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."