on the depth chart along with Walker in the offseason.

And when Carter went down with a knee injury, the Raiders signed Ashley Lelie.

"I come out the game when they're throwing the ball deep or if it's a double move or something like that," Curry said. "Or they want to get somebody else on the field, Ronald's the always the one that comes of the field to give someone else that opportunity."

Curry said there's more he can give to the offense but feels as if he was being blamed for the Raiders ranking 30th in the NFL at 161.1 passing yards a game.

"I feel like as a team as a whole that we could've played better," Curry said. "Right now we made one change, it was me."

It wasn't just that Curry was benched. He wasn't even given his old job as the third receiver.

Lelie and Higgins both play more than Curry.

"Even when I was playing we had a rotation and now we don't have a rotation," Curry said. "It's like I ain't good enough."

Curry said he was supposed to hear from Cable about the decision, but still hasn't spoken to him.

Curry went on to say the Raiders offense isn't one that asks a lot of receivers, so maybe it doesn't matter who is playing.

"It's a ball control offense," Curry said. "You go out there, you're running a lot. They don't ask the receivers but to make a play here and there. For what they're asking the receivers to do, it really don't matter whose out there if you're going to go out there and block and make try to make a play here and there. I've got a lot left in the tank. I feel great. Achilles (injuries are) behind me, bone spurs (surgery in the offseason) is behind me. I've done lost weight, 10 to 15 pounds, so I'm as light as I've ever been. I've still got a lot of football in me."

*Michael Bush is still a tailback. Cable said new addition Jason Davis would be trained as fast as possible to get on the field.

And with McFadden's bad feet, Bush is needed at tailback.

*Not that the team wanted to find out in Baltimore, but JaMarcus Russell can take a hard hit.

Several Baltimore defenders were impressed with how Russell took so many hard hits and kept getting up.

Russell acknowledged he was a little sore on Monday, but nothing he couldn't deal with.
"Being somebody almost their size, it's funny to me that when gets hit me as hard as they did, and I get right back up and kind of slap them on the butt to kind of let them know I'm going to be there all game," Russell said. "That's kind of the thing with me. You get a good lick on me, I'm going to get back up. It's not going to occur to me why I can't. I'm going to try my best to get back up and show my guys that I've got it inside of me."

*Mario Henderson ran off the field today to get the birthday cake Cornell Green was holding for him. Someone joked they hadn't seen the second-year tackle move that fast in some time.

Henderson turned 24 today.

*DE Derrick Burgess (triceps), S Gibril Wilson (toe), LB Jon Alston (foot), CB Chris Johnson (back spasms) and McFadden (toe) all did not practice.

The team is hopeful Alston could return next week. Burgess is day-to-day. Cable said Wilson's toe was "sore."

*The Raiders will have their Tickets for Kids and Tickets for Troops programs for the next two home games.

Click on the links if you want to help some children, troops or their families attend a Raider game.
--Jason Jones

October 29, 2008
Kiffin's beef

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders will likely issue a statement in response to fired head coach Lane Kiffin filing a grievance with the NFL seeking approximately $2.6 million in salary that owner Al Davis does not intend to pay him.

Davis said Kiffin was fired for "cause" after repeatedly lying to the media about things involving the team.

Kiffin's name is going to be mentioned with several college jobs. He's already been mentioned as a candidate at Clemson and Washington.

--Jason Jones

October 29, 2008
Darren's two feet

ALAMEDA - Did Darren McFadden's turf toe spread?

After wearing a walking boot on his right foot a few weeks back, McFadden was at practice today with a walking boot on his left foot.

Since we all know he didn't pass turf toe from his right foot to the left, that means there's something else going on with McFadden that would appear to limit his chances of making an impact as a rookie.

When McFadden was limited last week in practice, he and coach Tom Cable said it was the troublesome right toe that was acting up again.

So the question becomes what's wrong with McFadden's left foot.

Defensive end Derrick Burgess is still at practice with a towel over his shoulder and no helmet. Cable said on Monday that Burgess is day-to-day.

Also not practicing is safety Gibril Wilson, who was not said to have an injury on Monday. LB Jon Alston (foot) also was not at practice.

*New fullback Jason Davis was at practice. He is wearing No. 34.

*WR Ronald Curry took a lot of practice snaps on special teams as a member of the punt coverage team.

Looks like the team is finding a way to use him since his role in the offense is almost nonexistent.

--Jason Jones

October 28, 2008

The Raiders placed fullback Justin Griffith on injured reserve. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Sunday's loss at Baltimore.

The Raiders signed fullback Jason Davis from Chicago's practice squad to replace Griffith.

Davis (5-10, 245) was undrafted out of Illinois in 2006 and has yet to appear in an NFL game. He

The Raiders also waived tackle Seth Wand from injured reserve.

--Jason Jones

October 27, 2008
Griffith lost for the season

ALAMEDA - Starting fullback Justin Griffith is out for the season after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament during Sunday's 29-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Griffith is well versed in the zone-blocking scheme the Raiders use. He's also a steadying influence on an offense with a lot of young players in key positions.

"You lose a terrific person, a lot of leadership," said interim head coach Tom Cable. "He's solid as a rock. He comes to work every day. He does things to the best of his ability every opportunity he gets. Someone who's familiar with the system. You're losing quite a bit there. But we'll get Luke to step up, and we'll get someone in here and get him trained as quick as we can."

Cable said using Michael Bush as a fullback could be an option. But with Darren McFadden hobbled, that might not be the best idea.

Using one of the tight ends as an extra blocker is an option, too.

*Some Raider defenders have bemoaned that teams are beating them with "trick" plays like reverses and using two quarterbacks like Baltimore did.

Those plays work when players aren't disciplined.

"That's why you run them, to take advantage of something you see," Cable said. "Something, a flaw in someone's scheme or maybe an over aggressive player. And if you look at the plays that they ran, it was based on that, being too aggressive in a couple of spots."

And don't be surprised to see the Atlanta Falcons try some different looks this weekend.

"As you know this is a copycat league so we're going to really have to address those more than we have because we're going to seem them again," Cable said. "Maybe this week, maybe the next week, who knows? We'll have to definitely pay a ton of attention to that."

*Cable continues to stand up for players and not single them out even when they've obviously blown a play.

When asked about the 70-yard touchdown catch by Demetrius Williams on Sunday in which there wasn't a Raider anywhere near him, Cable said yesterday the safety abandoned his coverage to follow the quarterback.

The only safety on that side of the field was Gibril Wilson. Cable, however, refused to say the play was Wilson's fault, opting to say "we" didn't play the coverage right.

"No," said Cable when asked about Wilson's role on the play. "We just blew the coverage."

*The Raiders were in Cover 2 on that play. That's interesting because the way the team tried to spin things earlier in the season, they only used Cover 2 because Lane Kiffin made them and it cost them three big plays against Denver.

DeAngelo Hall said not playing a lot of Cover 2 was no excuse to leave anyone wide open.

Though players might want to play more zone, whenever something goes wrong in zone, the first excuse is "We don't play a lot of man."

"Guys just weren't covered," Hall said. "It ain't got nothing to do with that. We practiced those things, we executed them in practice. To go out in the game and not execute it is just not being disciplined. It has nothing to do with how little we do something. We're not executing. The same thing happened on Monday night. We didn't execute and we got beat. It happened in Baltimore and we gave up the big play."

*For those bashing Kwame Harris, Cable has news for you:

Harris is an upgrade over Barry Sims.

Harris gave up a sack to Terrell Suggs on the second play of the game in Baltimore, but Cable likes what Harris has brought to the Raiders.

"We've upgraded from where we were before in terms of the number of hits on the quarterback, number of hits on the quarterbacks from that spot," Cable said. "Certainly in the run game he's improved us there. Really only the first one, that second play of the game, couldn't hear and got out late and that's what it was. It's going to happen. You don't want it to happen. You do everything you can to keep it from happening but it's part of the game."

*Cable said there is improvement in the passing game. JaMarcus Russell isn't holding the ball as long and the receivers seem to be doing better as they become comfortable with Russell and vice versa.

While Russell might not be ready to run the offense with no problems, Cable likes that he knows the mistakes he makes before being told and is showing better awareness in the pocket.

"Now he's moving away (from pressure) with his eyes upfield," Cable said. "He's moving up and out in the pocket. He's starting to be active in the pocket the way you're supposed to be, and that's just being comfortable. That's being able to feel the rush and slide away from it rather than run away from it, and then just huck it out of bounds or do something like that."

*Here's Cable when asked about the Raiders being in contention (don't laugh) in the AFC West. Oakland is 2-5, two games behind first-place Denver.

"We don't put it out of our mind," Cable said. "We talked about it today. Why wouldn't you talk about it? It's anybody's deal right now. Both Kansas City and San Diego got beat yesterday. We got beat yesterday. Nothing really changed. Denver had a bye. So here we are kind of setting where we were when we went into this weekend. I don't think you can put it out of your mind, cause if you don't ultimately have that as your prize, then what are you doing this for. And yet, right now, the most important thing is the process to get there. I mean, let's be real about that, too. And that's winning football games."

*Cable said he has no problems with players celebrating making a play when on the wrong side of a blowout.

"I'll tell you how I really feel. I think that's for someone to write about that wants to say, 'You're down so you shouldn't act that way.' That's BS. This is football. And football is emotional and intense. When you make a great play, celebrate. That's what it's about. That's just what I believe. It may not be what you all want to hear. I want them to light their hair on fire and go crazy and have fun doing it. To say is it appropriate when you're 20 down? I don't know if it is or not. But I know good defensive football teams go ballistic. If you watch and they're a great defensive football team, but every series, every time we came out to the field offensively, Ray Lewis actually paraded around the field if you watched him, inspiring the crowd, bringing the crowd up the entire time. You say, 'Well that's because they're a good defense.' No that's the way they play, the emotion and energy they play the game with. You have to respect that. I like it when our players have fun playing the game and enjoy playing the game. I'd like to be ahead by 20 though, because maybe it's a little more fun, you know?"

I know it would a lot more fun, and a lot more meaningful, to showboat up by 20.

*McFadden (toe), DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) and LB Jon Alston (foot) are day-to-day.

--Jason Jones

October 27, 2008
Hall is following orders

ALAMEDA - DeAngelo Hall is settling in to what the Raiders want him to do.

Hall is figuring out how the Raiders play defense and how to fit in. In previous schemes, Hall said he had more freedom in what he did in coverage, but is adjusting to playing within in the confines of the Raiders scheme.

"With understanding of the defense comes, obviously, a sense of confidence, a sense of swagger, like I said in the past," Hall said today. "I'm starting to fully understand what they're asking me to do, and buying into it."

Hall made his living as a gambler at cornerback for four seasons in Atlanta. He played off more, tried to bait quarterbacks into bad decisions and made two Pro Bowls.

But he's found life as a man corner with the Raiders different.

"Every scheme I've been in has kind of allowed me to do what I like to do," Hall said. "But being here, I almost have to do what I'm told. And like I said, it can be little bit frustrating at times. Two-time Pro Bowler, you know, 20 picks in my career, it's kind of hard to be told what to do - especially when you're comfortable doing something else. But like I said, I'm buying into it, feel like it's working. Ain't got no complaints, as long as it's working."

Hall has to be more physical playing for the Raiders. At 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, that's not always easy with the Raiders requiring their corners to play up on receivers and be physical.

"It's easy for Nnam (Asomugha) to go up there and press," Hall said. "He's 6-2, long. I'm a little smaller than that. And it can wear and tear on you. But just gotta do what you're told."

--Jason Jones

October 27, 2008
Being booed for boorish behavior

BALTIMORE - The Raiders found a way to be booed on the road even though there were never really in the game.

Safety Hiram Eugene put a nice hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap to guarantee an incompletion on a deep pass over the middle.

It was a nice hit. Nothing that would make the highlight reels, though.

Eugene jumped up with bravado and preened with the Raiders trailing 22-10 at the time in the fourth quarter.

The fans reaction? Boo! Read the scoreboard! Beat on your chest while the Ravens beat on your team.

A few Raider defenders have a habit of doing that. But at some point, shouldn't someone act as if they are being manhandled?

After all, another team just made your run defense look like a joke?

That's not the attitude of these Raiders.

Linebacker Thomas Howard was also booed for celebrating a late tackle in what ended up being a 29-10 loss Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

"If you saw me out there I'm having fun," Howard said. "That's how I play the game. I don't care what the score is."

Perhaps a veteran leader would pull a young guy aside and tell him to tone it down. What's fun about traveling across the country 19-point loss?

But there's no Ray Lewis in the Raiders locker room.

"I don't care if we're up 30 or down 30," Howard said. "I'm going to go out there, I'm gonna stunt, I'm going to give you my stuff after my plays. I'm gonna have fun playing football. I love playing the game."

What about the perception that you look a little...silly celebrating of all things a tackle in a blowout?

"I don't care what they think," Howard said. "I'm out there playing football. I love playing the game. You're not going to tell me I can't play the game and have fun if I'm up 30 or down 30."

Howard said he received credit for Ravens rookie running back Ray Rice for his style of play.

"Rice came up to me and said, 'Man, you have fun no matter what's going on out there,'" Howard said.

By the way, Rice might appreciate the Raider defense after tying his career high with 64 yards.

The difference? Rice needed 22 carries to reach 64 yards Week 1. He ran for 64 in only eight attempts against the Raiders.

Raiders running back Justin Fargas isn't bothered by late game grandstanding in a blowout loss.

"You can never take the fire away from a team," Fargas said. "You can never take the emotion out of it. We need more of that. We need some guys having fun and loving what they do. That's what that's about. It's not about the score. You've got to have that fire and emotion regardless."

If only the Raiders started the game with that same fire and emotion. Maybe they wouldn't have been down 19-0 at halftime.

The voice of reason on this situation just might be DeAngelo Hall.

He's been derisively called "MeAngelo" but he's on point with this.

"I don't know what guys think," Hall said. "I ain't celebrating, we're down. The whole point of the game is to win, not to make plays, it's to win games. You didn't see me celebrating not one time. It's frustrating. We've got execute and play the way we know how to play."

Then all the look-at-me actions wouldn't be looked at as scornfully. The Raiders would have earned the right to boast a little bit.

But at 2-5, the Raiders haven't done that yet. And until more Raiders think like Hall, things figure to stay the way the are.

--Jason Jones

October 26, 2008
He sees the good

BALTIMORE - I understand head coaches have a tough job to do and they need to put a positive spin on things.

But there's still something weird about hearing Tom Cable say the Raiders are a "good" team after watching them dominated, 29-10, by the Baltimore Ravens.

"This is a good football team," Cable said. "I've said it, I'll continue to say it, I see them every day, so I have great, great belief in them. But somehow I've got to get them to believe that, somehow get them to accept that that's who they are, rather than say, 'Well, something's wrong. If it doesn't start out right, oh, here we go again.' You've got to phase that mentality out of this football team, and we'll do that. We'll do that before too much longer here. I know we're on the right track. So, it's just a matter of getting over the hump with that and really having a real belief in ourselves and each other."

The Raiders continue to do things that would make it hard for them to believe they are good.

After all, a 2-5 record this season and the worst record in the NFL since 2003 makes it hard to believe otherwise.

Cable is now 1-2 since taking over for Lane Kiffin. He's run into the same problems that dogged Kiffin.

*The offense is inconsistent and the defense cannot stop the run. The Ravens ran for 192 yards a week after the New York Jets hit the Raiders for 242 rushing yards.

*The team still has only one first-half touchdown this seasons.

There's usually at least one dumbfounding play a game. This week's award goes to Johnnie Lee Higgins, who caught a kickoff that might have gone through the end zone or out of bounds and ran out at his own two-yard line.

Cable had no idea why Higgins did that.

"None whatsoever," Cable said.

There's a lot of work to do, coach.

--Jason Jones

October 26, 2008
McFadden out

BALTIMORE - Darren McFadden will miss his first game as a pro today as he is listed among the Raiders eight inactive players.

His turf toe began bothering him on Thursday. That should mean more carries for Michael Bush.

The other Raider inactives are:
WR Todd Watkins
S Rashad Baker
LB Jon Alson
DE Derrick Burgess
T James Marten
C John Wade
3rd QB Marques Tuiasosopo

--Jason Jones

October 25, 2008
Injury updates

BALTIMORE - After informing the media RB Darren McFadden (toe), QB Andrew Walter (calf) and DT Gerard Warren (ankle) were all probable to play tomorrow against the Baltimore Ravens, the official injury report issued by the NFL lists the trio as questionable.

In football terms that means they went from a 75 percent chance of playing to 50 percent.

When asked about the status of the trio on Friday, coach Tom Cable said, "one will be questionable that I know of" before declaring Derrick Burgess (triceps) and Jon Alston (foot) doubtful.

McFadden's turf toe is something that seems like it isn't going away anytime soon. But I'm not a doctor and don't pretend to be an expert.

So I reached out to Stephania Bell, PT, OCS, CSCS for more information on turf toe. She is the Injury Analyst and a Senior Writer for

McFadden injured his toe Sept. 14 in Kansas City. He'd been out of a walking boot for a couple of weeks when he woke up Thursday morning with soreness.

I wanted to know exactly what is wrong with McFadden's toe and if rest is the only way to correct the problem.

Here is Bell's explanation:

"You're right. In most cases, it's rest. The problem (usually) is a sprain (partial tearing) of the ligaments that support the 1st metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, where the base of the big toe meets the ball of the foot. Stretching of tissue prevents those fibers from coming together and scarring to heal. Every time you push off the ball of your foot it is not only stretching the tissue, you're putting full weight through the joint, increasing the overall load. Rest, and a walking boot (which given the flat surface essentially prevents toe extension) allows that tissue to heal. The degree of injury determines the time to heal, so it's often tough to heal fully in season, especially if microtrauma keeps occurring with use. A few days here and there allows it to feel better, but then gets aggravated when subject to strain - worse if gets stepped on, twisted, etc."

Healing time varies and ranges from weeks to months. She added some cases require surgery.

In extreme cases (Bell noted Deion Sanders) it can end a career, but that would be rare.

There's no indication McFadden is near the point of needing surgery, especially since he was able to practice, albeit in a limited role, Thursday and Friday.

McFadden said cutting back his practice work is an attempt to prevent the injury from getting to the point he's in constant pain.

*It was nice of John Elway to weigh-in on JaMarcus Russell's situation in Sporting News while taking a jab at Al Davis and the always unstable coaching situation.

Elway feels bad for Russell being in situation with "organizational instability that can ruin a quarterback."

That includes not having a steady coaching staff and not giving the young quarterback the players around him to succeed.

There's a good chance by this time next season Russell will be playing for his third head coach and second offensive coordinator in just three seasons.

Elway said it was too bad Russell couldn't do what he did and force a trade to not play for the team that drafted him, the Baltimore Colts.

Russell said when he signed with the Raiders during Week 2 of the 2007 season that he didn't think about not playing for Oakland and assumed everything would be worked out eventually.

He really didn't have much of a choice. Russell didn't have a promising baseball career as leverage like Elway did back then.

This won't be the last time someone takes a shot at the Raiders. The perception that the franchise is in disarray is everywhere.

At the NFL Combine in February, there were agents saying their clients were asking if there was a way NOT to be drafted by the Raiders in the wake of all the news that had come out surrounding former coach Lane Kiffin.

I think it's too early to begin the discussion of if Russell's career will be ruined by his first two seasons.

But with another coaching change and new assistants, Russell would be on the path of many other quarterbacks that failed to live up to expectations.

He needs stability. We'll see if he gets it.

--Jason Jones

October 24, 2008
McFadden likely to play

ALAMEDA - Running back Darren McFadden is listed as probable while still bothered by turf toe.

Raiders coach Tom Cable said McFadden's role wouldn't be scaled back, but acknowledged he's not 100 percent.

McFadden woke Thursday and said the toe was sore.

"We're still concerned, but same as yesterday," Cable said after McFadden was limited for a second consecutive practice. "He got some work in, so we'll see what he's like come Saturday."

Saturday is when the team has its walkthrough in Baltimore.

Quarterback Andrew Walter strained his calf in practice Thursday and was limited today. He's probable as is defensive tackle Gerard Warren (ankle). Warren was limited as a precaution.

If it does rain, watch to see how McFadden runs. The last time he played on a wet field, he was sliding around in Buffalo and planting off the wrong foot. Though he wouldn't admit it, his toe bothered him in that game.

Defensive end Derrick Burgess (triceps) and linebacker Jon Alston (foot) are doubtful. Cable expects to have Alston back next week.

*Still no decision on if Tyvon Branch or Johnnie Lee Higgins would be the primary kickoff returner. Based on performance the nod should go to Higgins, who wasn't doing horribly in place of Branch.

It was Branch's job until he broke his thumb in the preseason opener.

*Cable said he has no problem with McFadden trying to run over defenders rather than around them in the open field.

It would seem McFadden could do more damage by showing a little more elusiveness in those situations.

"You've got to let a runner run," Cable said. "There's one of them (against the New York Jets) certainly you could argue he might have made a move right there, but there's two others where I thought he did the right thing. You've really got to let those guys express themselves and do what they do."

*Robert Thomas will fill in for Alston in most of his special teams roles. Isaiah Ekejiuba will the be the "personal protector" for punter Shane Lechler.

Alston ran for 22 yards on a fake punt from that position.

--Jason Jones

October 24, 2008
(TV) star in the making

ALAMEDA - The Raiders have the perfect candidate for his own reality television show.

Cornell Green.

He's the Raiders' starting right tackle and easily among the team leaders in locker-room shenanigans.

Whether he's startling a reporter or jokingly explaining his life experiences, Green is always the source of a good laugh.

The laughs range from teammates asking him if he's a "sex symbol" as he strolls around shirtless, to his father-to-son-like chats with Mario Henderson and practice squad lineman Brandon Torrey.

Green passes along life lessons to Henderson and Torrey about how to navigate the social world of being a nondescript NFL offensive lineman, as they lean in and listen with grins on their faces.

If this blog had a parental discretion advisory, I'd gladly pass along some of those lessons. But I don't want to lose my job.

Coach Tom Cable jokingly chided Green this morning for bringing the unit down as he chatted with Robert Gallery and Jake Grove in the shade.

"He's bringing us down," Cable laughed as he saw their "Club Med" set up.

The cameras need to follow Green around. Trust me. It would be hilarious.

*DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) and LB Jon Alston (foot) were not practicing. Alston wasn't on the field while Burgess walked onto the field wearing workout clothes, but no helmet.

Both will be game-time decisions.

I would not be surprised to see Burgess play. Last year, coach Lane Kiffin made it sound as if Burgess had no chance of playing at San Diego and listed him as doubtful.

Burgess played in that game.

--Jason Jones

October 23, 2008
Enjoying his trip down memory lane

ALAMEDA - Tom Cable is relishing his chance to be the Raiders head coach.

He's unlike his predecessor, Lane Kiffin, who at 33 is a little older than me and too young to remember the glory days of the Raiders.

Cable is 43, which means he saw the Raiders at their best in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

So he got a kick out of having Raiders from the past speak to the team before last Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

I'd love a job where I got to meet Magic Johnson (oddly enough I've never encountered him as a writer).

Nevermind my nostalgic moment, back to Cable and the Raiders.

"I haven't met any of these guys and I grew up watching them," Cable said. "Some of that was personal but some of that was also being here for two years and realizing a lot of this football team, as young as some of these guys are, they don't understand the legacy of what it is to be a Raider. They don't understand the tradition of what it is and what those teams accomplished. So more than anything it was educating them. With that, now that you understand it, there's a responsibility to wear that helmet and that shield and I think that was really what was behind that."

Players like Nnamdi Asomugha and Kirk Morrison described the experience of seeing the old Raiders as inspirational.

Morrison grew up in Oakland so many of the names he probably heard growing up. Asomugha is from Southern California, and like most of us L.A.-area natives, saw plenty about the Raiders as children.

But what does that mean to someone who grew up back east? Does a player on a team that won its last Super Bowl before he was born really care about tradition?

It's hard to gauge. Players will play for anyone as long as the money is right. There's no hatred of Kansas City, Denver or San Diego along the same lines the old players discuss.

It'll be interesting to see if the players take what they heard from Kenny Stabler, Raymond Chester and Phil Villapiano seriously about being a team or if it becomes a forgotten story in another lost season.

Right now, that's the only legacy most of them know.

*I loved Cable's answer to a question about rain this weekend in Baltimore.

"I hope it rains cats and dogs, we're expecting it to rain on Sunday," he said. "We have already talked about it. If you're worried about that stuff, A) you're not very good and, B), you're worried about the wrong thing. We have already addressed that."

The Ravens play on the artificial grass a lot of teams use. And with all the advanced drainage systems, it's not as if there's going to be a puddle of mud in the middle of the field.

Good teams still make plays in the rain. If the Raiders lose on a wet day and the first complaint is the weather, you'll know they're making excuses.

Rain would actually help both teams because neither wants to pass the ball a lot.

*Johnnie Lee Higgins might return kickoffs and punts again. He averaged 25.2 yards on kickoffs, but ceded to Tyvon Branch last week.

It was Branch's job before he broke his thumb in the Raiders' exhibition-season opener.

Branch is learning much like Higgins did last year that kickoff duty as a rookie isn't easy.

Branch has five kickoffs for 73 yards (14.6 ypr) and fumbled a kickoff last weekend against the Jets that he recovered.

Cable said a decision would be made soon on that.

*DeAngelo Hall was playing an interesting game of fielding punts after practice. While holding one football, the JUGS machine would send another ball for Hall to catch. With both footballs secured, Hall would wait for a third to come his way, get rid of one football and catch the other with his available arm.

*DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) will be a game-time decision as will LB Jon Alston (foot). DT Gerard Warren (ankle) was limited but is expected to play on Sunday.

RB Darren McFadden (toe) was limited. He said the toe was sore and cutting back was precautionary.

--Jason Jones

October 23, 2008
Still no Burgess

ALAMEDA -- One of three injured Raiders returned to practice today.

As expected, defensive tackle Gerard Warren (ankle) is back. Defensive end Derrick Burgess (triceps) and linebacker Jon Alston (foot) are still out.

Having Burgess on the field would be a boost to the pass rush, and the chances to rattle rookie Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

Burgess is from the Baltimore area and would probably like to play in front of friends and family.

*Looking for an interesting read? Here's a story on former Raiders cornerback Fabian Washington discussing why he was traded to Baltimore during the offseason.

He admits liking to party more than film study toward the end of his time in Oakland. Washington was a first-round pick in 2005 and was dealt for a fourth-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Washington added he would have traded himself, too, based on how poorly he played last season.

He was benched after two games last season for poor tackling. Washington was never the same promising player after a Dec. 10, 2006 loss at Cincinnati. Chad Johnson schooled him more than once in that game.

-- Jason Jones

October 23, 2008
Q&A time

Question: Jason, where's the weekly question and answer session? It seems like you may disappeared on us.

Raider Johnny, Santa Clarita, Ca

Answer: It's back. Forgive me for not answering questions in a while. Nearly three weeks off as a new father plus all that goes on before that had me tied up.

Now it's time to dust off some more questions. Most were tied to Lane Kiffin's job status so there's not much to answer about that since he was fired while I was on paternity leave.

So go ahead and send more questions.

Question: Are the Raiders going to get rid of Javon Walker or Ronald Curry? What is going on? Is he under contract for eight years?
Jonathan, Philadelphia

Answer: When it comes to Walker, the answer is no time soon.

This was sent before Walker's solid showing Sunday before the New York Jets, but I'm sure most of you aren't sold on Walker based off that.

Al Davis wants Walker to be on the team and believes he is a key to the success of JaMarcus Russell and the offense. Walker is under contract through 2013.

Curry might be a different story. He's lost his starting job and the word is he's not a Davis favorite. Add to that Curry's had problems catching the ball this season it's possible Curry's time is nearing an end.

He's under contract until 2011, but that means nothing if the Raiders simply want to be done with him.

The team has younger and cheaper options such as rookie Chaz Schilens who supplanted Curry as a starter and Arman Shields, the rookie on injured reserve.

That's all for now. Keep the questions coming.

--Jason Jones

October 22, 2008
Ryan speaks on defense and family

ALAMEDA - I get the feeling Tom Cable won't be marched out to refute anything Rob Ryan said today.

Ryan, the team's defensive coordinator, held a media session for about 10 minutes for the first time he spoke for nearly 20 minutes last month to refute former coach Lane Kiffin saying the defensive gameplan was drawn up by Ryan and owner Al Davis.

Ryan was his typical self today. Funny, quick, profane and taking shots at his critics.

One of Ryan's critics had been Kiffin, who began changing is tune a bit once his days were numbered as coach.

"I think it's great, a breath of fresh air having Tom Cable come in," Ryan said. "I felt, to be honest, I felt a lot of stuff was pointed at the defense that I wasn't necessarily agreeing with. It's been well-documented, we lost six games giving up one offensive touchdown last season and it seemed like single different game was the defense's fault. Attribute that to whatever it is. Bottom line is I think we've got a damned good leader in front of the group now and everything's fine."

Nope, Davis won't ask Cable to dispute that.

"I think Tom's a guy that you can go to. He's a guy that guys believe in and I think when you see a guy like that, you see some genuine toughness and like Art (Shell) had genuine toughness, and I know, hell, out defensive guys liked him and we played well when he was our head coach and I think Tom Cable brings a lot of those good attributes to guys that are in the room as defensive players."

Nope, Greg Knapp won't be asked to refute that, either.

Considering the criticism the Raiders defense takes for not blitzing and the like, Ryan was glad to see his unit force three punts in overtime Sunday against the Jets.

It was better than the 34 points the Raiders gave up in New Orleans a week earlier.

Ryan had a message for those that think it was because the defense sat back and did nothing to stop Drew Brees.

"Sometimes, people think, well, we play prevent (defense)," Ryan said. "We don't have a prevent, so I wish people would stop saying that (expletive)."

*Ryan talked about going against his brother, Rex, who is the Ravens' defensive coordinator.

"I keep quiet and like to be a professional," Rob said. "He's an arrogant ass. Other than that, he has some big bullies to stand behind, just like I do. But great players make great defenses, and two of the best defenses in the league are going to show up Sunday."

Right now, the Ravens are living up to their bully status with the as they are No. 2 in total defense, No. 4 against the pass and No. 1 against the run.

The Raiders are 26th in total defense, 22nd against the pass and 24th against the run.

The Raiders have the Ravens beat with 16 sacks compared to 12.

The media proudly takes credit for the improved Raiders pass rush.

"Well, you guys gave me so much (expletive) the first week for having none, that we decided to go get the quarterback," Ryan said.

*So who is Ryan's dad, former NFL coach Buddy Ryan cheering for?

"He's a Raider fan," Rob said of Buddy.

*Ryan addressed the ever-troublesome run defense, which allowed the Jets to run for 242 yards. He was happy it wasn't more.

"We don't take offense to a four or five yard run," Ryan said. "We just don't like those 50 yarders or 40 yarders to come through there. Could have been a hell of a lot worse, as bad as that number was. Hiram Eugene really stepped up and probably saved three touchdowns. We've got work to do but we're looking forward to this challenge. This team's gonna want to run the ball with a rookie quarterback so we'll see how he does. This guy is not a Pro Bowl candidate or a Hall of Famer so it'd be all right like all these other guys we played... with the exception of Damon Huard."

That guy, Joe Flacco, has two touchdown passes and seven interceptions this season.

Never has a player with four tackles been as praised as Eugene. It speaks to how poorly Michael Huff was playing at free safety.

Eugene looked better than he did in his 2007 appearances when his missed tackles made him no real upgrade over Stuart Schweigert.

Huff is still Eugene's backup, playing only in nickel and dime personnel groupings.

With the Baltimore Ravens this week, a team that likes to run, Eugene should play a lot.

Huff still has work to do.

"Michael has just got to concentrate on things that we want him to work on and where he can improve his game," Ryan said. "Like all of us, we've got room to improve. He can do it. The guy just keeps working hard. He did a good job in the sub(-package) last week, and I'm sure he'll continue to do a good job."

*Ryan on rookie DE Trevor Scott, who had two sacks against the Jets:

"Well, I won't lie to you and say I never found him. I actually did find him, but everybody is going to believe whatever, but that's the way it is. I've always had a good eye for talent, and that kid has got a lot of talent. Of course, a blind man could see him on tape. That kid can play, and he's getting better."

*Cable said today LG Robert Gallery isn't far from being a Pro Bowl player.

"I think once he goes across the water and goes to the Pro Bowl, I think people will evaluate him for who he is, what he's become," Cable said.

Gallery's false start penalty on Sunday was his first of the season. He's improved his pass blocking and isn't being called for holding like in past seasons.

"He made the change in the summer (of 2007 to guard from tackle) and I trusted him from the conversations that we'd had before that it was the best move for me and our team at that point," Gallery said. "And I really haven't looked back since then."

Gallery was the second-overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft as a tackle. That didn't work out, but he's playing well enough at guard that some of those Tony Mandarich jokes should cease.

It's a matter of wins, too. People forget Dallas Pro Bowl guard Leonard Davis was drafted as a tackle.

With wins, Gallery's accolades will follow.

*DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) and LB Jon Alston (foot) will be evaluated daily after missing today's practice. DT Gerard Warren (ankle) is expected to participate in Thursday's practice.

--Jason Jones

October 22, 2008
Burgess still not practicing

ALAMEDA - Defensive linemen Gerard Warren, Derrick Burgess and linebacker Jon Alston are not practicing today.

Burgess (triceps) hasn't practiced since Oct. 6. Warren wasn't in a walking boot when he made his way onto the practice field.

Alston injured his foot in overtime against the Jets on Sunday. With Robert Thomas re-signed, he'll likely fill in on special teams of Alston.

Thomas is wearing No. 94, which was Alston's number. Alston took Thomas' No. 55 when he was cut with a knee injury before the season.

Tight end Ben Troupe was placed on injured reserve to make room for Thomas.

--Jason Jones

October 22, 2008
Best cornerback alive

ALAMEDA - With Denver cornerback Champ Bailey out with a groin injury, there's no questioning where the best cornerback in football plays.

That would be Nnamdi Asomugha, who sees about as many passes thrown at him as I do on gameday.

Here's what Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said of Asoumgha during this morning's conference call (and by the way, he pronounced Asomugha correctly. You should here are the name gets butchered sometimes).

"I'm pretty sure there's not a better corner in the NFL than (Asomugha)," Harbaugh said. "...He does it all. He plays the run. He gets off blocks. He's always in position, zone or man, he's just a complete player."

*The Raiders vs. Ravens pits Oakland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan against his twin brother, Rex.

Baltimore ranks No. 2 in total defense, No. 4 against the pass and No. 1 against the run.

The Raiders are 26th in total defense, 22nd against the pass and 24th against the run.

*Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is 6-6 and listed at 230 pounds. He's the same height as JaMarcus Russell and it's not often Flacco encounters a QB that can look him eye-to-eye.

"Big Ben (Roethlisberger) is pretty big," Flacco said. "A lot of these guys are equivalent size. JaMarcus just weighs so much."

For the record, Russell is listed at 260 pounds.

--Jason Jones

October 20, 2008
Trying to explain the penalty problem

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

A day later he wasn't so nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harris now leads the NFL with six false starts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That goes for holding, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Jason Jones

October 19, 2008
Judging a kicker's value

OAKLAND - Many still look at the 2000 NFL Draft and say the Raiders could have used their first-round pick on running back Shaun Alexander. How about quarterback Chad Pennington?

Maybe even linebacker Keith Bullock?

The Raiders, of course, drafted kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

There's nothing SeaBass could ever do to justify being drafted in the first round. There are plenty of good kickers that are selected in the later rounds or found as free agents.

But if a kicker is worth a first-round pick, a 57-yard field goal to win a game should be expected.

Janikowski finally made the kind of field goal that made him a first-round pick in the Raiders' 16-13 overtime win over the New York Jets.

It wasn't the first time he's won a game with his foot. But it was the first time he ended a game with a kick from a distance that would merit a team taking a kicker in the first round.

I was on the field for the kick and it looked as if it would have been good from at least 60 yards.

And that's what he was drafted to do, be a threat to win a game once the Raiders cross midfield.

*It was another boring day for Nnamdi Asomugha.

The Raiders tried putting Asoumgha on slot receivers today in an attempt to dare New York Jets quarterback Brett Favre to throw at him.

It still didn't happen, much to Asomugha's disappointment.

Credit the Raiders' with trying to find ways to keep the Jets off balance by forcing Favre to find Asomugha.

Favre found Asomugha and did what he could to avoid him.

*Michael Bush didn't play at all. Coach Tom Cable said the flow of the game just didn't allow Bush to get in at running back.

*The Raiders were still bad on third downs, converting only 4 of 17.

*Justin Fargas averaged only 2.6 yards a carry against the NFL's third-ranked run defense. He ran 28 times for 74 yards.

*Cable took the blame for the Raiders' 14 penalties, which included lining up in the neutral zone four times.

The Raiders had nine penalties at halftime.

"Yeah, that's my fault," Cable said. "I wanted them juiced and ready to rip someone's lips off. That's what it was. So that's on me. At the same time, we've gotta have better attention to that detail and all that. But I'll look more at that tomorrow, to be quite honest with you. Right now I'm enjoying being 1-0."

*Neither team put a running back at the quarterback position. The Raiders figured to be the team more likely to do that given their struggles on offense lately, but Darren McFadden stayed at running back the entire game.

*Most of the defensive players were proud of themselves for forcing three punts in overtime. The unit allowed the Jets to get in position to tie the game late, but bounced back in overtime, which it hasn't always done.

*Michael Huff couldn't have asked for an easier interception than the duck that hit him in the gut. That would have put the Raiders in line for a much shorter kick Janikowski.

The team used Hiram Eugene in its base defense and Huff played in nickel and dime packages. Eugene made four tackles on plays Huff might have missed.

*Javon Walker said nothing "clicked" between JaMarcus Russell and himself. He said the team finally just decided to throw him the ball. He had five catches all season before grabbing five balls for 75 yards and a touchdown, his first since the 2006 season.

*Tommy Kelly was credited with his first sack of the season. The team believes he can be a player that could get 10 in a season. He's got some work to do to get to that point.

*Trevor Scott's two-sack day means the Raiders might have three good rushers off the edge. When Derrick Burgess returns, it would mean less work for him and Kalimba Edwards and keep them fresh for late-game situations.

*When team captains were announced, DTs Kelly, Gerard Warren and Terdell Sands went out, even though they don't have the "C" on their jerseys.

--Jason Jones

October 19, 2008
A different kind of ending

OAKLAND -- The Raiders did just about everything to lose today's game.

There were plenty of penalties (14) which coach Tom Cable took the blame for.

And it seemed as if the team was daring Brett Favre to beat them by giving him the ball three times in overtime.

But the defense came up with stops and the offense actually produced points in a critical moment.

Fans groaned at the many mistakes, but today proves a win can make everyone forget the bad.

I'll post more from the game later.

--Jason Jones

October 19, 2008
Who's out?

OAKLAND -- DE Derrick Burgess is among the Raider inactives.

Jay Richardson will start with Kalimba Edwards at defensive end.

The rest are:

WR Todd Watkins
S Rashad Baker
T James Marten
C John WAde
TE John madsen
TE Ben Troupe
3rd QB Marques Tuiasosopo

*There was a power outage around the Coliseum which has contributed to a relatively empty Coliseum.

Raiders CEO Amy Trask said about 30 percent of fans ride BART to the game and were affected by the outage.

The stadium is on a separate power grid and not affected.

--Jason Jones

30% of fans not here

October 17, 2008
Chaz is in, Curry is out

ALAMEDA -- Raiders coach Tom Cable announced rookie Chaz Schilens would start in place of Ronald Curry Sunday against the New York Jets.

Schilens has three catches for 38 yards this season, but has looked impressive since arriving as a seventh-round draft pick.

Curry will still play, but expect to see him more in the slot on third downs, where he's excelled in the past.

Here's what Cable likes about Schilens:

"I think his competitiveness for the football when it's in the air. You look at a couple of the plays he's made, some tough catches, having to get it in traffic, or having to get a high ball up in the air. Something that maybe wasn't quite on target, he's been able to go get those things out of the air, and the fact that he's really starting to develop. And it shows every day at practice."

Schilens called the move unexpected.

After all, seventh-round picks are usually worried about just making the team, not starting.

"It's been a long way for me," Schilens said. "It's something I wasn't expecting. My goals were to come in and do good and to play and do well. It's just unexpected but they're giving me a shot so I've to do what I've got to do."

Schilens is a big target (6-4, 225) that has very good speed. His ability to catch imperfect passes will also be valuable.

I spoke with Javon Walker about that and as he noted, nothing is rarely "perfect" in a game so the ability to just get open somehow and make a catch is a must.

Schilens has been doing that since May. He said all the veterans have been good to him as he's progressed.

"They've been good at helping me out all year," Schilens said. "The reason why I've come this far is because they've helped me out a lot. I had a lot of. I had a lot of questions because my college offense was quite different but they've helped me out a lot. I owe a lot to them."

If Schilens continues to develop and can become a dependable starter, he'd be the best receiver drafted by the Raiders since ... Jerry Porter? Tim Brown?

The Raiders have missed on a lot of receivers in recent drafts.

DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) and TE Ben Troupe (foot) are doubtful for Sunday's game.

CB Nnamdi Asomugha (elbow) and LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder) are probable.

*The Raiders will wear their black home jerseys on Sunday.

--Jason Jones

October 17, 2008
No Burgess

ALAMEDA -- Defensive end Derrick Burgess (triceps) was an observer, not a participant, as the Raiders began their final practice before Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

That means he probably won't play Sunday.

That would leave Kalimba Edwards and Jay Richardson as the starting defensive ends with Trevor Scott filling in as an extra pass rusher.

Tight end Ben Troupe (foot) was at practice today working with tight ends coach Kelly Skipper.

There's been a lot of talk about the Wildcat offense leading up to this weekend's game.

With running back Darren McFadden healthy, chances are he will play some quarterback in that formation as he did a bit early in the season.

It looks as if the Jets could use some Wildcat formation, too.

--Jason Jones

October 16, 2008
In search of the right receivers

ALAMEDA - The wide receiver rotation for Sunday's game is starting to sort itself out.

Coach Tom Cable hasn't announced who the starters will be. He said today one change would be rookie Chaz Schilens would play more.

"I think there's some guys I feel need to play more," Cable said. "And that's kind of where we're headed, and we'll get that sorted out pretty quick."

Schilens has been on the other end of some misses for long passing plays this season from JaMarcus Russell.

"We've been working on that in practice," Schilens said. "We're going to be throwing a lot more deep balls and they've been really emphasizing it."

That means Ashley Lelie is still going to play and Johnnie Lee Higgins would be expected to help in that area.

A legitimate deep threat would do a lot for the offense. If safeties have to respect the Raiders' ability to get down the field, there will be more running lanes and tight end Zach Miller would have more room.

Cable has cited timing being a problem in the passing game along with too many dropped passes.

"You see those guys, they stay out, the quarterbacks stay out, throwing extra balls, throwing early, they were out early," Cable said. "Really, what you have to do is just get guys focusing on hand-eye coordination, seeing the ball in, all the way, securing the football all the way, and just keep catching balls, whether it's from a machine or the quarterback until you get that break through and you get your confidence back in there."

With a few more catches, Russell's numbers would improve because he'd be able to get into a rhythm.

Dropped passes mean throwing more passes, often in tougher situations.

The Raiders don't only drop deep passes. They've also been dropping short passes that prevent them from getting into shorter second and third-down situations.

Michael Huff admitted to being surprised he'd been benched.

Cable never said Huff had been officially benched, but Huff confirmed he'd be a backup this week and hope to get in as an extra defensive back.

"Right now, Hiram's starting because I haven't produced the way like I should have these first four or five games," Huff said. "So as of right now, he's starting."
Huff expected to be a lot better at free safety and it looked as if he would be during the offseason. Instead of being undersized at strong safety, Huff was supposed to be a playmaker at free safety and that hasn't happened.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself," Huff said. "I expect to go out there and perform at a Pro Bowl caliber level every year so when I don't, I've kind of disappointed myself. I don't like to have the name on my back. I play for my dad, really, so anytime I go out there and don't play as well as I could, I know I'm letting him down so I put more pressure on myself than I have from any outside source."

As for Eugene, here's what Cable likes about him:

"I think the thing about Eugene that impresses me is I've seen him throw his body around in there. I've seen him get out of center field and get to the sideline with some range. Not that Michael hasn't, but I just see it with a little more zip, a little more flair if you will, and that's what we're looking for, we're looking for intensity on defense."

DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) and TE Ben Troupe (foot) were the only Raiders that did not practice.

Burgess would need to practice Friday to have a chance of playing Sunday. Troupe's foot was sore after practicing Wednesday and he isn't likely to play because of the injury along with him still being new to the team with limited practice time.

LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder) was limited in practice.

Sunday's game has been declared a sellout and will be televised locally.

--Jason Jones

October 16, 2008
Sign language

ALAMEDA - Forgive me if you've heard about this already, but I thought it was funny.

There's an office building adjacent to the Raiders headquarters where a lot of Raider fans work.

There's a sign in a window that reads:

6-head coaches

Sounds like Raider fans are still bitter about how Al Davis has handled the team in recent years ...

*For those of you concerned about Lane Kiffin, he's rumored to be a leading candidate to land the coaching job at Clemson.

*DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) is not practicing today.

--Jason Jones

October 15, 2008
D. Hall does his thing whether you like it or not

ALAMEDA - Many have questioned and bemoaned the style of cornerback DeAngelo Hall likes to play.

He's not a full-time press cornerback. He gives a cushion and when that happens, there's a better chance of giving up short catches, which has happened.

It's the way Hall has always played and he's not going to overhaul his style.

"They like to press, press, press here," Hall said. "I'm a guy that likes to see the ball."

Hall admits you can be burned that way by a double move if you're caught staring into the backfield too long. But it's also the way that he intercepted 17 passes and went to two Pro Bowls in fours seasons in Atlanta.

"You've got to give a little," Hall said of his adjustment to playing for the Raiders.

Head coach Tom Cable doesn't take issue with how Hall plays. Without a pass rush, he's more prone to give up catches because the quarterback isn't forced into bad decisions.

Cable was in Atlanta with Hall in 2006, his second Pro Bowl season.

"The passing game is all timing and when a guy can hit his drop, whether it's his third step, his fifth step, his seventh, whatever, and hitch and be comfortable back there, a lot of bad things happen to you in terms of pass coverage," Cable said. "And it doesn't allow you to be as creative, it doesn't allow you to maybe express yourself in the way DeAngelo would like to. I've been around him and seen what he can do. I definitely think consistency with disruption has got to become who we are."

Five games into the Michael Huff at free safety experiment, the Raiders are already looking at possibly replacing Huff with Hiram Eugene.

This wasn't supposed to be an experiment. Free safety was supposed to be the move that allowed Huff to flourish into a star.

But that hasn't happened yet. Can't blame Stuart Schweigert this time, Raider fans.

"We're going to create some competition for Michael," Cable said. "We're going to create some competition and give Hiram Eugene an opportunity to go out and press him a little bit, and see if we can't bring the best out of either one of those guys.

Huff wasn't in the locker room to ask about the situation.

Playing free safety in the Raiders' scheme is a tough job. Making a one-on-one tackle near the line is a lot easier than being 20-yards deep and trying to figure out the proper angle to take.

And it doesn't help when there are lapses in pass coverage like when Devery Henderson runs right by Huff, as he did on Sunday, for a long catch.

Eugene didn't exactly look like Ed Reed when he replaced Schweigert last season. He missed tackles, too and didn't look like an upgrade.

But he hadn't played much defense until last season, spending most of his time as a special teams player after two years on the practice squad.

He started five games in 2007 and had a good training camp.

"Starting and getting a lot of reps toward the end of the season last year kind of helped me out in feeling my way, as far as fitting on the ball on the run and my ball skills in the back," Eugene said. "It helped me out a lot."

He added he learned what to work on after some of the mistakes he made, too.

"My main thing was angling, taking the angles on the tackles and bringing the guy down in the open field," Eugene said. "That's what I tried to improve on the most because I know that was my pet peeve."

Now that's not the first time someone's said that about a Raiders free safety in recent years.

Maybe this all makes Huff better. We shall see...

Michael Bush admitted hearing rumors the Raiders wanted to trade him bothered him.

"As a young guy you've got to look at it like a business," Bush said. "For a minute I got thinking maybe the didn't want me here."

The Raiders or his agent never told Bush anything about being dealt to San Diego, which was reported on Tuesday.

Bush said the talk could be a good thing.

Maybe he's looking good and teams want him because they see the Raiders have Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden.

Bush said he's happy to be a Raider and wasn't looking to be dealt, even though the assumption would be if a team traded for him, it planned to use him.

*Cable and McFadden have seen the "Wildcat" offense Miami has run with success.

McFadden's offensive coordinator at Arkansas, David Lee, is the Dolphins' quarterbacks coach and has taught Miami running back Ronnie Brown how to operate like McFadden did at quarterback for the Razorbacks.

"When I was looking at it, I know where it was started," McFadden said. "So it's something you look at, you wish you were healthy so you can go out there and do the same thing."

Expect to see McFadden doing more now that his toe his healthy. He practiced on a Wednesday for the first time since prior to the Kansas City game Week 2.

"There are some tremendous similarities between what they're doing at Miami and what we've been trying to do," Cable said.

*Raiders from the team's three Super Bowl championship teams are being flown in by Al Davis to take part in a dinner to honor Gene Upshaw this Saturday.

Those players will attend Sunday's game.

*DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) did not practice. CB Nnamdi Asomugha (elbow) and LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder) were limited, but are expected to play on Sunday against the New York Jets.

On a side note, Asomugha showed another reason why he is an elite player.

He keeps a notebook with tidbits on himself with grades. He is usually hard on himself, but gave himself an "A-" for the Saints game.

If more players examined themselves in that manner, there would be more accountability.

Or there might be some delusion with players having bad games finding every reason to make an excuse for why their bad game wasn't their fault and why they deserve an 'A."

--Jason Jones

October 15, 2008
Conference call Wednesday

ALAMEDA - Conference call highlights:

*No Brett Favre was a disappointment. Here's what Jets coach Eric Mangini said about Favre's ability to fit in with a new team.

"He's a guy that came in and his goal was to fit in. He's consistently worked to make everybody around him feel comfortable. There's no sense in the locker room that he's any different from anyone else. That's something that was important to him, important to me. He'll work with the practice squad guys, he'll work with the defense, the offense. He's a good team player that you don't necessarily know what you'll get with a guy who is further along in his career and as successful as he is."

*Mangini on his new assistant head/offensive line coach, former Raiders head coach Bill Callahan is working out.

"I can tell you that Bill has been an excellent addition to the staff. When I first met Bill, even prior to the interview, just really impressive. Not just in terms of offensive line play. But he'd been a head coach in the NFL, a head coach in college football, an offensive coordinator. When he teaches, he teaches from a big picture perspective. He's great for a group like the offensive line, yet he's very detailed with technique. So he's been teaching that."

Jets wide receiver Laveranues Coles on facing Raiders cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and DeAngelo Hall.

"DeAngelo is able to play you both man and off ... (Asomugha is) more of a up-in-your face type of guy because he's long and rangy and likes to get his hands on you. And of course you don't franchise somebody unless they mean a lot to the franchise. They have two good corners."

On if watching other receivers have success gives him the feeling the Jets could do the same.

"I watched some film on them earlier, how they played against Buffalo and how they handled Lee Evans. They did an excellent job with him, probably one of the biggest game-breakers in the NFL. So anytime you got a guy can go out and put up a showing like that against one of the more elite guys that has major stats -- we always joke about Lee Evans. We call him 'Madden Stats' because he'll have like two catches for 170 yards -- but anytime you have a guy like that you can kind of keep in check like that, you know you got some special corners. Their defense, and not just the corners, their whole defense plays well. It stands out on film. It's only a matter of time before they put it together. They're going to put the most talented guys you probably can find in the NFL on the football field."

Coles didn't have nearly as much to say about Favre. He was reportedly unhappy because he felt the team treated former quarterback Chad Pennington wrong in how they dumped him for Favre.

"He's been just like everyone else. He came in and he's a teammate. I don't know what you want me to say. He came in and worked hard just like everyone else and been showing up to practice everyday. That's all you can ask for."

--Jason Jones

October 15, 2008
Brown would like to help out

The man some call Mr. Raider would love to assist the man that is synonymous with the Raiders.

Former Raider Pro Bowl receiver Tim Brown said in an interview with Sacramento radio station KHTK 1140 that he'd be open to helping owner Al Davis by becoming an employee again.

Since the show that was Lane Kiffin's firing, Brown has been asked if all the craziness seen and heard about the Raiders is true.

"As much as you can defend them certainly there are certain things that are indefensible," Brown said. "...Right now the perception of the Raiders is not good and that's what's so bad because it is a great organization. It's done great things in the NFL and for people to be anyway thinking the Raiders are just a laughing stock of the league, it hurts me. It really hurts me to the core. I really wish there was something I could do on a day-to-day basis to help that situation out."

For those that didn't hear the interview, Brown did not come on the air and start campaigning. He responded to questions and acknowledged his lack of experience in the front office would be seen as a negative.

But he knows football and thinks he could help in somewhere.

He's not volunteering to be Matt Millen - a former player and talking head on television hired to be a general manager - but Brown is tired of seeing the team he spent 16 seasons with made fun of and wants to do something.

"I don't it should be a GM type of position," Brown said. "I think it should be a consultant role. At this point I don't think I have anything to lose. ... I can't take it anymore. Every time you turn on the TV and the Raiders are mentioned there's a punch line behind it."

Kind of like this about 55 seconds into the video:

Brown also took exception to former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon criticisms of the Raiders in which he's taken jabs at owner Al Davis.

Brown said if not for his intervening at times, Gannon would have had to fight his own teammates because of his attitude toward the organization.

"Gannon knows he came there with that 'I hate the Raiders' type mentality," Brown said. "He came in with that and showed that to all the players. And Gannon wasn't a very well like player his whole time with the raiders. In fact he was downright hated.

"For a guy like Rich to say something just isn't fair to the organization."

Brown will be in town this weekend for a tribute to Gene Upshaw where he might make his pitch to help out the team.

Brown believes the Raiders can be good again with the right direction and if Davis allows someone to help.

"This is a place that can be turned around very easily," Brown said. "As much as people love Al, there's going to have to be somebody else there, I believe."

He knows Davis values loyalty and what kind of players Davis likes, something vital to working with Davis.

Many that know Davis have said his problem in recent seasons is the owner has no one willing to tell him he's wrong.

Adding anyone to help out would require Davis to be willing to have someone disagree with him and not co-sign on everything he wants.

"I can get along with anybody," Brown said. "I know Mr. Davis, I understand Mr. Davis. The only thing I would ask of him is to trust me."

From the "What were they thinking" category ...

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported the Raiders were close to trading running back Michael Bush to the Chargers?

Is there something wrong with Bush?

Coach Tom Cable denied there was any talk of moving Bush or Justin Fargas, but rarely does trade talk like this just fall from nowhere.

He wasn't activated last season because the team held on to a running back it didn't want and didn't fit into the future in LaMont Jordan.

It was bad enough the team toyed with the idea of playing Bush at fullback (something former coach Lane Kiffin made clear he was against).

Now you'd consider trading Bush to a division rival? The report out of San Diego said the Raiders backed out of the deal.

Well it sounds like someone has some sense.

With the struggles the Raiders have had on offense, the last thing they should do is trade someone that might help them score points.

And moving Bush would have been a bad move. Fargas Darren McFadden both have been injured so trading your third and only healthy tailback this season would have been puzzling.

--Jason Jones

October 14, 2008
No activity

Today's NFL trade deadline passed with nothing happening with the Raiders.

The big move of the day was Dallas acquiring star receiver Roy Williams and a seventh-round pick in 2009 from Detroit for a first, third and sixth-round picks in the 2009 according to ESPN.

Could the Raiders have made an offer for Williams? Sure.

But giving up what looks like it will be a top-10 draft pick for a wide receiver that will be a free agent (ESPN reports the Cowboys are working on a contract with Williams) along with other picks would have been too much, no matter how much the Raiders need a receiver.

With the Raiders struggling to win, it's unlikely Williams would have agreed to an extension with Oakland, unless Al Davis was still in a free-spending mood and willing to dump A LOT of money on him.

So the Raiders will have to look within to improve the passing game unless the team is happy (and it's not) with Michael Bush finishing second on the team in receptions this season.

--Jason Jones

October 13, 2008
Back to the beat

ALAMEDA - Thanks to all that sent well wishes during my time off on paternity leave.

(And yes, my two-week old son has already received Raider gear as a gift).

Since I've been gone, the Raiders blew a lead (San Diego), had a hilarious press conference in which Al Davis attempted to make sure Lane Kiffin never coached again, and watched Tom Cable lose his first game as head coach yesterday.

I've also learned there's some good reruns on at 4 a.m. when you're awake and the baby is asleep.

But back to football...

*Tom Cable's critiques don't have the same bite as Kiffin's. But that doesn't mean he's happily playing the role of substitute teacher waiting for Jim Fassel, Dennis Green or someone else to take his job.

Here's what Cable said about JaMarcus Russell and how having new players around him contributed to his struggles.

"Those are all true things. But the bottom line, those are excuses, too, and that's what we talked about today as a team. We're not going to be about excuses. We're going to look in the mirror as a team and we're going to take what it is and we're going to make it better. Yeah, he has had those issues. But you know what? He can get his footwork straight. He can be on time. He can target balls better. Those are things that, whether you've had time with someone or not, those are fundamental things that we as coaches and as players, we have to do a better job of developing and learning to accomplish."

Cable said this of wide receivers Ronald Curry and Javon Walker and how they can be a part of the passing game:

"Catch the football. Catch the football. Ronald had two more opportunities yesterday, Javon had three more. Then you would say that's a pretty good stat; that would have given them four and five, respectively, something like that."

It actually would have been the other way around for catches, but the point is clear.

Don't blame the coach. Catch the ball.

*The offense would benefit from more Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens on the field.

Cable wouldn't go into what shakeups might be happening at receiver or if training camp star Todd Watkins might get a chance to play.

*The big difference between how Kiffin talked about players that bothered Davis, some players was Cable's comments still put responsibility on the coaching staff.

There were times where Kiffin was accurate in his assessment of the team's talent. But it sometimes sounded as if his critiques of players were also justifications of shortcomings of the coaching staff.

*I think Russell missed Kiffin. Kiffin spent a lot of time working with him and did all he could to protect him in his playcalling.

Sure, he was extra conservative to a fault. But at least that way when the Raiders lost, the blame was on him, not on Russell, who most coaches on the staff would tell you is not the main problem with the offense.

Cable is new working with him and used Sunday's game as a chance to get familiar with his quarterback.

He ended up doing what Kiffin tried in the preseason and let Russell pass a lot. You saw the results.

The situation isn't exactly fair to Cable or Russell.

"It might be easy to say, well, why didn't you know that before?," Cable said. "Well, I'll tell you why. Because I'm standing down there with a bunch of 300-pound guys at the end of the field, and that's just what it is, and coaching the offensive line and doing the job that I was hired to do. So this role, obviously, has expanded in terms of the big picture. Now I know a lot more about this football team."

*Cable shot down a report on the CBS pregame show that the team would be willing to trade either Justin Fargas or Michael Bush.

"No one would be doing that, I don't think," Cable said of the team shopping one of the running backs. "Those are two really good players on this football team."

Also, doing so would make no sense. Darren McFadden is still coming off an injury, as is Fargas.

And trading Bush, who is talented and is paid the lowest paid of the three makes no sense.

The NFL trading deadline is tomorrow.

*Speaking of McFadden, I did get a chance to watch a lot of football at home and wonder when the Raiders would start running the Wildcat formation that Miami has had so much success with RB Ronnie Brown at quarterback.

After all, McFadden ran that offense in college. And Bush can throw the ball, having been a high school quarterback.

Cable said McFadden's health has limited some of the trick plays the team would like to run with him. Now that his injured toe is feeling better, the offense might have some fun.

*It's quite different following the team from a distance. The question you'd love to ask can't be asked. And watching the games on television allowed me to hear a lot more of what others think of the Raiders and their current status as the most futile NFL franchise since 2003.

One thing I would have liked to ask at Al Davis was how does he feel about his team being the new laughing stock of the league.

Well, I wouldn't have put it that way, but that's the sentiment I heard while I was away.
Davis' handling of Kiffin's situation made him look like a man not committed to winning, but proving he could stick it to his coach.

The Raiders are now a punch line for Chris Rock, taking the place that was held for Matt Millen's Lions.

Could Kiffin have handled things better here? Yes. But that goes both ways. Davis said he waited nine months to fire Kiffin because he wanted things to work, but said if the team were 3-1, he still would have fired Kiffin. Huh?

That doesn't sound like a Commitment to Excellence.

*Cable is a guy that is very likeable and in my conversations with him, has an idea of how football should be played.

It doesn't hurt that as a Cal grad I know some of the players he coached in Berkeley, who still praise him.

I just hope players that are angry over how Davis handled Kiffin's situation aren't letting that impact their play, even though it's impossible to imagine in hasn't.

Cable admitted seeing some of that against the Saints:

"I think that we feel like we put a lot into last week and everything that went on and put that behind us. And then when it was time to put it out there I don't think we did. That's not being negative or being down on them, that's calling it like it is. And that starts with me. I didn't push them hard enough last week and that's the bottom line. And you know that old saying, an iron sharpens iron, I didn't sharpen them enough last week. That doesn't we're going to go out and it's going to be bloodbath every day this week. That's not what that's saying. What that's saying is I've to get them to realize what they're capable of when they do it together as a team. And that emotion and that mentality you have p as a football team really is what playing hard and that effort are what all those things are. It really comes to get together when you get that and I've got to do a better job of that."

That's right, Coach. You've got a heck of job on your hands. Good luck.

*The Raiders are relatively healthy.

DE Derrick Burgess (right triceps) will be evaluated weekly. The second opinion showed the same triceps strain he was diagnosed with initially.

McFadden wasn't wearing a walking boot and should be able to practice on Wednesday.

WR Ashley Lelie left the Saints game with a concussion but was fine today.

--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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