Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

December 30, 2008
Wondering who is next

A quick look at some of the rumored candidates to be the next Raiders head coach and reason why (or why they don't) make sense.

Tom Cable
Raiders interim head coach
Pro
Has coached the team for 12 games and appears to have won the trust of several key players.
Con
Would Al Davis be "settling" if he doesn't find someone better?

Kevin Gilbride
Offensive coordinator, New York Giants
Pro
Has experience working with a No. 1 overall pick at quarterback (Eli Manning) and Giants' style of offense fits the Raiders' personnel.
Con
6-16 as a head coach (San Diego, 1997-98)

James Lofton
Raiders wide receivers coach
Pro
Interviewed for the job twice.
Con
No head coaching experience and wasn't considered when Davis fired Lane Kiffin.

Paul Hackett
Raiders scout
Pro
Was considered for the job before it was given to Cable in September.
Con
Overall losing record as a head coach at the college level with no NFL head coaching experience.

Jim Harbaugh
Stanford head coach
Pro
Former Raider assistant would have an idea of how things work.
Con
Does Davis really want to go with another college coach?

--Jason Jones

December 29, 2008
Raiders reach out to Gilbride

Let the search begin.

ESPN reports the Raiders 'are in the the process" of requesting permission to speak with New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride about their vacancy at head coach.

Gilbride is allowed to interview this week because the Giants have a first-round bye in the NFC Playoffs.

Gilbride has been the Giants' offensive coordinator for two seasons. He was the team's quarterbacks coach the previous three seasons.

Gilbride was 6-16 as a head coach for San Diego from 1997-98.

Interim head coach Tom Cable didn't want to discuss his job status today, preferring to put the attention on the players.

Cable's contract is up and it's unknown if he'd return as head coach or in some other capacity such as offensive line coach or offensive coordinator.

--Jason Jones

December 29, 2008
More from the season finale

TAMPA - What will become of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan?

He's stuck around as three head coaches (Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin) have been fired.

Having been interviewed before to be the Raiders head coach, owner Al Davis might grant Ryan another interview.

Or Ryan could be gone. That will be up to Davis, who does like Ryan.

"If he's not back next year, I'm sure he'll be a defensive coordinator somewhere else," said defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. "He's got a good resume so he'll be all right. Life goes on. He'll land on his feet, I know that."

Here's how the Raiders finished statistically.

*27th (360.9 yards per game) in total defense.

*31st (159.7 yards) against the run.

*10th (201.2 yards) against the pass.

****
Did Lane Kiffin ruin our season?

That was some of the chatter amongst fans and some media members.

Since the news that Lane's father, now former Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin would leave to take the same job at the University of Tennessee, the Buccaneers have been pretty bad on defense and haven't stopped any running backs.

The latest was Michael Bush, who ran for 177 yards Sunday, including 129 in the fourth quarter.

*Bucs defensive end Greg White said the Raiders didn't do anything differently in the fourth quarter.

"They just came in and had the desire to go out there and play," White said. "We played hard but at that time, I guess they won, the best team won."

When's the last time someone said that about the Raiders?

--Jason Jones

December 28, 2008
Cable and players make case for him to stay

TAMPA - Tom Cable, the Raiders interim head coach, would love to become the Raiders head coach.

But he's ready if that doesn't happen.

"It would be tough but that's life and that's football," Cable said after the Raiders beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 31-24, to knock the Bucs out of the playoffs.

A few players think Cable did enough to earn the job, as they all know, their opinion doesn't matter.

The final say belongs to team owner Al Davis, who didn't make the trip as he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered earlier this month in San Diego.

"If (Davis) wants to ask or if he's interested in our opinion, I'm sure any man in this locker room would vouch for (Cable)," said running back Justin Fargas. "From just the way he's treated us with respect and raised our expectations."

The offensive line already knew how good Cable was at motivating players and building up battered psyches.

And Cable's effect started to show as the season progressed.

Players that were called out for being unable to understand the offense (Johnnie Lee Higgins) or useless (Mario Henderson) began to find their stride under Cable.

As linebacker Kirk Morrison said after the game, it's a shame it took the team this long to find it's identity.

"He's passionate about football," said guard Robert Gallery, who has become a Pro Bowl-caliber player under Cable. "I think it was a good change for us. I hope to have the opportunity to work with him next year."

Cable said he began feeling comfortable in the last six weeks (around the time the Raiders won in Denver) and that there isn't much else he can do to sway Davis.

Meanwhile, Davis' son, Mark, beamed while shaking hands after watching the Raiders knock send former coach Jon Gruden home for the offseason.

"It's all I can do," Cable said. "It's the best I can do. I certainly know I put this team together and got it going in the right directed and proved that today."

*Michael Bush ran for 129 yards in the fourth quarter and finished with 177 yards, seventh-most in team history, just behind the 179 by Justin Fargas last year in Miami.

If not for injuries to Fargas (knee) and Darren McFadden (ankle), Bush wouldn't have carried the ball as much as he did (27 times), if at all.

He had only four carries for four yards in his previous six games.

Bush hopes the way he played today will be enough to convince his next coach - or Cable if he's back - that he is a tailback and not a fullback.

"Bush's 129 yards rushing in fourth quarter are most for a Raider since
at least 1991 and third most in the NFL in that span.

Minnesota's Adrian Peterson had 146 against San Diego on Nov. 4, 2007, and Arizona's LeShon Johnson ran for 131 against New Orleans on Sept. 22, 1996.

Fargas had previous Raiders mark of 113 at Miami last year.

*Cable addressed Shane Lechler and Nnamdi Asomugha having already cleaned out their lockers in Alameda.

He said it wasn't a big deal. Lechler is expected t be at Monday's mandatory team meeting at 10 a.m. Asomugha had already been excused, Cable said.

--Jason Jones

December 28, 2008
No Nnamdi today

TAMPA - Nnamdi Asomugha's neck injury will keep him out of the season finale.

He is among the Raider inactives today. He did not practice this week.

The rest of the Raider inactives are:

3rd QB Andrew Walter
RB Louis Rankin
FB Marcel Reece
DE Kalimba Edwards
T James Marter
C John Wade
WR Ronald Curry

Inactive for the Buccaneers are:

3rd QB Brian Griese
WR Dexter Jackson
QB Josh Johnson
LB Rod Wilson
T James Lee
WR Brian Clark
DE Patrick Chukwurah
DT Greg Peterson

--Jason Jones

December 27, 2008
Revisiting the Gruden deal

TAMPA BAY - That the Raiders essentially traded Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two players and cash still irks many Raider fans.

What did the Raiders get for Gruden?

In 2003, the Raiders used the Bucs' first-round pick on defensive lineman Tyler Brayton.

Brayton spent five seasons with the Raiders. He has 4.5 sacks this season for Carolina. He had six sacks with the Raiders including none in his last two seasons.

Brayton was always praised for being a hard worker, but the Raiders never knew what position to play him at. He was tried at defensive end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker.

After starting his first 31 games in Oakland, Brayton started only 13 of his last 32 games.

The Raiders used a second-round pick from the Bucs in 2004 on center Jake Grove. He was expected to anchor the offensive line along with Robert Gallery for years.

Grove split time between center and guard for two seasons before moving to center full-time in 2006. That season turned out to be detrimental to his body as he'd only play in seven games the following season and needed knee surgery.

Grove has missed four games this season because of a calf injury. He can become a free agent this offseason.

Who got the better of the deal? That's easy.

Gruden beat the Raiders to win Super Bowl XXXVII and has led the Bucs to three NFC South titles.

The Raiders have been one of the worst teams in football since 2003 and face the possibility of watching Grove join Brayton as being a productive player on another team.

*Because of the holiday and traveling yesterday (and being stuck at an airport and arriving at my hotel at 2 a.m.) I didn't realize stories from Friday and Saturday aren't showing up on the Raiders portion of The Bee web site.

I'll contact the powers that be on that. Here's the injury report you can't find on my site right now:

Defensive end Kalimba Edwards (wrist) will not play this week. Wide receiver Ronald Curry (turf toe) is doubtful. Listed as questionable are cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (neck), running back Darren McFadden (ankle) and cornerback Stanford Routt (groin). Running back Justin Fargas (neck) is probable.

Linebacker Ricky Brown (groin) was placed on injured reserve. Fullback Marcel Reece was promoted from the practice squad to fill Brown's spot on the 53-man roster.

Asomugha didn't practice this week but the Raiders are hoping his stiff neck loosens up in the next 24 hours.

Routt and Chris Johnson would start if Asomugha doesn't play.

--Jason Jones

December 25, 2008
Bryant is the latest test for the secondary

ALAMEDA - Aside from what Eddie Royal did against DeAngelo Hall Week 1, the Raiders haven't been beaten badly by a good receiver.

Here's how Pro Bowl receivers have done against the Raiders this season:

Steve Smith, Carolina: one catch, nine yards
Roddy White, Atlanta: five catches, 54 yards
Andre Johnson, Houston: two catches, 19 yards
Wes Welker, New England: six catches, 69 yards, one touchdown
Brandon Marshall, Denver: four catches, 84 yards

This week's challenge will be Antonio Bryant.

In his last three games, Bryant has 23 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns.

For some perspective, Bryant's last three games would make him the leading wideout for the Raiders this season.

"This guy is a heck of a player," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden. "I wish he got more, I guess, more notoriety for what he's done this year, because he's been awesome for us."

As long as Bryant makes plays like the one below and stays out of trouble, he'll get plenty attention.

Off field problems have kept Bryant from being the star out of Pitt most thought he could be.

But he's stayed clean in Tampa Bay.

"He brings a certain grit and determination to the field," said Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia. "He's a playmaker. He excels when he has opportunities to make plays, and even when the ball doesn't come his way, he does a great job of getting involved in the blocking aspect of the game and being a complete player, and he's really been a blessing for this team."

*What made Bryant dangerous on that highlight weren't just his hands. It's that Garcia moved in the pocket to keep the play alive.

Containing the shifty Garcia will test the Raiders' discipline on defense. Kansas City's Tyler Thigpen gave the Raiders problems because he could run.

"The most important thing in this football game for our defense is to defend your gap," said interim head coach Tom Cable. "Whether it's as a pass rusher, whether it's a blitz or against the run, everybody has a gap and if you do your job in the gap we'll be fine."

*Unless something crazy happens today with the Raiders, don't expect any updates the rest of the day. Have some fun. Watch the Lakers beat (I hope) the Celtics. There will be something up here to read Friday as I prepare to make the trip to Tampa Bay.

--Jason Jones

December 25, 2008
Bryant is the latest test for the secondary

ALAMEDA - Aside from what Eddie Royal did against DeAngelo Hall Week 1, the Raiders haven't been beaten badly by a good receiver.

Here's how Pro Bowl receivers have done against the Raiders this season:

Steve Smith, Carolina: one catch, nine yards
Roddy White, Atlanta: five catches, 54 yards
Andre Johnson, Houston: two catches, 19 yards
Wes Welker, New England: six catches, 69 yards, one touchdown
Brandon Marshall, Denver: four catches, 84 yards

This week's challenge will be Antonio Bryant.

In his last three games, Bryant has 23 catches for 435 yards and four touchdowns.

For some perspective, Bryant's last three games would make him the leading wideout for the Raiders this season.

"This guy is a heck of a player," said Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden. "I wish he got more, I guess, more notoriety for what he's done this year, because he's been awesome for us."

As long as Bryant makes plays like the one below and stays out of trouble, he'll get plenty attention.

Off field problems have kept Bryant from being the star out of Pitt most thought he could be.

But he's stayed clean in Tampa Bay.

"He brings a certain grit and determination to the field," said Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia. "He's a playmaker. He excels when he has opportunities to make plays, and even when the ball doesn't come his way, he does a great job of getting involved in the blocking aspect of the game and being a complete player, and he's really been a blessing for this team."

*What made Bryant dangerous on that highlight weren't just his hands. It's that Garcia moved in the pocket to keep the play alive.

Containing the shifty Garcia will test the Raiders' discipline on defense. Kansas City's Tyler Thigpen gave the Raiders problems because he could run.

"The most important thing in this football game for our defense is to defend your gap," said interim head coach Tom Cable. "Whether it's as a pass rusher, whether it's a blitz or against the run, everybody has a gap and if you do your job in the gap we'll be fine."

*Unless something crazy happens today with the Raiders, don't expect any updates the rest of the day. Have some fun. Watch the Lakers beat (I hope) the Celtics. There will be something up here to read Friday as I prepare to make the trip to Tampa Bay.

--Jason Jones

December 24, 2008
Say cheese! It's picture time

ALAMEDA - It's the time of the year when the Raiders distribute their team photo.

This year's photo was funny.

It was taken while Lane Kiffin was still the head coach. So using some computer manipulation, Tom Cable's head is on what appears to be Kiffin's body.

Matt Capurro, assistant to the head coach, is in the spot Cable should have had in the photo.

Cappuro was originally on the back row with the rest of the administrative staff, but was cut out of that part of the photo.

The only problem with that was it took a part of Jay Richardson's face off, giving him a very narrow head in the photo.

*Speaking of Kiffin, former Raiders coach Jon Gruden said on this morning's conference call that he didn't speak to Kiffin much as he and Raiders owner Al Davis engaged in their battle of wills.

As for Gruden's defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, Gruden wouldn't speak for him.

"You'd have to interview Monte," Gruden said. "That was obviously sudden and traumatic, I guess, from a football standpoint of what occurred. But I can't comment for Coach Kiff."

Gruden said his time in Oakland was good and seemed miffed as to why there would be reports his time wasn't good in Oakland.

*CB Nnamdi Asomugha (sore neck) did not practice. Cable said all tests were negative and Asomugha should practice tomorrow.

WR Ronald Curry (turf toe) and LB Ricky Brown (groin) did not practice. Cable did not rule out putting one of them on injured reserve and promoting a player from the practice squad.

FB Marcel Reece would be a logical candidate to be promoted.

*Center Jake Grove was named the recipient of the Raiders 2008 Ed Block Courage Award.

Grove came back from microfracture knee surgery to beat out John Wade for the starting job.

Grove lost the job to Jeremy Newberry in 2007.

*Finally, some holiday fun.

Some of the players were playing a game of who could name all of Santa's reindeer.

One player - who will remain nameless - was caught up one name.

He thought one of Santa's reindeer was named Vixen.

He meant Blitzen.

So of course, he was clowned and reminded that Vixen might have been a woman he met, but a reindeer with Rudolph and Co.

--Jason Jones

December 22, 2008
Cable would like to stick around

ALAMEDA - Tom Cable has stared down the Raiders' losing ways and wants more.

Well, not more losing.

Cable would like to return as head coach.

But even he had to admit the losing culture that has infected the Raiders since losing Super Bowl XXXVII (23-72 record since that game) was more than he could have imagined.

"I thought it was a mouse when I took over and it really was an elephant," Cable said. "So that tells you how I think of it."

But Cable isn't running away from the job because of that. He wants a chance to run the team through the offseason and not have to get a handle on everything on the fly.

Cable would have to interview for the job because he was promoted during the season and teams are required to interview at least one minority candidate.

Cable said he hasn't discussed his job status with Raiders owner Al Davis yet but would have liked to have known his situation "yesterday."

"We have not talked about it yet," Cable said. "{I hope we will soon. I definitely hope we will soon."

Cable is 3-8 since taking over.

You can discuss whether Cable should stick around in the Forums section.

*It's on this weekend:

Raiders vs. Tampa Bay.
Raiders vs. Jon Gruden
Mario Henderson vs. The Kiffins

In case you forgot, former head coach Lane Kiffin's father, Monte, is Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator.

And one of Lane's favorite whipping boys this summer was Henderson, who will start at left tackle.

"I took it all as motivation," Henderson said. "I hadn't been through that before. I only started one year at Florida State. I had been through the roller-coaster ride. I was just learning that I can only do what I can do. I just go out there every day and work hard and leave it in God's hands because I believe in God. I can only work and do what I can do and hope things fall into place."

Henderson started two games with Kiffin as coach when Kwame Harris was injured earlier in the season.

Lane was complimentary after Henderson's first start but said he regressed in his second game.

Henderson was asked if he was looking forward to taking out some of the harsh criticisms he endured from Lane on the elder Kiffin.

"Yeah," he said. "Anything to help the Raiders get back at the Kiffin family I'm all for it."

Cable was asked if Davis expressed any extra motivation to see the Raiders knock Gruden out of the playoffs.

"No," Cable said. "Haven't talked about that."

*Another win Sunday meant a lot more game balls were distributed.

Offense
QB JaMarcus Russell - for what was probably the best game of his young career (18-of-25, 236 yards, two TDs),
RB Justin Fargas - for his physical running (22 carries, 93 yards)

Defense
DE Derrick Burgess - two sacks and three quarterback hurries
S Hiram Eugene - six solo tackles

Special teams
WR Johnnie Lee Higgins - 80-yard punt return for a TD
LB Marquis Cooper - One tackle and good kick coverage and blocking
LB Isaiah Ekejiuba - One tackle and also remained solid in blocking and kick coverage

*Cable loves the enthusiasm the young players. But he could do without seeing Higgins dance ever again.

In case you forgot, he broke out the "Carlton" from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and the "Hooka Hooka" as a tribute to his people down south.

"That was bad," Cable said. "That was bad ... I liked the backflip (in Denver) better though."

*The players won't have Christmas off. They have to be in at 10:30 a.m., Thursday.

Cable said the schedule was done to allow the many players with young children to have the morning with their families but get them out in time for dinner in the evening.

Cable said there's no way the team would have been prepared to play this Sunday without practicing on the holiday.

*WR Ronald Curry (turf toe) and LB Ricky Brown (groin) are doubtful for the season finale.

CB Nnamdi Asomugha had tests done on his sore neck. Cable said the injury doesn't appear to be serious.

--Jason Jones

December 22, 2008
Higgins = big plays

OAKLAND - Maybe the Raiders don't need Michael Crabtree.

Or maybe the reason the Raiders' group of wide receivers has been deemed one of the worst in the NFL this season has been because the wrong wide receivers were playing.

But one thing is certain: Johnnie Lee Higgins is a playmaker.

Higgins leads the Raiders with six touchdowns (three receiving, three on punt returns).

Higgins' average touchdown covers 72 yards. Sunday's 29-yard touchdown catch was Higgins' shortest touchdown of the season.

Here's the breakdown

93-yard punt return
90-yard punt return
84-yard catch
80-yard punt return
56-yard catch
29-yard catch

You wouldn't have known that last season because Higgins sat on the bench while the team gave reps that should have gone to Higgins to the likes of aging veteran Tim Dwight.

Even with the playoffs out of reach for weeks, the Raiders didn't give Higgins much of a chance on offense last season.

But thrust into a bigger role because of injuries, Higgins is showing he likes the spotlight.

"I feel like I'm explosive," Higgins said. "Like, you never know what can happen. You know, it looks like he's tackled, it looks like he's down. Oh, he's gone. It looks like he can't catch it, like he can't do this . . . there he goes. So I look at myself, I always look at myself as a playmaker."

Now that the team does, too, it might alter the Raiders offseason plans.

Maybe they don't a wide receiver that badly.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Cable calls it right

OAKLAND - Here's something different.

Let's give Tom Cable some credit.

He's had his share of questionable decisions in his previous 10 games as interim head coach.

He's been mockingly referred to as the Cable Guy and Al Davis' puppet.

But Cable's play-calling (and mind you I don't know how much influence Greg Knapp or anyone else had) was great to start the game and helped the Raiders win 27-16 over the Houston Texans today.

The scripted plays led to the first opening-drive touchdown since Dec. 2, 2007 and a field goal on the next drive.

"The first two drives we really didn't get off course the whole time," said quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

He kept up his tendency to be aggressive on special teams with a surprise onsides kick after the Raiders field goal that Rashad Baker recovered. It set up a second field goal.

Cable said he told the team Saturday night he would call that play.

I don't give coaching grades for the print editions, but if I did, Cable and staff would receive an "A."

And it's no coincidence the offense looked better earlier with Darren McFadden on the field earlier and Russell was comfortable from the start with McFadden playing more.

*This might have been the best game by the offensive line considering Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams plays for the Texans.

Williams didn't sack Russell. The Texans only sack came on a designed run by Russell.

Conversely, Raiders defensive end Derrick Burgess was a force with two sacks. He came into the game with 1.5 sacks this season.

*Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha has a sore neck, Cable said. That's why he did not return to the game.

*The Raiders were 7-for-14 on third downs. The Raiders came into the game converting 25.7 percent of third downs.

The Texans came into the game converting 43.7 percent of their third downs, but were just 3-for-13 (23 percent) today.

*The Raiders held the Texans to 90 rushing yards. It's only the second time this season the Raiders have held a team to under 100 rushing yards.

*For the second straight game, Mario Henderson wasn't penalized. And he had an excellent block on a Justin Fargas run when he drove Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson out of bounds.

*Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson doubled his catch total from his last game in Oakland in 2006. He had two catches, but was basically a non-factor. He came into the game leading the NFL in catches and receiving yards.

*Johnnie Lee Higgins is the first player in Raiders history with three punt returns for a touchdown in the same season.

*The Raiders are now 1-3 against the Texans.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Raiders 27, Texans 16, Final

OAKLAND -- More to come from players and Tom Cable.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Raiders 27, Texans 16

OAKLAND -- Kris Brown's 40-yard field goal was the latest score by the Texans.

The Texans were at the Raiders' seven-yard line until being pushed back by a personal foul penalty on guard Chester Pitts, who got in a brief scuffle with Terdell Sands.

There's 9:46 left in the game.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Johnnie Lee borrows from Kane and it's 27-13, Raiders end of 3Q

OAKLAND -- After tireless research on YouTube, I have found video of Johnnie Lee Higgins' latest touchdown dance.

Higgins must like old music or have a great memory because he was probably about five years old when Big Daddy Kane showed off his dancing skills on the Arsenio Hall Show.

Since the game isn't on TV, check out the video about three minutes in to see Higgins' dance.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Raiders 27, Texans 13

OAKLAND -- Johnnie Lee Higgins returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown.

I believe his celebration dance (well Paul Gutierrez tipped me off to it) is one of Big Daddy Kane's patented dance moves.

When I find it, I'll post it.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Raiders 20, Texans 13

OAKLAND -- Johnnie Lee Higgins caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from JaMarcus Russell, which Higgins topped off by doing the "Carlton" dance.

In case you forgot that dance:

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Raiders 13, Texans 13

OAKLAND -- The Texans just tied the game on a 24-yard field goal by Kris Brown with 38 seconds left in the half.

A 65-yard reception by David Anderson on a third-and-8 put the Texans in Raiders territory.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Raiders 13, Texans 7, end of 1Q

OAKLAND -- The Raiders couldn't convert their red zone opportunity into a touchdown and settled for a 30-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.

JaMarcus Russell has started the game 9 for 11 for 129 yards and a touchdown.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Trickery

OAKLAND -- The Raiders just recovered a surprise onsides kick and have the ball on the Texans' 44.

Tom Cable is calling the game like he has nothing to lose. And he doesn't.

December 21, 2008
Raiders 10, Texans 7

OAKLAND -- Sebastian Janikowski just made a 33-yard field goal.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Raiders 7, Texans 7

OAKLAND - Vonta Leach scored on a one-yard run to tie the game.

The big play was a 35-yard screen pass to tight end Owen Daniels. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub looked Andre Johnson's way which made the entire defense go that way, leaving a lot of open field for Daniels to work with and put the Texans at the Raiders' 16.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Raiders 7, Texans 0

OAKLAND - Since the game is not on television, here's an update for you:

The Raiders scored on their opening drive for the first time since Dec. 2, 2007.

JaMarcus Russell threw a nice pass to Chaz Schilens for a 20-yard touchdown.

It's only the second time in 56 games the Raiders have scored on their opening drive.

--Jason Jones

December 21, 2008
Inactives

OAKLAND - Today's inactives for the Raiders:

CB Darrick Brown
RB Louis Rankin
LB Ricky Brown
T James Marten
C John Wade
WR Ronald Curry
DE Greyson Gunheim
3rd QB Andrew Walter

TE Darrell Strong has been promoted from the practice squad to the active roster.
WR Ashley Lelie has been placed on injured reserve.

--Jason Jones

December 19, 2008
Asomugha vs. Johnson

ALAMEDA - The last time Andre Johnson faced the Raiders' secondary, he had one catch for nine yards.

That was back when the Raiders could boast about having the best pass defense in the NFL.

But the Houston Texans' Pro Bowl receiver came out on the winning end of that game, 23-14 on Dec. 3, 2006, even though the team finished with minus-five passing yards.

Johnson missed last year's game because of injury.

This time he'll face Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha knowing they'll be teammates in the Pro Bowl. Johnson expects to see a lot of Asomugha.

"He'll probably follow me across the field," Johnson told Houston reporters this week. "But he's a great player. He's finally gotten into the Pro Bowl. He's a guy I voted for. I thought he really deserved it and it's going to be a big challenge for me."

Since the 2006 game, Johnson hasn't been held to one catch since. That's 27 straight games with at least two catches.

Johnson leads the NFL with 103 receptions, 1,408 yards and 69 catches for first downs.

Those are the kind of numbers that would make the Raiders shadow Johnson with Asomugha rather than leave Asomugha on the right side of the defense.

"They've moved him around on us before, so he's very capable of doing that," said Houston coach Gary Kubiak. "I've seen him move around on film against great receivers in this league. They can do whatever they want to do with him. He's that good."

*LB Ricky Brown (groin) has been ruled out for Sunday and will miss his eighth game.

WRs Ronald Curry (turf toe) and Ashley Lelie (calf strain) are doubtful. Neither has practiced this week.

FB Luke Lawton (concussion) is questionable and still needs to pass some more tests to be cleared. He was limited in today's practice.

TE Zach Miller (shoulder) and DT Tommy Kelly (knee) practiced today and are probable.

*The most interesting thing today was Robert Felton, an offensive lineman on the practice squad, diving through a puddle on the field to entertain some veteran linemen.

--Jason Jones

December 18, 2008
Shuffling the wide receivers

ALAMEDA - The Raiders wide receivers had a gift exchange for Christmas today.

The problem was half the group had to be called in to make it work.

"We've been having five guys in the meeting room," said wide receivers coach James Lofton. "And so we went and got the other five guys out of the training room and there were 10 guys in the room. It's kind of different. There's definitely some talent amongst the guys who are in the training room right now. I think everybody's excited about what they can do in the future."

One of the big "what ifs" about the Raiders season has been what the offense would have looked like if not for injuries at wide receiver.

Javon Walker, Drew Carter, Arman Shields are all on injured reserve. Ashley Lelie and Ronald Curry are nursing injuries and are expected to miss this Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

If not for injuries the Raider receivers would have been:

Walker
Carter
Shields
Curry
Johnnie Lee Higgins
More than likely Chaz Schilens makes the roster, too. With a healthy Carter, the team probably doesn't sign Lelie.

But at this point of the season the Raiders will play the Texans with:

Higgins
Schilens
Jonathan Holland
Todd Watkins

Holland was on injured reserve all of last season and spent this season on the practice squad before joining the active roster Dec. 4 against San Diego.

Watkins impressed in training camp and snagged the roster spot that would have been Carter's after he tore his ACL in the preseason.

The four receivers that will play Sunday have a chance to make an impression and get a start on making next season's team.

"I think it's great for their development because it's one thing to sit in a classroom and do something," Lofton said. "It's one thing to do it on the practice field and to do it in the offseason. But to get a chance to make your mark in a game, to do some things well, to improve on some things, to do some things and go, 'I can't believe I did that' or 'I can't believe I screwed that up,' it's invaluable experience."

Lofton is as hard on his players as any coach on the Raiders staff. He said the quartet that will play is ready and that injuries or a lack of time with JaMarcus Russell on the field won't be excuses to mess up.

"These guys they've been very attentive during the year," he said. "They've been a real studious group. So I think that they're ready to step up. They study hard, they're diligent in they're preparation so I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited about the opportunity."

*FB Luke Lawton (concussion), TE Zach Miller (shoulder) and DT Tommy Kelly (knee) were limited in practice but are expected to be OK for Friday's practice.

Curry (turf toe), Lelie (calf strain) and LB Ricky Brown (groin) did not practice today. That trio is not expected to play on Sunday.

Brown has missed the last seven games.

--Jason Jones

December 18, 2008
The blackout is back

ALAMEDA -- Sunday's game against the Houston Texans did not sellout by today's 1:15 p.m. deadline and will not be televised locally.

The Raiders sold out six of eight home games this season.

--Jason Jones

December 18, 2008
Practice update

ALAMEDA - Fullback Luke Lawton (concussion) was taking part in special teams practice and tight end Zach Miller (shoulder) was making his way to the practice field today. Both were limited in yesterday's practice.

Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (knee) was back at practice after sitting out yesterday after having fluid drained from his right knee on Tuesday.

No sign of wide receivers Ronald Curry (turf toe) or Ashley Lelie (calf strain).

Full updates will follow after Tom Cable addresses the media.

--Jason Jones

December 18, 2008
Texans get most out of rookie RB

ALAMEDA - The good news for the Raiders is Ron Dayne isn't with the Houston Texans this season.

Dayne ran for 217 yards and a touchdown in the Texans' last two games in Oakland, both wins for Houston.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, the Texans have upgraded at running back.

The Texans drafted Steve Slaton in the third round from West Virginia.

He's second amongst rookies with 1,124 rushing yards.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak admitted Slaton's emergence wasn't the result of his coaching genius.

"To be honest with you, he was a very hard kid to study because he played in that wide open college system at West Virginia," Kubiak said. "He wasn't asked to protect much. His carries were coming out of the shotgun, so we're sitting there trying to project him in our system, lined up behind the quarterback, doing the things we want to do. The things we did know, we knew he was a very tough young man, with big play ability, and the thing that we really liked about him was how sharp he was when we talked football with him at Indianapolis and spent time with him at the combine, we knew he would catch up with what we want to do very quick. But he's been more than we expected. He's been a pleasant surprise."

Slaton was supposed to backup Ahman Green and Chris Brown. But injuries forced him to be the primary back in the same running system the Raiders use, but he's been much more productive than Raiders' running back Darren McFadden.

McFadden has missed time because of injury, but he averages a little more than half the rushing attempts of Slaton.

Slaton averages 16.4 runs a game compared to 9.1 for McFadden.

Topping 1,000 yards already wasn't something Slaton planned.

"That stuff was a dream," he said. "I didn't really think it would happen. I had great guys in front of me but injuries happened and Coach gave me a chance to step up."

McFadden is looking for that same chance.

--Jason Jones

December 17, 2008
The cost of talking

ALAMEDA - Defensive end Derrick Burgess has the ability to put things in perspective in a simple and effective way.

So who better to ask about why the Raiders have communication problems on defense after 14 games.

Those communication problems are a big reason the Raiders allow 167.1 rushing yards a game, 31st in the NFL.

"Communication problems," Burgess said. "That's one of those little things cause, you know, it don't cost you (expletive) to talk. But it just happens in a game when you're trying to focus on your technique but you need to be giving this guy a call and you don't give him the call or you give him the wrong call. It's just one of those things where more time in the meeting room, more time together will smooth that all out."

The amazing thing about that statement is that more players haven't dedicated themselves to time more time together to address the communication problems.

One of the things that's supposed to make the Raiders' scheme effective is its simplicity because it just asks players to be in their spot.

And as Burgess points out, the defense hasn't changed in four years.

And the only significant members of the defense that is in their first year in the scheme are safety Gibril Wilson and defensive ends Kalimba Edwards and Trevor Scott.

That's a reason why the defense was asked and expected to carry the team the last two seasons. With so many veterans in the scheme, they shouldn't be having these problems.

The first step needs to be a talk, amongst the players to fix the problems.

*Another thing Burgess mentioned was in defense of Rob Ryan. He said why should Ryan call more blitzes if when they're called, the players don't execute them.

That's not the first time I've heard that from a player.

Ryan would never blame a player for anything that goes wrong, so that's probably as close you'll get to your answer as to why he doesn't blitz more.

Perhaps communication is a problem there, too.

*Here's the injury report for today:

Did not practice
WR Ashley Lelie (calf)
WR Ronald Curry (turf toe)
DT Tommy Kelly (knee)
LB Ricky Brown (groin)

Kelly had his surgically repaired right knee drained yesterday, but is expected to start Sunday against the Houston Texans.

Limited in practice
TE Zach Miller (shoulder)
FB Luke Lawton (concussion)

--Jason Jones

December 17, 2008
Roster moves

ALAMEDA -- The Raiders signed rookie wide receiver D.J. Hall to the practice squad.

Hall (6-2, 190) was with the New York Giants in training camp. Here's more information on Hall . He left Alabama as the school's all-time leader with 194 catches.

Here's one of his better catches for the Crimson Tide:

The team also waived linebacker Robert Thomas, who was on injured reserve.

--Jason Jones

December 16, 2008
Lechler, Asomugha discuss the Pro Bowl

ALAMEDA - Shane Lechler and Nnamdi Asomugha spoke to the media about being named to the Pro Bowl.

It's Lechler's fourth selection. Asomugha will play in the game for the first time after not being able to catch a late flight to the game in 2007.

Asomugha has 37 tackles, one interception and 10 passes defended.

Lechler leads the NFL in punting average (48.8 yards) and is second in net punting (41.3 yards).

Here's some of what they had to say:


Q: Your reaction to the news?
Asomugha: It was crazy. John (Herrera) actually called me. I was in bed just chilling, just trying to figure out what remote place I was going to go to and hide out but then John called me and let me know and then I just, he remembers, I was like, 'Are you serious? Could that really happen?' He was like, 'No, I'm serious.' I was like, 'Don't lie to me, you know, that's not fair.' And he's like, 'No, no it really happened' so I just started going crazy. So it was good.


Q: Did you sense a groundswell of support being built up with all the media attention season about teams not throwing at you?

Asomugha: Yeah, I was aware of it because in the past, that attention wasn't quite there, even in the 06 year with all the interceptions, the attention still wasn't quite there. I mean, we had the attention here from you all down here in this area but the national attention wasn't as much so, but I did definitely notice it a little bit more this year. Talking with Shane all the time, and he has connections in the league and he would let me know on plane rides, you know, 'Your chance is better this year than any other year.' So I would take that into consideration a little bit.

Q: What are these connections Shane?
Shane: I've been playing this game for a long time now. That was, with the way things worked out in the past it's always been pretty much a shoo-in that Champ (Bailey) was going to go in Denver. For him to sit 9-10 weeks, whatever it is, and Nnamdi not having the exact stats that a corner has in the league but fair is fair on the opportunities that he's had to have the interceptions and the numbers that he put up like you said in 06. But he's had a solid performance. It's obvious, when quarterbacks drop back they don't look his way any more. I mean, it was obvious there was a reason behind not having interceptions and stuff. I figured he had a legit chance and he made it. Now that he's made it, it's just how this league works. He should make a lot more in a row.

Q: Afraid record might hurt your chances?
Asomugha: A little bit. That has happened in the past. It definitely does hurt your chances, because when you have a guy that, even when we were doing the voting, so I can't even pull myself away from this, when we were doing the voting, if you had a guy that had similar stats, regardless of their position, you would go off the better record. Even us, as players, we're like, that's what's hurt me in the past, but we're like, you've got to do it. So, of course, I thought about that a little bit, maybe they might go with somebody else because of a better record.

Q: Did you give thought that, knowing you were both having Pro Bowl years, Shane you've gone alone the last few times, and 3-11 teams might get one guy so did you think one would get left out?

Lechler: You're exactly right. We talked about this a couple of weeks ago at practice. It's probably only going to be one of us, so to get the news today that it was both of us to go and represent the Raiders, it was a good feeling. Like I said, I've been there, three times, two times it was just me, and you get hit with all the questions like, how is it in Oakland, and what's going on, and this and that. Now Nnamdi can answer all those questions.

Asomugha: Right, and John can attest to this, the first thing that I asked him was did Shane make it? And when he said yes, I was like, OK, great, because every year that we've gone through this, Shane has always kind of been like, even starting in 06, Nam, this is going to be your year and when we get there this is what's going to happen. You're going to love this. He'll always pump me up for it, then I'll be deflated when it happens. This year he's done the same thing, so I was like, we'll see what happens. It's good that he made it along with me.

Q: Shane is it still a thrill to make the Pro Bow?

Lechler: Oh, it definitely is. Any time you get voted in by your peers, the guys around the league, I've had numerous guys call me today, other punters, and just congratulating me. Any time you get voted in by your peers and they respect what you do, and they truly congratulate you, it's not a grudge deal, and it feels good. I was ecstatic. I called my wife, unfortunately she's not in town right now, her grandmother passed. I had to call her, she was on a connection flight in Ohio today, and I was like, listen, we made it. So everybody is happy. I've had numerous calls today, been on the phone all morning with people. And it still feels like the first time.

Q: San Diego punter Mike Scifres gave you a pretty good run?

Lechler: Oh, he had a fantastic year. We broke the NFL record last year in net punting, and Mike is right there to break that one, a record that stood in this league for a long time. To have it broken in back to back years is great, because the numbers are getting better, the punters are getting better. I talked to Mike, I was like, whether you want to believe it or not, if I don't go, I truly hope you go, because if somebody else goes out of the AFC there's something wrong. And I hope he believes me because that's how I feel. I would have been just as happy for him because he's a great punter, a great guy, and he deserves a shot.

Q: Shane, ever had a better coach and supporting cast on punts than you have right now?
Lechler: The guys that are on my punt team right now, it's so fun to punt for those guys because every single time they go down there with a purpose. They study the film, know team's tendencies and they have been excellent. I'm not going to get into naming names because I'm going to leave somebody off. I'm not going to make anybody mad about it. But my punt team has been outstanding. And the speed and the tenacity that those guys play with, it's been fun to punt for them. Now I've really, really enjoyed it. And Coach (Brian) Schneider has put together a really good group for me to work with and a good philosophy and a good understanding of what the punt game means in this league. And Brian's done a good job with that in helping us to kind of find out how to win the hidden yardage game and put our team into chances to win football games.

Q: How good was it to see Isaiah Ekejiuba named an alternate on special teams?
Lechler: Very good. That was something well deserved. If you watch now, after the first four weeks Ike was getting singled every time making play after play after play. Now watch on Sunday, he's getting doubled every time down the field and he still finds a way to make a play. He's been solid in every aspect of the special teams.

Q: Shane, is there Pro Bowl rookie hazing and will you warn Nnamdi?
A: I'll prepare him for some of it, not all of it.

Q: Nnamdi, did you call Charles Woodson?
A: No, he called me. He called me. He said he was going to wait because he didn't know whether or not I was in. and when he found out he said he'll wait until one. Then he saw I got in and then he gave me a call. I was pulling up in here actually. And he was just excited because in 2006 we had planned everything that was going to happen. We both had eight interceptions, we were excited and everything and then it didn't happen. It was just great hearing from today that we both made it in. It felt good.

Q: How tough was it to sit around after the season as an alternate the last two years?
A: Yeah, that's an interesting situation because you're in the offseason and you really just want to relax because the season's over and you don't want to do much. But then you're like, well should I stay in shape because they might call me with two weeks left or something like that. I don't know. It's a tough situation. It goes through your head as your watching games like did 'did anyone get hurt? Did anyone call and say they're going to pull out?' it's a tough thing to deal with but I'm just happy it turned out this way.

Q: Shane, do you enjoy the game or the golf courses more?
Lechler: The golf is phenomenal. But it's fun to be around that many good football players and to hear the stories and just to hang out with the guys away from the game ...

Asomugha: You said it's not about the game, didn't you?

Lechler: It's not really about the game. The whole week is fun from the second you get there. The team meeting that night, when you finally get to sit down and meet everybody, meet the new guys coming in and some of the old ones that have been there year after year after year, it's always just good to hang out with them. It just so happens there's a game at the end.

Q: Which one of you should be franchised?
Lechler: Next.

Asomugha: I could have thrown you under the bus.

Q: Nnamdi, when did you realize you could be among the NFL's elite cornerbacks?
Asomugha: That was probably some point during the 2006 season. When you say with the elite, some point during the 2006 season I was like, 'OK I could compete with the best guys.' We played against Cincinnati and they had two great receivers and I was able to come away with a pretty good game. Those types of games helped boost my confidence a little. It was back in '05 when I actually said, 'Oh I can play corner in the league.' But '06 was like, 'Oh I'm at a different level now.'

****
Asomugha hosted students from the East Oakland Youth Development Center and needy families today at the facility.

Students with improved grades are recognized and given gifts while families are helped out.

Asomugha holds the function with little fanfare every year. But with his being named to the Pro Bowl, the media was invited to check things out since we're here.

*This is the first time more than one Raider has been selected to the Pro Bowl since 2002.

Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, Lincoln Kennedy, Rod Woodson and Barrett Robbins made the team following that season.

--Jason Jones


December 16, 2008
Local agent has a client headed to Hawaii

Some of you might remember Sacramento-based agent Jason Dillard from the NFL Combine.

He's a first-year agent and distributed T-shirts with names and the statistics of his four clients who were "missing" because they weren't invited to the Combine.

One of those clients, running back Clifton Smith, was named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster as a kick returner.

Smith was undrafted spent the first seven weeks of the season on the practice squad before being called up by Tampa Bay.

The Raiders will get a good look at Smith when they close out the 2008 season in Tampa.

--Jason Jones

December 16, 2008
Raiders get two into the Pro Bowl

No snubs this year

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler were named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad.

Linebacker Isaiah Ekejiuba was named a special teams alternate.

Technically this is Asomugha's second selection. He was an alternate after the 2006 season that was asked to play the day before the game, but couldn't make it to Hawaii.

Lechler will make the trip to Hawaii for the fourth time. He also made the team after the 2001, 2004 and 2007 seasons.

Ekejiuba being named an alternate is a nod to the Raiders kicking units that are among the best in the NFL.

The Raiders have two punts and kickoffs returned for scores this season.

More to come later as Lechler and Asomugha are scheduled to speak to the media at 4 p.m.

--Jason Jones

December 15, 2008
Kiffin raids the staff

ALAMEDA - Lane Kiffin is still upsetting Al Davis, all the way from the University of Tennessee.

Kiffin hired away assistant offensive line coach James Cregg to join his staff in a role that hasn't been announced by the school.

Cregg told interim head coach Tom Cable about his decision to quit with two games left after Sunday's game -- over the telephone.

Director of football development (and good Kiffin friend) Mark Jackson is also no longer with the team after speaking with Cable on Monday morning. Neither is Kiffin's brother-in-law, Steve Reaves, who was fired.

Apparently Reaves was in charge of duties that included making copies.

Jackson will be paid as long as he doesn't take another job.

"I'm disappointed by all these things, mostly by the fact that someone would quit on this organization, this football team and this head coach at this juncture," Cable said. "It's wrong. It is what it is, though, and we'll move forward."

Cable was a little more than disappointed. He's angry.

Cregg took over many of his duties working with the offensive line when Cable was promoted. He had no other experience with Cregg, who coached a year with Kiffin at Colorado State in 1999 and was hired by Kiffin to come to Oakland.

"You got to understand offensive linemen," Cable said. "This is our world. If I can speak freely here, it's about pride, it's about commitment, it's about trusting everybody next to you. So, to walk your ass out of here is about as bad a deal as you could possibly do to that group of guys."

Other coaches with ties to Kiffin before coming the Raiders are special teams coordinator Brian Schneider (Colorado State) and tight end coach Kelly Skipper (Fresno State).

Cable said he spoke with the staff and no one plans to leave before the end of the season.

Cable isn't happy with Kiffin, noting the NCAA "dead period" begins in five days and Kiffin didn't need to begin raiding the staff now.

One of Davis' problems with Kiffin's interest in the Arkansas job last year was that Kiffin wanted to take coaches on the staff with him.

Cable said he plans to speak with Kiffin about that the Cregg situation. Cable doesn't know if this is just the latest in the Kiffin vs. Al Davis saga.

"You know, maybe it is," Cable said. "For me, I got a lot of respect for him -- had a lot of respect for him -- and then to do this is ridiculous. It's wrong. Wrong in this business, wrong in the business of coaching."

Cable will now run the offensive line in addition to calling plays.

****

Because the Kings fired Reggie Theus, there's not much room in the print edition, so I'll be putting a lot of news and observations on the blog today.

• QB Andrew Walter said he didn't know his confidence was an issue that led to him being dropped to third string behind JaMarcus Russell and Marques Tuiasosopo.

"News to me," Walter said. "Coach's decision, and when they make decisions they have to have reasons behind them."

Cable said he didn't understand why Walter would say he didn't know the reason for the demotion.

"That would be news to me because that was laid out to him and spoken in depth with him," Cable said.

• The Raiders signed punter Ricky Schmitt to the practice squad.

Schmitt spent training camp with Arizona last year and the 49ers this year. He was briefly on Pittsburgh's practice squad.

Cable said the addition gives the Raiders the chance to keep him during the offseason.

"He was a guy that we thought had the most in terms of what was available," Cable said. "It gives a little insurance that way as well."

• RB Louis Rankin was signed off the practice squad on Saturday to keep another team from signing him.

"We've had a number of teams interested in practice squad members," Cable said. "So it was directly related to the fact that we liked the talent and think he has a future."

• Cable said the Raiders were dominated up front which allowed the Patriots to run for 277 yards yesterday.

He said the team needs more from DTs Tommy Kelly, Gerard Warren and Terdell Sands.

"They really struggled the last two weeks and it's unacceptable," Cable said "They know it and that's the reason they're here is to play good run defense. You've got be good up the middle."

Cable added changing schemes that didn't need to be changed also led to big running lanes along with players being out of position or being knocked out of position.

• Some injury news:

WRs Ronald Curry (turf toe) and Ashley Lelie (calf strain) are questionable for Sunday's game against Houston.

FB Luke Lawton (concussion) and TE Zach Miller (stinger) day-to-day.

• Saw on Profootballtalk.com that ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports Raiders owner Al Davis would be interested in hiring New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to be the Raiders next head coach.

Would that also mean the end of the Rob Ryan era in Oakland?

After all, it was Rob's dad, Buddy Ryan, that punched Gilbride on the sidelines when both coached for the Houston Oilers.

Buddy was the defensive coordinator and Gilbride the offensive coordinator.

• The Pro Bowl teams will be announced tomorrow. Cable said he hadn't given which players deserve consideration much thought.

CB Nnamdi Asomugha and P Shane Lechler are the most likely to earn spots on the AFC team.

Cable mention that Miller is "playing really well" but won't have the statistics to match other tight ends.


December 15, 2008
Unique confidence booster

OAKLAND - Andrew Walter was demoted to No. 3 quarterback for Sunday's 49-26 loss to the New England Patriots.

According to interim head coach Tom Cable, it was done for Walter's own good.

"Just trying to get Andrew, you know, back in the right frame of mind physically, mentally, all that stuff," Cable said.

Walter has been bothered by knee and ankle problems this season, but mental issues?

"Just his confidence and getting comfortable," Cable said. "I think that's something that he's struggled a little bit since he's been here. Just kind of rejuvenate him a little bit."

It's odd that a demotion would be used to boost Walter's confidence.

Walter has seemed more bitter than lacking in confidence the last couple of seasons.

And I'm sure being told he was being demoted to help his confidence (if he was told anything) didn't sound good to Walter.

And the best way to rejuvenate Walter would be to trade him because he's wanted out of Oakland for some time.

Why might Walter be a bit bitter?

*In his first season playing in 2006, he was sacked 46 times in 12 games, eight of which were starts.

*The team's response to that was to draft JaMarcus Russell.

*And when Walter had better statistics than Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper last year (according former coach Lane Kiffin), he was eliminated from the quarterback "competition" during training camp.

*When teams wanted to trade for Walter last year, the Raiders wouldn't deal him even though they had four quarterbacks on the roster.

*When Walter did play last season, it was in a blowout in Green Bay and to not expose Russell to the cold and the beatdown the Packers were putting on the Raiders.

So the list of discontent only grows with two games left in the season.

****
More from the game that didn't make it into the newspaper:

*Russell gave himself a grade of "A" for effort when asked to rate how he played.

*Cable didn't believe the score was the result of a talent gap between the two teams.

"Nah, I think it was a breakdown in communications defensively," he said. "Offensively, if you get that kind of protection or production on a consistent basis, you'd probably feel pretty good about what direction you're headed in. But really it was communications first half."

*CB Nnamdi Asomugha was called for holding three times and actually had to work because the Patriots threw at him when he covered Randy Moss.

"They've got a ton of talent in terms of their skill players, people with ball skills," Cable said. "So you don't shy away (from Asomugha) when you've got that many bodies and that many opportunities, I guess, to use those people."

--Jason Jones

December 14, 2008
Many questions to be asked

OAKLAND - I asked safety Gibril Wilson why he didn't start today's game.

He told me to ask the "brains of the operation."

That's a tough one because Al Davis wasn't around.

But there are a few questions that were asked. Whether you believe the answers is up to you.

*As for Wilson, interim head coach Tom Cable said the personnel the Patriots started the game with was why Wilson was on the bench and the Raiders opened the game with three safeties - Michael Huff, Rashad Baker and Hiram Eugene.

Wilson went on to lead the Raiders with 12 tackles and an interception.

Wilson's benching was odd also because he came in on the second series of the game.

He has no idea why he played when he did, either.

*Another question was why did it take so long to get the ball to Darren McFadden?

He had his first official touch with 12:19 left in the second quarter.

Here's Cable's explanation:

"(It) was the rotation we were in, terms of the game, the flow of the game. I think (Justin) Fargas played pretty well. It's just those situations present themselves."

McFadden had 114 yards of total offense and led the team with 68 receiving yards on just three catches.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell noted McFadden is "too fast" for defenders in space.

"That's a coach's decision," Russell said. "If they see that, I think they'll make changes."

Maybe not.

*How in the world does the defense play 14 games and still have "communication" issues?

That was the reason (again) as to why the Patriots had no problem putting up 21 points in the first quarter.

That excuse might have made sense Week 1. But now?

"You know, it is difficult to accept that now," Cable said. "But they did some stuff in terms of that spread and the things they were doing, just didn't get everybody on the right page. Unacceptable, obviously"

*Randy Moss blew off the media after the game, letting his two touchdowns and Rob Van Dam-like poses after each score do his talking.

But LaMont Jordan enjoyed running through the Raiders' bad run defense for 97 yards and a touchdown.

Here are few tidbits from the running back Raider fans blamed everything on.

"I was happy (for Moss). He got in the end zone and then he got in again. I kept telling myself I have to get in the end zone. It was a good feeling all the way around. They had that moral victory at the end. But when it was all said and done we were able to come in and get a victory."

On what fans said to him:

"I was surprised to hear how many fans who were saying welcome back and we miss you. I had the typical boos and you suck and the 'You have five carries, you're going to fumble on your sixth.' It was good to come back. I always said I like to come here and play in front of this crowd. Today was not any different. We had some rain and it was muddy and we put up a lot of points. It was a great feeling."

On Moss' celebrations that mocked the Black Hole:

"That's just Randy being Randy. I was definitely happy for him, especially the way the Oakland media had no good things to say about him. It wasn't just him, it was just everybody. I would always tell people that Randy could still play. For him to come back here. We came here together to wear the Oakland uniform and to try to turn that program around. It didn't work out and we both left on bad terms. To come back here and do what we did today. I prayed this morning to please keep me humble. ... It was a superb game."

On his 49-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter:

"I was actually looking back the whole time saying, 'Please don't get caught, please don't get caught.' Once I reached the end zone, to miss as many games as I did this year, to be able to come back and come here and play well was a great feeling. Especially for my line. Those guys did so much to get me to the end zone. I was definitely happy for those guys. We had like 288 yards rushing or something like that. That right there lets us know how well the offensive line was doing."

*Commissioner Roger Goodell said the Raiders do need a new stadium. But in this economy and with the Chargers and 49ers needing to upgrade, that won't be easy.

He also said the relationship between the NFL and Davis is "better" and that Davis will be a key figure in helping the league deal with labor issues.

*Injury update: WR Ashley Lelie (calf) did not finish the game. TE Zach Miller (stinger) left the game briefly. Cable said FB Luke Lawton was "dinged" and WR Ronald Curry was bothered by turf toe.

*The Raiders are the first team in NFL history with 11 losses in six-straight seasons.

--Jason Jones

December 14, 2008
A little history

OAKLAND -- With his kickoff return for a touchdown, Justin Miller became the first player in Raider history with two kickoff returns for a score in the same season.

Miller's two kickoff returns this season also tie him with Terry Kirby for most in franchise history. Kirby had two from 2000-02.

--Jason Jones

December 14, 2008
Wilson benched

OAKLAND - Gibril Wilson was announced as a starter but did not start today's game.

He's the third-highest paid safety but is on the bench behind three Hiram Eugene, Rashad Baker and Michael Huff.

--Jason Jones

December 13, 2008
Rankin moves up

The Raiders signed running back Louis Rankin from the practice squad to the active roster today.

The Raiders had an open spot after waiving cornerback Michael Waddell on Tuesday.

Rankin stood out this summer when he ran for 148 yards in 21 attempts during the preseason.

Rankin was a high school star in Stockton and went undrafted out of Washington.

With the Raiders still struggling to find enough carries for Darren McFadden to go with Justin Fargas, there's a good chance Rankin will be inactive tomorrow.

He's also a solid kick returner, but the Raiders are set there, too.

--Jason Jones

December 12, 2008
Davis bounces back from fall

ALAMEDA - The Godfather of Raider football is doing fine.

Raiders owner Al Davis checked into a local hospital after the team returned from San Diego after he hit knee in a fall in San Diego and it became swollen.

Senior executive John Herrera said Davis is OK after having X-rays.

In fact, Davis might even come in for work today.

Davis will also be at Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.

*Fan voting for the Pro Bowl is over.

Shane Lechler won the fan vote to be the AFC's punter with 108,116 votes.

And in another example of why fan voting is weird, Champ Bailey led AFC cornerbacks with 283,155 votes.

Bailey has missed Denver's last six games due to injury.

It'll be up to coaches and players do what's right and make sure Nnamdi Asomugha is in this year's games.

Defensive end Kalimba Edwards asked Johnnie Lee Higgins if he had enough touchdowns on punt returns to make the Pro Bowl.

Higgins, who has two, said he might need a couple more.

If Higgins were to somehow Higgins, Asomugha and Lechler all made the Pro Bowl and the Raiders didn't win another game.

They'd have as many Pro Bowlers as wins.

*No announcement on the starting wide receivers this weekend. Chaz Schilens is healthy so he should reclaim his starting job from Ronald Curry, especially since interim head coach Tom Cable has said players don't lose their starting jobs because of injury.

*This week's futility stat of the week has nothing to do with the offense for a change.

Raider defensive ends have gone 13 quarters without a sack. Twelve of those quarters, Derrick Burgess has been back on the field.

The defensive line has one sack since Jay Richardson's safety Nov. 16 at Miami.

The reason? The guys up front just aren't winning one-on-one matchups.

*Quarterback JaMarcus Russell (ankle) and center Jake Grove (calf) practiced today and are probable. Linebacker Ricky Brown (groin) is doubtful.

*Rich Gannon was at practice today as he'll be the color analyst for Sunday's game.

Gannon has one of the team's more honest critics, drawing the ire of some. But as one current player put it, "You'll always get the truth from Rich."

--Jason Jones

December 11, 2008
Tim Brown still wants to work for the Raiders

ALAMEDA - Tim Brown is still looking for a job with the Raiders.

Below is a transcript of Brown's appearance on "Movin' The Chains" on SIRIUS NFL Radio.

Brown campaigns (he also mentions Jim Plunkett) to help Al Davis because it would be someone people would respect and show Davis is trying.

The problem is the fans, not the players would be the ones who would respect the decision.

Imagine JaMarcus Russell welcoming a chat with Brown after he accused him of having the "propensity" to gain weight.

When Brown won the Heisman in 1987, Darren McFadden was an infant.

Brown underestimates the impact he'd have on the locker room.

Nevertheless, here's Brown:

SIRIUS Host, Pat Kirwan: "What do the Raiders have to do? We have a lot of Raider listeners who want to hear what Tim Brown thinks has to get done there."

Tim Brown: "Obviously, it would be great to see these guys play with some heart and some passion the rest of the year and finish out the year on a good note but quickly in the off-season Mr. Davis has to make a decision on Coach Cable and I just don't believe that he's going to be able to keep that position as head coach there. So he has to find a head coach, number one, but soon after that they're going to have to do more than just bring in a head coach. I think they have to, what I'm saying is whether they bring me back in some kind of partial consultant role or Jim Plunkett or one of the Raider greats that people respect and know that it is not just going to be a figurehead position, that this guy is going to come in and try and do something. I'm not talking about a GM role or anything like that. I'm just talking about something that the fans understand that they're trying to do something here in a different manner. I think if they do that the Raider fans will understand that Mr. Davis is trying. Now, is he ever going to give up the reigns? That's not going to happen. It's absolutely not going to happen. So he needs to have a buffer between himself and the head coach, someone that can get the message over to the both of them without it being an issue."

SIRIUS host, Tim Ryan: "You've known Mr. Davis for a long time, since '88. Can a dominant personality head coach survive over in Alameda in that building?"

Tim Brown: "I believe so. [Jon] Gruden did it for four years and he did it quite well. There may have been clashes but if there were we didn't see them or hear of them so as far as we were concerned we knew - especially I knew because I had been there since '88 - that he was being able to do some of the things that he wanted to do. Some of the players he was bringing in, some of the plays that were being called. I had been there for 11 years before Gruden got there and we had had four of five different coaches but the offense never changed. We had the same offense. It was always the same offense no matter what happened, no matter who the coach was. Whoever comes in there, they can't - I think what happens is people use Al Davis as a crutch where they can always fall back and say, 'Oh, well, he wouldn't let me do this.' Man, get in there and man up and pound your chest and do what you have to do. And I think if you do that and you know what you're talking about he's going to give you a chance to do it. He did it for Gruden. The players loved Gruden. The offense got better, the whole team got better and we started to become one of the better teams in the NFL. But you can't go in there with your head down asking, 'Mr. Davis, you mind if I...," you know? You've got to go in there like a man and know what you're talking about and tell him what you're going to do. And he will - it's not going to come easy, he's going to fight you on every hand - but he will eventually allow you to have some say so."

****************************

Pat Kirwan: "Give me a profile of a guy who could coach this team if you were the guy as the layer of insulation between Al and the coach. Are you thinking a veteran guy? Are you thinking a young, tenacious guy? What kind of guy would you like to see in there if you were in this mix?"

Tim Brown: "I don't want it to be a new coach. I know that was Gruden. He was a new coach, hadn't been a head coach or whatever. But I think at this particular point it has to be someone who is very - unless it is some hot coordinator out there that has been a coordinator most of his career and [is] a guy who is ready for a head coaching job. But I don't think it can be a young coordinator guy like [Lane] Kiffin was, Kiffin coming from college. I think you have to get an established coach in there at this particular point, someone who can say, 'This is what I've done. This is my track record. This is what I've done in the NFL so you guys get with me here and we can get some things done.' I think you've got to have a guy like that and if they can get that guy I think they have a very good shot because they have talent on the team, that's not the problem. They have some guys. They're a little lacking at the receiver position and a couple of other spots but I think they have enough talent, especially the way the AFC West is right now, they could certainly challenge."

****************************

On Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell:

Tim Brown: "I just feel, coming from the offense that he came from - the play action type, pat the ball five times and then throw it deep in college - it doesn't really fit up with a timing offense in the NFL. And they tried to help him out by doing some of the same things but eventually you can't make a living on play action. You have to be able to drop back three steps, five steps, seven steps, pat the ball once and get the ball out on timing. That's the only way you're going to end up having an effective offense. You look around the league at guys who are playing good offensive ball, they're not doing it just off play action. They're able to mix it up and keep defenses guessing what's going on. That being said, to answer your question, I really think his development is still a couple of years away. I don't see this guy being the quarterback they want him to be until late year three, maybe into year four. I don't want to say [never] because it would be a whole lot of money going down the drain. It's a shame when you talk about someone as a person you have to mention money but that's what the game has come to. It could very well be that the best he probably could be, I believe, is [Daunte] Culpepper and the worst you're looking at Akili Smith. Hopefully he's more like Culpepper than Akili but it all depends on what kind of focus this guy is going to have during the off-season. Obviously, he has the propensity to put on a little weight. He has to be very cognizant of that. He has to be on ball with his game. He needs to get with some of these veteran quarterbacks, Hall of Fame quarterbacks, whether it is Warren Moon, [John] Elway, some of these guys and say, 'Have you guys had a chance to check me out? What do you think? What can I do?' And if a guy makes an effort like that you know he cares, you know he's trying and you're willing to give him a little bit more time. But if he goes and blows up to 300 [pounds] again like they said he did last off-season then you know this guy is not the guy that is going to dedicate himself to learning the position the way he has to."

*The Raiders have an open roster spot that hasn't been filled.

But there are grumblings in the locker room as to why the Raiders have worked out two punters.

Shane Lechler is still the best punter in football and he's not hurt.

Might the team be looking ahead to next season?

Lechler is scheduled to become a free agent. It's been assumed the Raiders would at least use the transition player tag to keep Lechler around and match any offer to him.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha figures to be the Raiders' franchise player again.

*As for the empty roster spot, interim head coach Tom Cable said the Raiders would fill it by Saturday.

The Raiders could look to add a free agent or promote one of its practice squad players.

*Russell (ankle) and center Jake Grove (calf) did more in practice today but were still classified as limited.

If there are no setbacks both will start Sunday against New England.

*Russell was asked today about the fortune of Patrtiots quarterback Matt Cassel.

Cassel hadn't started a game since high school, but has become an effective quarterback since taking over for Tom Brady after his knee injury.

"As a whole, we haven't really made any big plays," Russell said. "If you look on the other side, he has guys that have been making plays left and right, not taking away anything from our guys or us, it's something we just have to step up to the plate and do. If you're not making plays, then, hey."

--Jason Jones



December 11, 2008
Game will be televised

ALAMEDA -- Sunday's game against the New England Patriots is sold out and will be televised locally.

It's the sixth sellout this season and third straight season the Raiders have sold out six games in a season.

--Jason Jones

December 11, 2008
LaMont plays nice

SAN JOSE - LaMont Jordan spent his last two seasons as the Raider that Raider fans loved to hate.

He was lazy and didn't run hard. He wasn't worth the money.

When he was benched in favor of Justin Fargas, many hailed it as Lane Kiffin's best decision of the 2007 season.

Jordan, however, still has a sense of humor.

"Don't ask me any questions like I'm a Raider," Jordan said Wednesday afternoon.

No need to, LaMont. You've won more than four games already, right?

"No comment," Jordan replied with a grin.

The Raiders cut Jordan after holding onto him in spite of having Justin Fargas, Michael Bush and drafting Darren McFadden.

When asked if he was surprised the Raiders were losing a lot, as they did in when he aw in Oakland, Jordan was understandably unsympathetic.

"I play for the Patriots," Jordan said. "I don't pay attention to anybody else's suffering."

Jordan hasn't taken shots at the Raiders like many players that leave the organization do. He didn't take the opportunity to jab the Raiders Tuesday, only calling the change to New England "different."

"Playing the Patriots for four years in New York and playing for them you kind of get an understanding of why the team has as many Super Bowl rings as it has," Jordan said. "And really that's all I'm going to say about that."

Injuries were a problem in each of Jordan's three seasons in Oakland and that hasn't changed with the Patriots.

Jordan missed eight games with a calf injury before returning Sunday to run four times for 18 yards in Seattle. He has 124 yards in 28 carries this season.

"I feel like before I got hurt I was starting to come into my own and then unfortunately the injury took place," Jordan said. "But if you know anything about teams that win in November and December, it's those teams that can run the ball."

Jordan talked about that as a Raider. He spoke of needing 10 wins to make the playoffs, but won only 10 games in three seasons with the Raiders.

The Raiders of this era are playing for pride by time November rolls around.

The oft-hated Jordan knows what to expect Sunday.

"I'm sure when I go into the Coliseum I'm going to hear a whole lot of boos," Jordan said. "But if hear those boos that means that obviously my teammates and I are out there doing something right."

--Jason Jones

December 10, 2008
Who runs the Raider defense?

ALAMEDA - Remember the fuss the Raiders made about Lane Kiffin saying owner Al Davis has input when it comes to the defensive gameplan?

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan spent nearly 20 minutes denying Kiffin's statement in a profanity-laced rant.

So can someone with the Raiders explain the statement made by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick on his conference call with Raiders beat writers today?

Belichick was asked if the Raiders played man coverage exclusively or if they mixed in more zone coverage than one expects.

"They play a lot of man to man," Belichick said. "Sometimes it's with four guys rushing, sometimes it's with five, sometimes because of the formations they've seen they have to make a little bit of adjustment in their coverage because of receivers being bunched together, stacked together, things like that. But I think Rob Ryan, the defensive staff and Mr. Davis all do a good job of making those kinds of adjustments."

Why would Belichick say Davis does a good job of making those adjustments if he has no input?

Ryan was a coach under Belichick so he'd have a good idea if his former employee was working with Davis in running the defense because he could just ask him.

And considering Belichick is a defensive coach and interviewed for the Raiders job when it went to Jon Gruden, he'd have an idea of how Davis might run things.

So the next time you call for Ryan to be fired, remember there's a senior member of the staff that's been around a lot longer than him.

It's only fair to spread the blame because it seems Kiffin wasn't lying about that.

*Apparently enough is enough and Kwame Harris has been benched.

He leads the NFL with 15 penalties. Of those, 11 are false starts, which is also tops in the league. No player has more than six false starts. The Patriots have eight false starts as a team.

Cornell Green is still the starting right tackle. Harris will backup both spots.

*I made the drive down to San Jose to try to catch Randy Moss if he spoke to the media (he didn't). Moss ran by the media without his gear right before practice started.

Belichick did say Raiders tight end Zach Miller reminds him of San Diego Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates because of his ball skills.

"It just seems like he's always open," Belichick said.

Belichick added that when he interviewed with Davis about 10 years ago, it was unique because meeting the owner normally doesn't include going over Xs and Os and scheme.

*Quarterback JaMarcus Russell (ankle) and center Jake Grove (calf) were limited in practice. LB Ricky Brown (groin) did not practice and is out for this week.

Russell is expected to play against the Patriots. A decision on Grove will come later in the week.

*No decision has been made on who will start at receiver this week. Interim head coach Tom Cable reports Ashley Lelie and Chaz Schilens are looking healthy.

*The Raiders added offensive lineman Robert Felton to their practice squad. He's a rookie that was a teammate of Darren McFadden's at Arkansas.

No move has been made to replace cornerback Michael Waddell on the 53-man roster. Waddell was waived Tuesday.

*Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel left the team to be with his family after his father, Greg, passed Monday night.

His status for the game is unknown.

--Jason Jones

December 9, 2008
Time for debate

I've been given the power to post discussion topics at www.sacbee.com/forums. I'll throw topics out there, you can respond and I'll chime in from time to time with my opinion.

So be on the lookout for that.

*The Raiders waived cornerback Michael Waddell today. The team hasn't promoted anyone from the practice squad or signed a player yet.

This would be the ideal time to promote another young player to get a head start on evaluating talent for next season.

TE Darrell Strong or FB Marcel Reece would make sense. The Raiders have only two tight ends (Zach Miller, Tony Stewart). Unless the Raiders plan to bring back Luke Lawton, getting a look at Reece, a converted receiver would also make sense.

That Reece could also be an H-Back which would also help with the need for a third tight end at times makes him a sensible option.

*It looks as if Roseville native Tedy Bruschi is done for the 2008 season.

He's back in Boston after injuring his knee in Seattle on Sunday.

--Jason Jones

December 9, 2008
Rock the (Pro Bowl) vote

There's still some time to cast your \ Pro Bowl votes. The Raiders have two players that should be in the game.

CB Nnamdi Asomugha
Probably the best in football. He should have enough publicity to get in in spite of the Raiders' sorry season.

P Shane Lechler
The best in the NFL and he gets plenty of chances with the Raiders.

--Jason Jones

December 8, 2008
Cable says Russell is ready

ALAMEDA - Quarterback JaMarcus Russell was guarded in predicting if he'd be able to practice Wednesday but interim head coach Tom Cable has no doubts.

"He'll practice," Cable said. "He'll be ready to go."

Cable said Russell would be limited.

He added center Jake Grove (calf) is expected to return to practice Wednesday as is wide receiver Ashley Lelie (concussion).

Only linebacker Ricky Brown (groin) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.

"It's a high groin issue," Cable said of Brown. "It's up high in the groin so those are the worst kind."

*Cable said he'd look to get Mario Henderson some playing time at left tackle as the season winds down to further his development. He wasn't sure how much time that would be.

*Cable was asked again about running back Darren McFadden's health. He conceded McFadden isn't 100 percent because of turf toe on both feet.

"I don't know if you ever get completely healthy till enough time has gone by with turf toe," Cable said. "There's still some issue there but he's certainly the healthiest he's been in regard to that."

*It doesn't sound as if Randy Moss will be on the conference call Wednesday for the New England Patriots. That makes the call a lot less interesting. Instead of asking Moss about being a Raider, some poor teammate will be hit with a dozen Moss questions.

*If you'd like to meet Russell he'll be in Fremont tomorrow where he'll be signing autographs at the Verizon Wireless store from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

You can also catch Safety Gibril Wilson and defensive end Kalimba Edwards Hayward at Southland Mall tomorrow.

They'll be signing autographs in exchange for toys as part of the Toys for Tots program from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Click on the links for more information
--Jason Jones

December 8, 2008
Monday musings

ALAMEDA - Some news and notes from the Raiders locker room this morning. There was no practice today so players will be back on the field Wednesday.

*QB JaMarcus Russell said his MRI showed a lot of bruising to his sprained right ankle.

Russell was injured late in the second half of last Thursday's 34-7 loss at San Diego. He's wearing a walking boot on his right foot fulltime, he said.

Russell also addressed the fuss that was made about him missing a television production meeting with the NFL Network.

"That was kind of funny to me because once we first got there they were sort of waiting for me to get relaxed and get my stuff to my (hotel) room," Russell said. "They called and I wasn't going to rush down stairs, I was just getting off a plane flight. By time I got down there, they was gone. If they want to go on with it, then that's they're job and I'm not really too much worried about it."

It's funny that interim head coach Tom Cable said Russell felt bad about missing the meeting. Cable said it was a big deal to him and that Russell understood that.

It makes you wonder if he really has a pulse for the team.

*WR Drew Carter reports rehab on his left knee is going well. He admitted he questioned whether he really wanted to go through rehab after a fourth ACL injury (he's torn it in each knee twice).

He thought it might be time to move on to the next phase of his life without football.

"I almost went into a little depression stage but, luckily, I had my family there," Carter said. "They just kept me up. But it was hard. When I did it, it felt like it was surreal. I was like, 'There's no way I just did this again.'"

Carter signed a one-year deal in the offseason and said he'd be interested in returning to the Raiders, especially if receivers coach James Lofton is still on the staff.

He said talks of a new contract wouldn't happen until the end of the season.

*WR Ronald Curry
said it would be good to see "18" this weekend when the Raiders host the New England Patriots.

"18" is Randy Moss, who wears 81 for the Patriots.

"I don't know him as 81," Curry said.

But wouldn't we all have liked to have seen more of 18 playing like 81?

No. 18 was traded for a fourth-round pick because it looked as if his days of being a dominant receiver were over.

But since arriving in New England, No. 81 has been the star the Raiders never saw, especially after he was injured during the 2005 season.

But with all the madness that goes on with the Raiders, there was little chance of 18 looking anything like 84 (from Minnesota) or 81.

So don't lose sleep wondering what would have been because it wouldn't have been in Oakland.

*And a final word on the fake field goal from the Kansas City game.

K Sebastian Janikowski said the way Maurice Leggett played the kick safely would have made a first down tough, even if he'd caught the ball.

Leggett didn't lie out to block the kick. Instead he took a route to the ball that was wide and put him in position to get Janikowski.

"I thought it was like fourth-and-2, fourth-and-3," Janikowski said. "I didn't know it was fourth-and-10. I just run out there and Shane (Lechler) said, `Bass.' That was the name of it. My eyes just lit up, I got excited, I went too early."

There will be more to come after Cable speaks.

--Jason Jones

December 5, 2008
Another game for Russell to learn

ALAMEDA - There are plenty reasons fans do not feel sorry for the media being snubbed by athletes.

Someone that gets paid to watch football doesn't earn much sympathy from someone with a "real" job.

But when JaMarcus Russell missed a television production meeting Wednesday, he didn't miss any old meeting.

He missed a meeting with the NFL Network. And commentators criticized Russell for do so.

Raiders interim head coach Tom Cable said Russell deciding to show up for the meeting after the television crew had left was a concern.

"One thing that's important, and we all have to do, it's the coaches responsibility, you have to teach these guys their responsibility to the media," Cable said. "Their responsibilities to the community, to the public. A lot of times when they come in they don't know those things. And that's not trying to protect him or sugar coat it. That's just a fact."

Russell isn't a fan of extended interview sessions and isn't the easiest player to track down for the required weekly media session required of every starting quarterback.

Team officials have said they couldn't "make" Russell talk when he's been evasive with local media.

But it sounds as if being called out on national television might force Russell to be more cooperative now that the NFL has been dissed.

"If you get perceived as a guy that blows things off or you don't respect the wishes of the media that way, they'll treat you that way," Cable said.

Cable said he spoke with Russell Friday morning.

"He feels bad about it," Cable said. "And I don't think we'll have anymore concerns that way. It's just teaching him what that responsibility is and the position he plays, I think there's even more of that."

*Cable also addressed Nnamdi Asomugha's comments after Thursday's game when he wondered if players took the Raiders' plight seriously because so many of them seem to be having fun after every loss.

Cable had no problem with Asomugha.

Cable said he's always concerned about that.

"I think anytime you get beat, I don't know if there is anything to laugh about," Cable said. "I don't think there's anything that makes you feel good when you get beat. If it hurts when you lose then you feel right about the game."

From the way the locker room often sounds in more than three years covering this team, there are still too many players that feel wrong about the game on the Raiders.

It's not that players should be at their lockers crying after each loss, but the mood isn't nearly as down as one would expect for a team that loses 75 percent of its games.

*Russell was scheduled to have an MRI on his right ankle. He sprained it in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Russell's right ankle has bothered him off and on this season.

*Right tackle Cornell Green (knee strain) does not appear to have a serious injury after leaving the game with the injury. He'll test his knee out next week in practice. Safety Hiram Eugene (hamstring) was sore after the game but it's not believed to be a serious injury.

*Wide receiver Ashley Lelie (concussion) and center Jake Grove (calf) are expected back for next Sunday's game against New England. Linebacker Ricky Brown (groin) will probably miss the New England game.

*The players have the weekend off and return to work on Monday.

--Jason Jones


December 4, 2008
Angry Asomugha wonders who else is mad

SAN DIEGO - The Raiders hoped their win in Denver was a sign things were starting to get better for the woeful franchise since its Super Bowl loss.

Wrong. That win looks like a fluke.

At least one peeved player recognizes that.

"No, the gap's not closed," said Nnamdi Asomugha. "We're three and whatever, I don't even know what the record is, but you can't lie to yourself and say the gap is closed or we're any better than we were in the past. It's still the same league and we still have the same record. It's the same story and it's frustrating."

Asomugha wondered aloud if any other Raiders were frustrated. He mentioned Tommy Kelly, Gibril Wilson and Derrick Burgess as players he knows aren't happy.

But hearing a lot of laughter in the locker room didn't sit well with him.

"Dumb mistakes, then you come in here and you don't who's upset," Asomugha said. "You don't know why it can't turn around. I don't know."

*JaMarcus Russell said he has a sprained ankle. He left Qualcomm Stadium on crutches with a walking boot on his right foot.

The injury happened on his second interception when a player fell on his leg.

He offered a "See y'all in Oakland" but didn't speak in detail after the game.

Cornell Green left the game with a knee injury and was replaced at right tackle by Mario Henderson.

*In the most puzzling stat of the day, Darren McFadden had three touches and three tackles after turnovers.

So much for getting the ball into the hands of playmakers.

--Jason Jones

December 4, 2008
Chargers make fun of Raider WRs

SAN DIEGO -- The stat comparison just flashed on the big screen at Qualcomm Stadium.

Vincent Jackson
3 catches
122 yards
1 Touchdown


Raider WRs

4 catches
37 yards
0 Touchdowns

I'm just wondering if the Raider receivers can surpass Jackson's numbers by the end of the night.

--Jason Jones

December 4, 2008
Miller scores

SAN DIEGO -- Justin Miller's 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the first by the Raiders since Dec. 28, 2003 here at Qualcomm Stadium, by Doug Gabriel.

It's also the second touchdown by the Raiders in the first half all season.

Between Miller and Johnnie Lee Higgins on punts, there are two positions the Raiders should look to keep some consistency.

--Jason Jones

December 4, 2008
And you thought the offense looked bad...

SAN DIEGO --JaMarcus Russell was just carted off the field with an ankle injury and the team's best option in the passing game, Zach Miller, was down after Russell's second interception.

--Jason Jones

December 4, 2008
Different view, same team

SAN DIEGO - The Bay Area was shut out when it came to being able to see tonight's game against the Chargers in 3D.

But a television and 3D glasses were made available for us media types to take a peek of the game in 3D.

The players look like video game characters on the screen. Kind of how I hope Madden 2015 would look.

And yes, it looks just as bad for the Raiders in 3D.

This team commits some of the worst penalties. Somewhere Bill Callahan is saying, "I told you so."

--Jason Jones

December 3, 2008
Injury report

I'm enjoying Southern California, but here's who will and might be watching tomorrow's game in San Diego.

Out
LB Ricky Brown (groin)
C Jake Grove (calf)

Questionable
WR Ashley Lelie (headache)
WR Ronald Curry (ankle)

Probable
LB Jon Alston (ankle)
S Rashad Baker (elbow)e
G Cooper Carlisle (ankle)
DE Kalimba Edwards (hip)
T Cornell Green (knee)
TE Zach Miller (groin0
WR Chaz Schilens (ankle)

Curry was limited in today's practice and said on Tuesday he would play tomorrow. If Lelie is still bothered by headaches, Johnnie Lee Higgins and Todd Watkins figure to play more on offense.

--Jason Jones

December 3, 2008
Take one for the team

ALAMEDA - What should a quarterback say to his receiver should he sail a ball over his head and he takes a hard hit from a defender.

Raiders wide receiver coach James Lofton had a suggestion.

"Suck it up," Lofton yelled as he overheard JaMarcus Russell being asked a question along those lines.

After Sunday's loss to Kansas City, Raiders tight end Zach Miller said Chiefs All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez advised him to tell Russell not to throw passes that set him up to take big hits.

He said he never intends for his teammates to take some of the hits they took against the Chiefs.

"That's football," Russell said when asked about receivers getting hit. "You're going to get hit anyway so you might as well hold on to it."

Russell does admire that he has receivers willing to take big hits for a catch.

Russell said he's willing to do the same for them.

"I'm not going to sit up there and not get hit," he said. "I stand there and take a shot in the mouth and throw the football. I make sacrifices for my teammates just the way those guys do for us."

--Jason Jones


December 2, 2008
Injury report

ALAMEDA - I have to run to take care of some business, so there will be more posted later.

But here's the injury update.

C Jake Grove (calf) and LB Ricky Brown (groin) did not practice and won't play this week.

WRs Ronald Curry (ankle) and Ashley Lelie (headache) did not practice but are expected to play.

DE Kalimba Edwards (hip) and WR Chaz Schilens (ankle) were limited in practice.
--Jason Jones

December 2, 2008
Accepting reality

ALAMEDA - It's always refreshing when an athlete is honest.

All too often football players on losing teams try to convince everyone just how good a team they really are when the facts are the team is losing, and it's not because good teams lose more than they win.

Here's what San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had to say about the team's disappointing season on today's conference call with local writers.

The Chargers' season began with hopes of a Super Bowl run. But the Chargers are 4-8.

Then there was a last-second loss to Carolina and the team was jobbed on a bad call in Denver to fall to 0-2.

Gates, however, isn't making excuses.

"Well you can make the case for things not going our way but I'm a firm believer that you are what you are. We are a 4-8 team. That's the facts. Facts are facts in this league. You can't judge off of nothing else. There are situations that have occur that where plays are made in the last seconds of games that we felt we should have won. We had some unfortunate calls in the last second of games that we felt we should have won. But it is what it is. We have to find a way to get it turned around and that's what championship teams do. They deal with adversity. They accept constructive criticism when things aren't going their way and they just find a way to turn things around."

That kind of accountability from one of the team's best players is a reason the Chargers could rebound next season.

*Besides hearing some of the new Kanye West being played at practice, nothing much to report.

No sign of LB Ricky Brown (groin) or C Jake Grove (calf).

The full injury report will come from Tom Cable later in the afternoon.

--Jason Jones

December 1, 2008
Chewing on Cable and Kiffin

ALAMEDA - Before getting to Tom Cable saying it's OK to "chew" on his butt, let's touch on one Lane "Lance" Kiffin's introduction as the new head coach at the University of Tennessee.

But first, a few words from Cable on his old boss landing one of the most coveted college jobs.

"Well, I'm happy for him and his family, he can move forward now," Cable said. "That's what he should do and move to the next step in his career."

Not so fast.

Before Kiffin moves forward (and waits for his grievance to get his money from Al Davis), he had to say something when asked about his time with the Raiders.

"To deal with a completely dysfunctional franchise when you get there --t hat wasn't a joke -- that's really valuable," Kiffin said. "You can't go to school and learn crissis management like going there."

Here's a little more Kiffin for you:

"It was a great experience, as far as being able to go through all the daily interactions that you have with players in the NFL and with what happens in that building. To be able to deal with that, in that environment, it makes everything else you do easy, from my opinion."

Nice to know the dysfunction in "that building" in Alameda makes going to the Southeastern Conference "easy."

So I guess that means he'll have no problem beating Florida next season.

*By the way, Kiffin didn't confirm that his father, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, would join him with the Volunteers.

If he does, Monte's last game in Tampa Bay would be against Raiders.

You think he'd like to go out with a bang by beating up the team that fired his son?

But back to Raiders-related matters...

*Cable said the fake field goal in yesterday's game would have worked because of the "width" of the Kansas City defender set the Chiefs up to be bewildered long enough for Sebastian Janikowski to run about 20 yards total for a first down.

Yes, Janikowski could have juked Maurice Leggett, who read the play perfectly or that Shane Lechler's unusual stance tipped everyone off that something was up.

"Just hurried a little bit at kicker, that's all," said Cable of what went wrong on the play. "I think the pitch was fine in terms of where he was supposed to be, and all that. Just hurried it up a little bit too much."

Cable said the play worked every time in practice. Then again, the Raiders said they had their best practices of the season leading up to the 24-0 beating they took from the Atlanta Falcons.

"It worked every time, and that's the shame of it all," Cable said. "But it's like I mentioned a few weeks ago, if you take a chance like that and it works, everybody thinks you're a genius. When it doesn't everyone wants to chew on your butt. So chew."

There you have it, Raider Nation. Get in line if you want to take a bite.

*One of the questions many have is what was Davis' reaction to seeing his prized punter and kicker involved in a fake field goal.

Cable said he spoke with Davis this morning, but didn't divulge any details except to say they talk about "a lot of things."

"One thing he and I share is a tremendous passion for winning," Cable said. "Losing is about the worst thing in our lives. That's what it
is."

*The talk of the AFC West being up for grabs still comes up for some reason.

I guess the Raiders aren't mathematically eliminated. They need one more loss or Denver win to be guaranteed another season out of the playoffs.

This clearly a case where logic should take precedence over math, but it can't yet.

"As I mentioned last couple weeks, we're really not out of it," Cable said. "You keep having something to play for. Everyone has had their issues. All four teams have had their issues in different ways, some of it injuries, some of it just poor play. So we're kind of all in this thing together and it's just really whoever will sort it out best at the end."

*No new injuries. Linebacker Ricky Brown (groin) could return Thursday and would get his starting job back because Cable said players don't lose their jobs to injuries.

--Jason Jones

December 1, 2008
Nothing wild about their wildcat

OAKLAND - Raiders interim head coach Tom Cable said he wants creativity in the offense.

But the offensive set that has the most potential to be creative has been pretty bland.

The Miami Dolphins call it the Wildcat. The Raiders call it Stallion.

With any name, it's about putting your running back at quarterback and allowing him to make plays.

The Raiders have Darren McFadden, who ran the set at Arkansas, but their Stallion is just a boring little pony.

There's no motioning someone like Ronald Curry or Michael Bush - two players that have played quarterback in the past - into the backfield to take the ball for run/pass options.

McFadden hasn't faked a run and tried to pass to Zach Miller.

How about a double pass since JaMarcus Russell is lined up as a receiver?

Nope, just a basic, boring running play with no impact on the game.

"It's something we haven't put in there yet,' McFadden said. "We haven't gotten to doing the motion and moving around. Right now we're just going to stand pat and play smash mouth football."

The Raiders were in the Stallion four times and gained a total of five yards with a long run of four yards by Justin Fargas.

Twice McFadden gave the ball to Fargas. The other two times, he McFadden ran into the middle of the line

"It's just one of those things where if a defense plays it right it's not going to be there," McFadden said.

And the Raiders are making it easy on defenses to play the formation with the lack of creativity out of the formation - minus last week when Curry tried to pass out of it after taking the snap.

But this formation is supposed to be about McFadden.

And when he's been at quarterback, there's been nothing of note outside one nice run against the Broncos for 11 yards, not the big plays the Raider offense needs.

After all the buildup of all the Raiders could do out of the formation, there's really nothing to be excited about yet.

The Raiders have nothing to lose in their final four games. It's time to show everyone reason to be excited for 2009 and get really wild on offense.

*Upon further review it looks as if the botched fake field goal could have also been a pass to tight end Tony Stewart.

When you look at the replay Stewart would have been wide open or been the lead blocker on the run.

It was still a bad call.

Maurice Leggett would have hit Sebastian Janikowski likely forced a fumble if Janikowski held on to the ball to attempt a pass.

--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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