Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

March 30, 2009
Preseason opponents announced

Here are the teams the Raiders will face in the preseason. Exact dates and times will come at a later date.

*The Raiders will host Dallas Week One (August 13-17).

*The next game will be at the 49ers (August 20-24).

*The third (and usually most important) preseason game will be in Oakland against New Orleans (August 27-31).

*The Raiders will conclude the preseason in Seattle (September 3-5).

--Jason Jones

March 26, 2009
Raiders add two assistant coaches

The Raiders have added two quality control assistants to the coaching staff.

For those of you that don't know, quality control coaches do a lot of the grunt work. Breaking down films for other coaches, running scout teams and pretty much whatever else needs to get done.

Rich Scangarello is a Sacramento State graduate that spent 2002-03 as an offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach under current Raiders head coach Tom Cable at Idaho.

Scangarello, a Roseville native, started his coaching career at UC Davis in 1998 as an offensive assistant before moving on to Idaho in 2000. He's been the UC Davis co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Davis since 2007-08.

Here's his complete bio courtesy of Raiders.com.

The other addition is Bert Leone, who has spent the last two seasons in the same capacity in Cleveland.

You can read more on Leone here.

*Saw the San Francisco Chronicle's David White staked out team headquarters this morning to see quarterback JaMarcus Russell is back in town.

Russell was called out by Cable earlier this week for needing to do more of the little things that quarterbacks do to lead teams.

It's an obvious area of concern because Cable has mentioned this twice (once toward the end of the season).

I know players have tried to give Russell advice on how to navigate life in the NFL. And his explanation for missing that NFL Network production meeting in part because of the flight from Oakland to San Diego was met with skepticism by many.

But in the end it might come down to the organization doing what Cable has done - demand Russell do more.

Raiders owner Al Davis didn't seem all too concerned about Russell's work ethic when asked about it last month, noting Ken Stabler didn't have what you would call great work ethic.

But Stabler didn't play in this era where players are expected to workout full-time. And Stabler won a lot of games.

So as someone familiar with Russell told me, it's just time for the team "to stop babying his (butt)."

--Jason Jones

March 25, 2009
Cable wants more from Russell

Tom Cable did come out and call JaMarcus Russell lazy.

But he's making it clear he expects more from his third-year quarterback.

Cable said as much in his comments at the NFL Owners Meetings in Dana Point on Tuesday.

He told reporters this about Russell:

"If he can accept the responsibility of being an NFL quarterback, I think that's working more, working harder, working longer than everybody else, accepting the responsibility that his teammates look to him as the face of the organization, that he has to go above and beyond almost on a daily basis, I think that comes with that position, whether that's right or wrong, that's what it is, if he can accept that and become that, he'll be fine. He'll be great, I think. Has he done that? I think during the last six weeks he started to, during the season. I think thus far in the offseason he's been around more than ever. He was never around like this on his own, just watching tape, studying, so that's a step in the right direction. I think he has to embrace that, though, for him to be what he should be."

When Cable talks about "responsibility" that's not limited to his teammates. Russell doesn't like media interviews. They're mandated by the NFL because he's the starting quarterback.

But Russell is more comfortable in a one-on-one interview or not talking at all. The several cameras in his face deal doesn't work well for him.

But it's part of the job. So rather than avoid the media, Russell has to learn to accept the repsonsiblity.

That includes the television production meetings he also doesn't like. He was criticized for missing an NFL Network meeting last December and it wasn't the first time the team had trouble getting him to a television meeting.

Following the NFL Network incident, Russell was much more accessible and quite a good interview toward the end of the season.

Cable also mentioned Russell needed to do more extra work toward the end of last season, so it's obviously an area he's concerned with.

Russell is irked by talk he's not working hard enough, but who can show him there way?

There's no veteran quarterback on the roster Russell could lean on. The closest is Andrew Walter, who wants off the team. Much of that burden will fall on quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett.

Russell knows he will only silence critics by winning games. And the work toward those wins starts in the classroom.

Expect Cable to keep reminding Russell of that.

--Jason Jones

March 23, 2009
Raiders in prime time ... again

Just got this from The Bee's Paul Gutierrez, who is down at the NFL owner's meetings.

The Raiders will play on Thanksgiving in Dallas in addition to hosting San Diego in their season opener on "Monday Night Football."

The Raiders haven't played on Thanksgiving since 1970.

The Raiders have been horrible in prime time lately. They've been outscored by an average of 28-12 in their last 10 prime-time games. That includes a 34-7 loss in San Diego in December.

--Jason Jones

March 23, 2009
Center swap

I receiveed word late last night on the way home from my mini-vacation the Raiders had acquired center Samson Satele from Miami for an undisclosed (well I hear a sixth-round) draft pick.

The Dolphins signed former Raiders center Jake Grove as a free agent earlier this month.

More to come later.

--Jason Jones

March 18, 2009
Cal's Mack attracts Raider coaches

BERKELEY - Nothing like spending part of the afternoon in the most beautiful place watch a football game (in my biased opinion).

But back to the lecture at hand ...

Cal held it's Pro Day this afternoon and everyone was looking at Cal center Alex Mack.

Raiders head coach Tom Cable, offensive line coach Jim Michalczik and assistant offensive line coach Chris Morgan all stood in the bleachers behind the south end zone to get a good look at Mack.

According to NFL.com, Mack ran the 40-yard dash in 5.17 and 5.23 seconds, posted a 28 1/2-inch vertical jump, an 8-foot, 10-inch broad jump, a 4.75 short shuttle, a 7.31 three-cone drill and did 20 bench press reps at 225 pounds.

Cable was interested in seeing Mack move outside of game film.

"You just want to see athletically, how he is," Cable said. "How he moves around, just to get a feel for him."

The Raiders need a center after losing Jake Grove in free agency. John Wade is on the roster, but isn't a long-term solution.

Mack is the best available in this year's draft. But even for a team that selected a kicker in the first round, taking a center seventh overall would be a stretch.

Cable said taking a center that high isn't bad "if you need one, that's the bottom line."
Ideally the Raiders would use their second-round pick (40th overall) on Mack, but he is expected to be off the board by then.

Mack might mean trading back into the end of the first round. Don't look for the Raiders to trade down.

Michalczik was Mack's position coach at Cal before joining the Raiders. Cable sounded relunctant to put too much of Michalczik's opionion into the mix.

"I've really kind of kept that separate and told Jimmy, 'hey we'll make an opinion of the guy and well match him later. Let's not hear a lot aobut it now from you and those types of things.' And you really don't want to cloud your judgment."

Mack (6-4, 307) certainly sounds like the kind of player Cable would like. He loves football and is willing to learn.

"If they want me to play wide receiver I'm going to play that," Mack said. "They can teach me whatever they want and I'll do whatever they want me to do. I think one thing I'm good at his technique. That's something they really want me to learn. And if someone else has different techniques and there are other things to do, I'm more than happy to learn it. They're trying explain some of those drills out there, and I think I was asking too many questions for them. `You want this, or do you want that?' How does this work? I try to do whatever the coaches want. I'm happy to play anywhere."

Mack also beliefs his aggressive attitude is contagious. If you watched Cal the last couple of years, it wasn't uncommon to see Mack blocking until he heard a whistle - even if he was 15 yards down the field.

"I think one of the things that I'm well known for is my finish, and my striving to finishing plays," Mack said. "And that's something I think is contagious. I think you see one guy busting his ass out there, running down the field blocking people late, finishing to the whistle, the other four guys on the O-line that are watching him do that, they're going to join in. I think that's something I could definitely contribute to any team I play for."

Now on to more Raider news from the day:

*Cable said Mario Henderson would "compete" at left tackle. This is a question because the Raiders signed LT Khalif Barnes over the weekend.

"Mario did a fine job the last three games," Cable said. "Can't agrue it. For us we have to get better in the offensive line so it's important to get competition in there. And that may mean the draft, that may mean free agency which we've done a little bit."

The other tackle the Raiders have signed is former Denver starter Erik Pears.

Cable, however, didn't dismiss the idea of Henderson switching back to the right side.

"Right now," Cable said, "...he's the left tackle for sure."

*For those of you wondering about who will be the new strong safety, Cable said Tyvon Branch would step into Gibril Wilson's spot.

But finding a safety doesn't appear the top priority.

"We've got to get some places better on the football team," Cable said. "For us it means something like protecting JaMarcus Russell. I think that's where we have to start."

Speaking of Russell, Cable said the quarterback would be back in town next week to join the voluntary offseason program.

*Remember Raiders owner Al Davis' not-so-subtle request for more power in the running game last month?

Cable said that doesn't mean the team will change from being a zone-blocking team.

"No we'll be the same," Cable said. "And what he means by that is what you saw against Tampa Bay....that was more two tight end, those kind of things."

--Jason Jones

March 17, 2009
Question time: Henderson to the right?

This question comes from Randy:

Hi Jason, why do you think Mario Henderson will compete for the RT spot and not the LT spot?

Answer: Henderson was being groomed to play right tackle last offseason. The Raiders' coaching staff was practically begging Henderson to beat out Cornell Green. In the end, Henderson didn't have enough to unseat Green.

Henderson became the starting left tackle at the end of last season because Kwame Harris refused to stop false starting. In games that Harris wasn't committing penalties it could be argued Harris was the better player, which led to Tom Cable's reluctance to bench Harris.

Also, Khalif Barnes signed with the intention of playing left tackle. And with a young franchise quarterback in JaMarcus Russell, going for experience (Barnes) at left tackle makes sense.

*Sorry for having things to do yesterday, thus delaying the posting of this news that I'm sure all of you have by now.

The Raiders announced via Raiders.com the following players have been re-signed just in time for offseason workouts to start yesterday:

DT William Joseph, LB Ricky Brown, LB Jon Alston, LS Jon Condo, C Chris Morris and CB/KR Justin Miller. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Miller signed a two-year deal.

--Jason Jones

March 14, 2009
Barnes (finally) signs

The Raiders signed tackle Khalif Barnes to a one-year contract today.

Barnes, 26, has 57 career starts in 60 games with experience at left and right tackle. The Raiders brought Barnes on to be a left tackle.

That means if Mario Henderson is going to be a starter, he's going to have to beat out Cornell Green at right tackle, which Henderson failed to do last year.

Barnes (6-5, 325) started 16 games for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season. He was a second-round pick of the Jaguars out of Washington.

This was a deal that was supposed to be done a week ago after Barnes enjoyed his visit to Oakland. But talks broke down and Barnes considered signing with Tampa Bay.

Ultimately, Barnes is a Raider where he'll be penciled in as the starting left tackle and will play for a coach he likes in Tom Cable.

This is Cable's second try at finding a left tackle in free agency. The Raiders tried Kwame Harris last season only to eventually bench him in favor of Henderson.

Oddly enough, the Raiders signed Harris while he was also considering a deal with Tampa, too.

Unlike Harris, Barnes doesn't come to Oakland having failed to hold on to a starting job with his previous team.

--Jason Jones

March 13, 2009
The Raiders-Kiffin Show continues Monday

Your favorite former Raiders coach will be in town Monday.

Lane Kiffin, now the head coach at the University of Tennessee, will be in San Francisco to be deposed in regards to his grievance with the team over salary he says he's still owed.

The team contends he's not owed for violating the terms of his contract, which led to him being fired.

The Raiders took a jab at "Lance" by stating in an email that by coming to California Kiffin "will thus avoid any more of a publicity stir in the South that he already has."

In case you've missed it, Kiffin already had to apologize for accusing Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating and has rubbed some the wrong way with some of his public comments as Tennessee's head coach.

The Raiders also detail some of their gripes with Kiffin in a letter to Tennessee's chancellor dated Jan. 22, including his hiring of Raiders offensive line assistant coach James Cregg while he was still under contract to the Raiders.

When asked if he'd paid Kiffin last month, Raiders owner Al Davis said "(bleep) no" and reiterated Kiffin is a liar.

I have no idea what the "truth" will be Monday. But hey, Wrestlemania XXV is approaching.

How about settling the dispute like that?


March 12, 2009
McFadden is rested and ready for the offseason program

ALAMEDA - Raiders running back Darren McFadden was all smiles today while promoting the Fuel Up Like A Pro initiative to get children active and healthy.

Today was the "Milk Rally" to get the youngsters to drink milk, because as McFadden pointed out it helps "build strong bones."

So I had a question that I'm sure most Raider fans want to know:

Does milk help with turf toe?

"I can't say that it do," McFadden said before breaking out into laughter.

McFadden's rookie season was bogged down by turf toe on each foot. Then came arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in mid January in Fayetteville, Ark.

McFadden showed his feet and shoulder is feeling better as he walked to the rally. Because every football player wants to really play basketball (at least it seems that way) McFadden took a fake jump shot in the hall and landed (in his dress shoes) with a smile.

McFadden had plenty of time to rest and visit with his family this offseason because of the injuries. But he'll be ready to go when the Raiders report for organized team activities on Monday.

"I like to be out there working out year round," McFadden said. "But with having to rest my feet and then rest my shoulder, (being inactive), it's just something that comes along with it."

One thing McFadden cleared up was his reason for having surgery in his home state.

There were rumors that McFadden didn't trust Raider team doctors, who allegedly misdiagnosed his shoulder injury.

"I was never diagnosed here for my shoulder, period," McFadden said. "When I went home (I was) getting everything checked out. It was something I was always feeling there, I just went in to get it checked out."

For more information on the Fuel Up Like a Pro initiative click here.

--Jason Jones

March 11, 2009
Potential Raider draft pick has a down day

The reports from the Alabama tackle Andre Smith's Pro Day have been underwhelming.

He only bench-pressed 225 pounds 19 times.

His 40-yard dash times were 5.28 and 5.33 seconds according to NFL.com. He weighed in at 325 pounds and reports had him looking noticeably overweight.

I spoke to a scout prior to Smith's Pro Day and based on that discussion I was told to expect this kind of performance.

"He's not going to be strong, but on the field he's powerful," the scout said.

"And no matter what you do, he's not going to look pretty," the scout added, noting he wasn't going to have the prototype body of a Jake Long.

The scout said the Raiders, however, would be crazy to pass on Smith if were to fall to them in the draft because he's shown on the field that he's a dominant player that is rarely knocked off his feet.

"He'd struggle early but he could be their starting right tackle as a rookie," my anonymous scout said.

The Raiders still haven't fully addressed their needs at tackle. Perhaps the team will sign Orlando Pace or make a stronger play for Marvel Smith.

If that hasn't happened by late April, Smith could be there for the taking.

****
S Rashad Baker signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, officially making the trio of Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch and Hiram Eugene the Raiders' safeties.

Here's a quick summary of the group:

*Huff was the seventh overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. He was miscast as a strong safety for two seasons before moving to free safety in 2008. He was benched after five games and finished the year with most of his gameday work coming on special teams. Huff was told poor tackling was why he lost his job.

*Branch would have been the team's kickoff returner to start the season if not for a broken thumb in the preseason. Branch only returned six kickoffs as a rookie before being lost for the season because of shoulder injury suffered returning a kick against Atlanta.

*Eugene replaced Stuart Schweigert as the starting free safety in 2007. Eugene became a backup to Huff in 2008 before eventually replacing him. He was in upgrade in that he didn't make some of the glaring mistakes Huff made tackling.

The Raiders could use another safety considering they basically have three free safeties (Branch was the backup SS last year, but he can play free, too).

I know a lot of you want Roy Williams to fill that role but at this stage of his career he might be better off as a linebacker to limit his responsibilities in pass coverage.

To be honest, the Raiders could use LB Jon Alston in the role Williams would have on the defense. It's not uncommon to see Alston taking some reps as a safety during pregame drills.

****
Got the word a few of the Raiders wanted to send their best to the family of Marquis Cooper and let them know they were on their minds. Today is Cooper's birthday.

--Jason Jones

March 10, 2009
The Raiders could pick up the Pace in search for O-line help

There's another possibility at left tackle for the Oakland Raiders: Orlando Pace.

Pace, 33, was released by the St. Louis Rams today. He started 14 games in 2008 after playing in nine games the previous two seasons.

The seven-time Pro Bowl selection is near the end of his career, but would definitely be an upgrade for the Raiders.

The team couldn't reach a deal with Khalif Barnes so adding another veteran tackle is still a necessity.

Pace would also be an instant leader on an offense in need of more leadership and give Mario Henderson an example of how a tackle that has been the best prepares to play.

The Raiders tried to draft Pace back in 1997, moving up to the No. 2 selection in the first round. The Rams then jumped ahead of the Raiders to snag Pace with the first pick.

The Raiders selected DT Darrell Russell.

--Jason Jones

March 9, 2009
Special goals

Isaiah Ekejiuba is gunning for San Diego gunner Kasim Osgood and looking to run down Brendon Ayenbadejo for the title of best special teamer in the AFC.

"It's all a competition in this league," Ekejiuba said. "You want to be the best and there are a couple of guys up there right now. You have to shoot for the best if that's what you aim to be."

Ekejiuba was a Pro Bowl alternate after the 2008 season and was rewarded with a new deal that makes him one of the better paid special teams players in the NFL.

Ekejiuba has been important to special teams, especially the last two seasons.

When he was injured at the end of the 2007 preseason, he still made the team even though he'd miss the first four games of the season because of his play in the kicking game.

Ekejiuba was an unrestricted free agent, but his intention was always to return to Oakland.

The Raiders special teams were among the best in the NFL last year and the Raiders also retained the likes of All-Pro punter Shane Lechler.

"I liked the way we finished the season," Ekejiuba said. "As things went along I saw some of the guys that were coming back, that made me want to come back. I'd worked with those guys and believed in them."

One key person not back is special teams coach Brian Schneider. But Ekejiuba is confident the transition to Schneider's assistant, John Fassel, will be fine.

"Coach Fassel and Coach Schneider were so close and working with both of them so closely last year just helps me have a better feeling for Fassel and what he expects from us," Ekejiuba said. "So I think that one year under our belts is going to help us do things better and progress from where we were last year."

UPDATE: In more news about special teams, Aaron Pelch will join the Raiders coaching staff as assistant special teams coach.
You can read more about Pelch here.

Chris Morgan is also the new assistant offensive line coach. Here is Morgan's bio.

Morgan played for Tom Cable at Colorado when Cable was offensive line coach there.
--Jason Jones

March 7, 2009
Fargas discusses his commitment to excellence

OAKLAND - I was able to catch up Raiders running back Justin Fargas last night before he was honored for the second year in a row as the winner of the team's Commitment to Excellence Award.

The winner is voted on by his teammates.

He shared the award with Nnamdi Asomugha this year. Asomugha is out of the country right now and wasn't at the dinner.

Here's a quick snippet of my chat with Fargas.

Q: Is there more significance to winning this award twice?
A: It brings more meaning to it. The first year I felt like my teammates were recognizing me for having a breakout season and for the things I did on the field. But when they voted me this year, it just made me think it's more than just a statistical award. It shows that they look to me and respect me not just as a football player but as a leader in locker room. And that gave a lot more meaning to it this year.


Q: You said last year you wanted to become more of a leader. Did that come naturally?
A: Yeah, it came naturally. I don't feel like I changed what I did. I just knew I had to take more responsibility in doing the little things. Not rah, rah speeches in front of the team, but telling the young guys aside and seeing where they're at. Talking to my quarterback and making sure he knows I have total confidence in him so he can just be himself and play, things like that. I think as a veteran on the team you have to embrace that role more.

Q: There was a lot of off-the-field news about the Raiders this time last year. But you restructured your contract to ensure you'll be back this season. Why the desire to stay in Oakland?
A: Probably the most exciting thing I can say going into this season is e have the same coach. We have direction as a team and we know where Coach (Tom) Cable is coming from, what he's trying to do with us and where we're trying to go.

Coming back with all three running backs, I'm excited. It showed last year that it takes a corps of running backs to get the job done through the season. And I don't think there's a corps that's going to be stronger than ours this year. And with Coach (Kelly) Skipper coming along to lead us I'm excited.

*The T.O. to Oakland chatter can end.

Terrell Owens has agreed to a one-year contract with the Buffalo Bills.

--Jason Jones

March 6, 2009
Why Walker over T.O.?

This would seem to be a simple argument:

A team that needs a wide receiver would take Terrell Owens over Javon Walker 10 times out of 10.

But that's probably not the the route the Raiders are going to take.

I'm not convinced the team won't at least look into adding Owens, but as for now, Walker is going to be the big-name veteran amongst the receivers.

Why? Let's try to make sense of such a decision.

*The Raiders have already paid Walker $12 million. How much money do the Raiders want to spend on wide receivers?

*Outside of his contract demands after his best season (2004) Walker hasn't been labeled a divisive presence. He complained in his last season in Denver, but he never split a locker room.

*Walker's distractions might be bizarre - like wanting to retire a week into training camp - but nothing that could be called disruptive.

(I don't include him being robbed in Las Vegas last year because any of us can be the victim of a crime).

*Walker has been publicly supportive of JaMarcus Russell. I'm not sure there is a quarterback Owens likes.

*Perhaps the Raiders are trying to keep some continuity around Russell? Just a thought.

*And the most important thing is Walker has already agreed to a paycut.

So go ahead, moan and complain about Walker still being a Raider. Or would you prefer the team bring Jerry Porter back?

Then again, I still contend the former Cowboy that makes sense for the Raiders is DT Tank Johnson, not Owens or Roy Williams.

Williams might help against the run, but if your defense is depending on a safety to save the run defense, that means there are plenty of problems up front.

****
*Reports are Bruce Cooper, the father of missing Raiders LB Marquis Cooper has called off the search based on "new" information.

*As I reported yesterday, there's still nothing imminent with OT Khalif Barnes in spite of mutual inerest. (That statement probably guaranteed Barnes will sign as soon as this is posted).

If the Raiders sign Barnes, they might be inclined to draft a wide receiver in the first round. But if OT Andre Smith falls to No. 7, the Raiders could upgrade at tackle quickly with he and Barnes.

*The San Francisco Chronicle reports OG Robert Gallery and RB Justin Fargas have restructured their contracts to give the Raiders cap relief.

What will the Raiders do with the space? Nothing for now.

--Jason Jones

March 5, 2009
The Pros and Cons of T.O.

Let's have some fun with this whole Terrell Owens situation.

Most pundits have the Raiders being a viable destination for the man known as T.O. But why?

Here's why it shouldn't happen:

*The team has publicly stated it wants to give its young players opportunities. Owens would definitely take away catches from those players. Javon Walker is still on the team, too. How many vets do the Raiders need.

*Owens' personality goes against all of what Tom Cable has tried to establish in the locker room. Though he's been called a good teammate and professional, he's been seen as a divisive force on three teams.

*Money used to lure Owens would be better spent adding to the offensive line, on another veteran quarterback and depth on defense.

*The Raiders lack the strong leader on offense to deal with Owens.

*If you think Owens was hard on Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo, how would he deal with JaMarcus Russell?

*In spite of their reputaiton as a haven for the NFL's rebels, this Raider team is really tame. For al the drama with Walker before the season, he wasn't an issue.
Besides Tommy Kelly's DUI last season, the team hasn't had really any big distractions on the team.

Most of those last season came courtesy of Lane Kiffin vs. Al Davis.

And there are some reasons for the Raiders to consider Owens:

*Even at 35, Owens would be the Raiders' best receiver.

*No one has ever questioned Owens' work ethic. Who better to teach the Raiders' young wideouts about how to prepare?

*If reports that most of the NFL wants no part of Owens are accurate, the Raiders might be able to sign Owens at a discount.

Admittedly, it was much easier to come up with reasons not to bring Owens on. So we'll see what happens.

***

*In non-Owens news, the Cowboys also released safety Roy Williams. I've heard Raider fans clamor for Williams in the past. But he wouldn't be a good fit.

If the Raiders' new defense requires more coverage from its safeties, Williams wouldn't be a good fit.

Williams' playing time decreased in Dallas because of his coverage skills. So the Raiders would be better off sticking with Tyvon Branch, Michael Huff and Hiram Eugene as safeties.

*Speaking of Walker (well I mentioned him earlier), he restructured his contract to stay in Oakland and reportedly reduce his salary cap-figure from $10 million to $2 million and forgoing his $5 million bonus due this week.

So it looks like Walker will be sticking around while also giving the Raiders some financial flexiblity.

*Even though OT Khalif Barnes had a good visit his signing isn't imminent. Stay tuned.

--Jason Jones

March 4, 2009
Let the T.O. watch begin

ESPN reports Dallas has released wide receiver Terrell Owens.

So, how long will it take for the Raiders to reach out to T.O.?

Sure, Owens is going to want to play for a contender. But is there a contender out there that is willing to let T.O. be T.O.?

The Raiders would welcome all that is T.O. to the locker room.

Chemistry? Raiders owner Al Davis has never been a stickler for that.

Distractions? I doubt Owens could do anything that would be more distracting than Lane Kiffin trashing his players.

Owens isn't the Owens of old, but he'd be better than any veteran the Raiders have turned to in recent seasons.

And I have to admit, I'd want to see Owens as a Raider for selfish reasons.

When Warren Sapp retired, he left a huge personality void. Owens would give the Raiders some flavor.

I'm not convinced Owens will be a Raider. I could list several reasons why adding Owens wouldn't make sense.

But Owens does end up in Oakland, I'll have my popcorn ready.

March 4, 2009
Cable, Brown speak on Cooper

ALAMEDA - Raiders head coach Tom Cable spoke publicly for the first time this morning about Marquis Cooper, the Raiders linebacker missing at sea.

Cable said he is "deeply saddened" by the situation but remains hopeful for a miracle.

"Well, you guys know me," Cable said. "A glass is half full to me so until they find you know a body to me I'll just keep hoping, that's the way I am. I'll just keep believing that there's some islands and things out and around there and you never know. People drift up on things. A log floats by and they happen to grab onto it and just let it take them where it goes and they'll find them so that's what I think."

That's the sentiment throughout the organization. Raiders assistant defensive backs coach Willie Brown said the Raiders are different than other teams because the Raiders are run more like a family.

Brown said Raiders owner Al Davis takes these situations especially hard.

"Anytime a Raider player, a former player or whatever, is involved in any kind of accident, any kind of death; it doesn't sit well with him," Brown said. "Death is something that's hard to deal with. I always tell the guys this, 'You don't know what it feels like until it happens to you.' You can speculate things happening and how families feel but if you don't have that feeling of going through it yourself, it's difficult."

None of the players at the facility wanted to speak publicly. Brown said they didn't want to be emotional in front of cameras and the thought of talking about Cooper had some players emotional.

Brown said he will continue to hope for a miracle and that Cooper will be found alive.

"You never know," Brown said. "I'm hoping a shark go by and just miss him, a dolphin go by and he catches his (fin) and take him to an island. There's always hope. Like Tom says, 'Until there's a body, there's still hope.' And that's what I'm hoping for."

*Meanwhile the team continues to conduct business. Free agent tackle Khalif Barnes is visiting with the team today.

Barnes, 26, started 16 games at left tackle for Jacksonville last season and would probably be an upgrade over the inexperienced Mario Henderson.

Out of respect for the families of Cooper and the two other missing men, Cable did not discuss free agency. But he did say working hasn't been easy.

"You probably don't do it with the right focus because this is real life, this is real people involved," Cable said. "There's a 3-year-old daughter involved, there's a wonderful young lady, a wife (Rebekah) involved, a mother and a father, so at the end of the day those things still matter most and yet at 3 o'clock you have this appointment, at 11 you have this one, gotta make this call, you do those things. You just do them with a heavy heart. When you wake up and before you go to bed you say your prayers and you're hopeful someone will look after this."

--Jason Jones

March 3, 2009
Cable to speak Wednesday

Raiders head coach Tom Cable will speak on the Marquis Cooper situation tomorrow at team headquarters at 11 a.m.

In case you missed it, here is the team's latest statement.

"We continue to hold out hope that Marquis Cooper, Will Bleakley and Corey
Smith will be located and rescued.

"However, with the Coast Guard's decision to cease search and rescue efforts,
we are faced with the reality that this mission may not turn out the way that we all
desire.

"Again, the Raiders would like to express our deep appreciation to all involved in
the search and rescue efforts.

"We also wish to express gratitude to everyone around the world who has offered
their support. We ask everyone to continue to remember these men and their
families in their thoughts and prayers."

*I must admit it's a bit odd to be writing about Cooper right along with free agency news. And I'm told the busy day the Raiders had hosting and signing players wasn't a distraction from the news about Cooper.

But here's a quick take on the signings:

Cooper Carlisle: Jake Grove's departure made bringing Carlisle back a must. While the Raiders have a replacement for the 2009 season in John Wade, there is no obvious replacement for Carlisle on the roster.

Carlisle is one of Cable's more trusted linemen because of his experience in the zone-blocking scheme. Carlisle's struggles usually come against big, powerful types in pass protection. But he's generally solid as a run blocker.

Isaiah Ekejiuba: He's the final core special teams player that needed to be re-signed. The Raiders special teams were among the best in the NFL last season and Ekejiuba was a Pro Bowl alternate as a special teamer.

Tony Stewart: Backup tight end will at least be familiar to the coaching staff. Wasn't much of a factor in the passing game last season and used a lot as a blocker and special teams player.

Erik Pears: The kind of offensive tackle the Raiders were expected to find in free agency. Pears had been a starter before last season in Denver, so he's familiar with zone blocking. And he's not a big-money pickup, which is typical of zone blockers. Chances are any other offensive linemen the Raiders sign will be players you've never heard of.

--Jason Jones

March 3, 2009
Raider signings

Per Raiders.com, the Raiders have re-signed G Cooper Carlisle, LB Isaiah Ekejiuba, and TE Tony Stewart. The team also signed OT Erik Pears, formerly of Denver.

Carlisle started 31 games in the last two seasons for the Raiders at right guard. Having already lost C Jake Grove, keeping Carlisle became a priority.

Ekejiuba was a Pro Bowl special teams alternate last season. Stewart became the primary backup to Zach Miller last season and played special teams.

Pears brings experience in the zone-blocking scheme from the Broncos and has started at left and right tackle before becoming a backup last season.

Pears is the third former Broncos offensive lineman (Carlisle, Cornell Green) the Raiders have signed since 2007.

--Jason Jones

March 3, 2009
Search called off

The Coast Guard has called off the search for the three remaining boaters missing at see off the Western Coast of Florida.

Raiders LB Marquis Cooper, former Detroit DE Corey Smith and former University of South Florida player William Bleakley were not found after going missing during a fishing trip on Saturday.

Nick Schuyler was found clinging to the boat on Monday.

--Jason Jones

March 3, 2009
Raiders host free agents, add another tackle

According to NFL.com, the Raiders have signed their first free agent since the signing period began last week.

Erik Pears, a 6-8, 305-pound tackle from Denver, signed with the team Tuesday. He started 16 games in 2007 at right tackle. He also has 10 career starts at left tackle.

Coming from Denver means Pears in versed in the zone-blocking scheme.

The Raiders are also hosting two free agents from Seattle, QB Charlie Frye and OT Ray Willis.

Willis (6-6, 315) started 10 of the 16 games he played in last season. He'd played in only six games the previous three seasons.

Hosting Frye could be another indication the team intends to deal Andrew Walter, who has been unhappy for some time.

If the offense is changed a lot, the biggest reason for keeping Walter (his familiarity with the offense) would be a moot point.

Bruce Gradkowski and JaMarcus Russell are the only quarterbacks under contract.

And having lost Jake Grove to Miami to a five-year deal worth a reported $29 million wih $14.5 million guaranteed, the Raiders are hosting Buffalo free agent C Melvin Fowler, according to NFL.com.

Foxsports.com reports Duke Preston, who replaced Fowler as the starting center last year in Buffalo is also visiting the Raiders today.

Fowler (6-3, 310) started five games last season after starting 16 games in 2006 and 2007.

Preston (6-5, 326) started the last 11 games of the 2008 season.

--Jason Jones

March 2, 2009
Grove reportedly close to becoming a former Raider

The Raiders could be without their starting center in 2009.

Free agent Jake Grove is reportedly visiting the Miami Dolphins today and is said to be close to reaching an agreement on a contract.

Grove was a second-round pick of the Raiders in 2004. Grove bounced back from microfracture surgery to win the starting job last year.

Should Grove leave, John Wade would become the starting center. Wade started four games last year when Grove was sidelined by a calf injury.

*The National Football Post reports the Raiders are interested in making a deal for St. Louis offensive tackle Orlando Pace, who is reportedly on the trading block along with wide receiver Torry Holt.

The Raiders would have loved to have been the team to draft Pace out of Ohio State in 1997. But after the Raiders had moved up to No. 2 in the first round, the Rams jumped ahead of the Raiders to get the first pick and select Pace.

The Raiders settled for defensive tackle Darrell Russell.

Pace is a seven-time Pro Bowl pick. He played in 14 games in 2008 after injuries limited him to nine total games in his previous two seasons.

The additon of a player like Pace would probably move Mario Henderson to right tackle or make him the backup tackle on both sides if the team signs another veteran or drafts a player like Andre Smith or Michael Oher and puts him at right tackle.

Meanwhile, the Raiders remain interested in free agent tackles Marvel Smith and Khalif Barnes.

*According to the Dallas Morning News, linebacker Kevin Burnett was scheduled to visit the Raiders today. He'd likely be a backup/special teams player for the Raiders.

*Javon Walker is due a $5 million bonus tomorrow unless he's aggreed to restructure his contract.

And Walker would be crazy to do that, considering the bonus is protected against injury, so he'd get it even if the Raiders cut him. Walker finished the season on injured reserve because of a broken ankle.

--Jason Jones

March 2, 2009
Raiders release updated statement

"We are continuing to closely monitor the situation regarding the remaining
missing passengers that includes Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper.

"We are aware that one of the passengers -- Nick Schuyler -- has been rescued
and remain hopeful that the others -- Cooper, Corey Smith and Will Bleakley --
will be located and rescued as well.

"Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to the passengers and their families. In
addition, our thoughts and prayers go out and we wish to express our
appreciation to those involved in the search efforts."

--Jason Jones

March 2, 2009
Report: One boater found alive

One of the four missing boaters was found today. He has been indentified as Nick Schuyler.

No word on the other three men: Raiders LB Marquis Cooper, Detroit DE Corey Smith and Will Bleakley.

--Jason Jones

March 1, 2009
Cooper's father: Marquis an "avid" fisherman

The following is a link to the statement from Raiders LB Marquis Cooper's father, Bruce, a sports anchor in Arizona.

Bruce said Marquis is an "avid" fisherman that spends 12-14 hours deep-sea fishing.
Cooper went fishing yesterday morning off the Gulf Coast of Florida with three friends, including Detroit Lions defensive end Corey Smith.

Weather conditions prevented the Coast Guard from searching the waters early Sunday morning.

--Jason Jones

March 1, 2009
Raiders' statement on Marquis Cooper

"We are aware of the Coast Guard reports regarding a missing fishing boat off of
Florida's Gulf Coast and have been notified that one of those aboard is Raiders
linebacker Marquis Cooper.

"We are closely monitoring the situation and are in the process of gathering more
information.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the passengers, their families and those
involved in the search efforts."

--Jason Jones

March 1, 2009
Report: Cooper missing at sea

Raiders LB Marquis Cooper is one of four boaters reported missing / early Sunday morning off the coast of Florida.

Cooper earned at least two game balls last season for his play on special teams and loved to discuss his love of fishing.
--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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