The Raiders loaded the transports, headed to the airport and got on their charter flight to Pittsburgh late Friday morning (they leave some two days ahead of kickoff for games on the East Coast).
But before they departed, coach Tom Cable briefly addressed the media.
Regarding injuries, Cable said Nick Miller (shin) remains out while veteran defensive end Greg Ellis (knee) did not practice and is doubtful. Running back Justin Fargas (stinger) and linebackers Ike Ekejiuba (knee) and Davis Nixon (ill) practiced full and are probable.
Ellis' knee, which underwent surgery during the Raiders' bye week, swelled up in the first quarter of the Dallas game on Thanksgiving and he did not return. He had been making improvement but had a setback this week.
Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha raised eyebrows throughout Silver and Blackdom this week when he basically said the Raiders' defense was too basic, that Al Davis' long-held man-to-man defense was becoming more of a hindrance than playing to the players' strengths.
Two schools of thought here - Asomugha is absolutely correct, and it's refreshing to hear a star player speak out. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, Asomugha is being paid a tidy fee - a three-year, $45.3 million deal with $28.5 million guaranteed as the highest-paid DB in the game's history - to play Davis' defense. So there shouldn't be a surprise there. Then again, had Asomugha not signed the contract this offseason, he probably would have been franchised anyway.
Asked simply, what he would you like to see different from the defense, elicited a long-winded but illuminating response from Asomugha.
"Simple sometimes can be good. I don't know if simple is the right word. Simple can be good if you're doing it right. If you're the Bucs from earlier this decade and they're a Cover 2 team, with some zone blitzing, but it was still Cover 2. That was pretty simple for them but they were able to do it well. I think it's just a matter of doing what we do, if that's what we're going into each game saying we're going to do regardless of whether a team will game plan against it, which they've been doing and which they always do. It's just doing it well. A lot of times it's the player that's going to be putting himself in the best position to make the play, just because how our defense is. You have to be better than the guy in front of you. It's not just the corners, it's the d-line, it's the linebackers. Because in that type of defense, one missed gap and the ball is shot up for a run for a significant gain. It kind of speaks more to us being good at what we're doing if that's what we're going to do. A guy like me, of course I say it all the time, I say it every week to coaches and they laugh and I'll continue to do it until I leave the league. I'm a guy who likes to play the mental game with the offense. Whether you're blitzing, whether you're dropping back, whether you're in zone. I was talking to you about Charles (Woodson) and he was saying how different it is for him to be...(in Green Bay) where they do so many different things. That's what I like, but if you're not going to get it you have to make do with whatever system you're in. You have to succeed in that system. Maybe we don't (want) to be as multiple as other guys, maybe we don't have to be. We have to prove that we're good enough to win and play well doing the simple things that we're doing. We're not proving that right now. It's not like we proved it last year or we proved it the year before. This is several years now where we haven't been able to get over the hump of winning more than four or five games a year. Maybe you go back and you think about what we're doing and think about ways to fix it. (New Orleans coach) Sean Payton said, I was telling my coach earlier, Sean Payton said before the game against the Patriots. He was asked 'Why is your defense so great?' 'What we did during the offseason is we studied the top defenses and we pulled from each of those defenses and it allows us to be multiple and it allows us to do the things that are working in the league today, the things that have been working the past few years.' The game changes, the game is never going to be the same as it was 10 years ago or five years ago with the rule changes and things like that. You have to be able to adapt. But it is what it is."
Whew...Asomugha was then asked if he would like to see his team more flexible in games.
"I don't know too many defenses that have that ability to do that. Because if you don't work on it in practice, it can look even worse during the game if you need to adapt or you need to make a change. It's more something that has to be addressed in the offseason. When you see that you have a lot to pull from in your arsenal and you're working it in training camp and those sorts of things. When it comes to game time, when that situation comes up you can revert back to what you've done before and be successful with it. But if you're not doing it throughout the year it's tough to go into a game and say, 'OK, look, this is hurting us. Let's change it and completely do this.' There still is some strategy and some thinking to it."
How's this for different, then? Trevor Scott's switch from third-down, pass-rushing defensive end to starting weak-side linebacker is an experiment no longer as he will be reprising the "Elephant" role played so well by Charles Haley with the 49ers in the late 1980s and early '90s. On the 49ers defensive staff then? Current Raiders defensive coordinator John Marshall.
Scott, coming off a two-sack game at Dallas, will have the freedom to line up on the line of scrimmage to rush the passer but will also have pass-coverage duties.
With Scott's move, Thomas Howard moves to strong-side linebacker. Howard, though, has had trouble shedding blockers on running plays. Stay tuned.