Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

December 31, 2009
Gradkowski wants to return to Oakland next season

Bruce Gradkowski's hopes of his injured knees healing in time for him to return under center for the season finale were dashed. And yet, the impending free agent has other hopes - namely, returning to the Raiders next season to compete for the starting quarterback job.

"Yeah I want to be a Raider," Gradkowski told reporters Thursday morning. "I know we'll make it happen and things will work out the way they should. All I can focus on is the games that I put on film, the progress that we showed and knowing that going into this offseason we can do that much better and going into next season it's going to be a good year."

December 31, 2009
Raiders blacked out...again

The Raiders failed to sell out Sunday's game against Baltimore by today's 1:15 p.m. deadline so they will be blacked out on television locally for the seventh time this season. Only the season-opening Monday Night Football game against San Diego sold out in time to be televised in market, and the Raiders needed a pair of deadline extensions to get that deed done.

It is the first time the Raiders have had seven home blackouts in a season since 1997, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

It's a depressing turn for the Raiders as they had, since taking over ticket sales for themselves three years ago, sold out six of eight home games in each of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 seasons, respectively.

And for those of you keeping score at home, this is the 76th black out in 120 home games (63.3%) since the Raiders returned to their ancestral home of Oakland in 1995 from their 13-season sojourn to Los Angeles.

December 31, 2009
Fines galore for Stewart ($25K), Seymour ($10K), Routt ($5K)

Stanford Routt may have been ejected from Sunday's game at Cleveland for what was described as a head-butt but the cornerback had yet to hear Thursday morning from the NFL office regarding a potential fine.

"But I'm pretty sure I'll be hearing from somebody soon," he told reporters today.

The news came while the Raiders were on the practice field later in the afternoon as Routt was reportedly slapped with a $5,000 fine. Also, Richard Seymour was fined a reported $10,000 for his personal fouls in Cleveland and Tony Stewart was hit with his reported $25,000 fine for making contact with an official in the defeat to the Browns.

Routt was also asked by reporters if he did indeed head-butt a Browns player.

"Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't," he said. "It's over and done with now. We've got the Ravens on Sunday."

Got it? Good.

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Earlier in the week, players spoke of the "Raider Mystique," and how the Raiders always seem to be on the wrong end of so many penalties. Thursday after practice, coach Tom Cable was asked how to keep his players from buying into such a conspiracy theory.

"We did talk about that, staying composed, staying in the game, don't worry about those things, making plays, getting a lead, playing with a lead," Cable said. "It all seems to take care of itself when you're doing those things."

Or not. Because Cable was also asked is his 5-10 Raiders would be in the playoffs if they had better officiating. Cable did not bite.

"It's hard for me to say much about that because of the league rules," Cable said. "But when it comes back that a number of them shouldn't have been called by the head officials, it is what it is. We coach it to not have those kind of things happen but when the report came back and said (certain penalties should not have been called), that's a big deal."

December 30, 2009
Nick Miller finally put on I.R., DHB looks to play Sunday

In a move that probably should have been made at least nine weeks ago, the Raiders finally, mercifully, laughingly placed wide receiver/kick returner Nick Miller on the season-ending Injured Reserve list today with his injured shin.

Perhaps never in the history of the NFL had a team held open a roster spot for basically an entire season for an undersized, untested, unproven, undrafted rookie. Miller had not seen action since the preseason finale at Seattle on Sept. 3, when he averaged 30.8 yards on four kickoffs with a long of 51 yards, and he was expected to be the Raiders' kick returner.

The Raiders have the worst kickoff return average in the NFL at 18.3 yards.

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Joining Miller on the I.R. today was rookie linebacker Slade Norris (hamstring), who had a tackle and an assist Sunday in Cleveland. Taking their places on the roster for the season finale Sunday against Baltimore are safety Jerome Boyd and defensive end Greyson Gunheim, who were both signed off the practice squad.

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Darrius Heyward-Bey has returned to practice for the first time since suffering a sprained foot when an unnamed teammate stepped on it in practice on Dec. 4.

Asked what DHB's status was heading into this weekend, coach Tom Cable said, "We'll see as we go. Hopefully no setback. We'll see tomorrow in terms of how today went and how he recovers. But he looked fine today and he'll go in there and be part of the mix and then, (if he does play), he would go in as a backup."

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Justin Fargas (knee) Langston Walker (leg), Bruce Gradkowski (knees) and Greg Ellis (knee) did not practice while Chris Johnson strained a hamstring.

December 29, 2009
Raiders send two to Pro Bowl

For the second consecutive season, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler will represent the Raiders at the Pro Bowl.
Only this season the game will be held the week before the Super Bowl in Miami, not the week after in Hawaii.
For Asomugha, it will be his second consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. It will be Lechler's fifth Pro Bowl in his career.
For the first time, the Pro Bowl between the American Football Conference and National Football Conference will be held in the site of the Super Bowl. The game will be Jan. 31.
For more on this story, read Wednesday's Bee.
-- Victor Contreras

December 27, 2009
Raiders-Browns: 4th quarter, Browns 23, Raiders 9

Raiders driving, at the Browns' 24-yard line, 3rd and 9, but Frye picked off at the 14 by Brandon McDonald, who returns it to the Raiders' 47.

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Browns take advantage...Dawson's 34-yard field goal makes it 23-9, Browns, with 8:31 to play...

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And on ensuing kickoff, Tony Stewart is ejected for his troubles, making contact with an official...Raiders need to get this game over, get on their charter and get outta Cleveland before they get snowed in.

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Now Zach Miller flagged for "taunting." Raiders have been flagged for 13 penalties for 126 yards...implosion, anyone?

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Pass intereference gets Raiders to the 2-yard line, 4:40 to play

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HORRIBLE play-calling by Cable. Three straight passes and Frye picked off by Eric Wright on fade to corner to Murphy. Raiders challenge that Wright only had one foot in the end zone.

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Raiders win challenge, 4th and goal at 2...incomplete pass to Murphy, PI on SChilens, declined...4:22 to play

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This will be the 4th time in franchise history the Raiders have not won consecutive games in a season - 1961, 1962, 2003, 2009...

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Ballgame, Browns 23, Raiders 9


December 27, 2009
Raiders-Browns: 3rd quarter, Browns 20, Raiders 9

Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal to cap a seven-play, 28-yard drive after big kickoff return by Jerome Harrison gives Browns a 20-9 lead.

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Harrison fumbles at Raiders' 4-yard line, caused by Kirk Morrison, trying to extend Browns' lead to 27-9, recovered at 6 by Greg Ellis...

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Raiders offense has gone stagnant...Browns have the ball at their own 48-yard line, 4th and 2, as the clock expires...

December 27, 2009
Raiders-Browns: 2nd quarter, Browns 17, Raiders 9

After forcing the Browns to go three and out, Raiders get great field position courtesy of penalty on punt. Raiders take over at the Cleveland 30, get to the 10 and settle for another SeaBass field goal, this one from 34 yards out. Cleveland 10, Raiders 6.

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Browns punt downed at the 1-yard line

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Raiders had Browns at their own 6-yard line, facing a 3rd and 11 and, to quote Dennis Green, they let them off the hook. In a contentious drive with fights galore and Stanford Routt getting the boot, Anderson hits rookie Mohamed Massaquoi for a 19-yard TD pass with 18 seconds to go in the half.

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Browns make the mistake of pooching the ensuing kickoff, giving the ball to the Raiders at their own 42. Two passes later, the Raiders were at the Cleveland 43, with one second to go.

Enter Sebastian Janikowski, with a team-record 61-yard field goal at the gun.

Halftime, Browns 17, Raiders 9

Only Dempsey and Elam (63) and Bryant (62) have kicked longer field goals than SeaBass' 61-yarder in NFL history

December 27, 2009
Raiders-Browns: 1st quarter, Browns 10, Raiders 3

Charlie Frye's homecoming off to a rough start, picked off on slant pass to Darren McFadden by David Bowens. Returned to the Oakland 17 yard line. Two plays later, Jerome Harrison rumbles in untouched for the TD.

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After Raiders go three and out, Browns drive 45 yards in 10 plays, eating up 4:14 of the clock and Phil Dawson's 42-yard field goal gives Cleveland a 10-0 lead.

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Raiders finally get some offensive traction, going 48 yards in nine plays, culminating with SeaBass 44-yard field goal. Cleveland 10, Raiders 3.

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Raiders defense gets stout, causing losses on three straight Browns plays...


December 27, 2009
Raiders-Browns pre-game Blog

Greetings from chilly Cleveland. A few random snowflakes are falling, not quite the Winter Wonderland we were expecting here.

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Raiders Inactives - QB Bruce Gradkowski, WR's Darrius Heyward-Bey, Javon Walker and Nick Miller, RB Justin Fargas, OT Khalif Barnes and TE Brandon Myers. J.P. Losman is the third quarterback.

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Follow me on Twitter @paulhgutierrez

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Just spent a few minutes on the sidelines with Lawrence Pervier, a Marysville High School graduate and U.S. Army rifle platoon sergeant who just finished his second tour of duty in Iraq. A lifelong Raiders fan who is based at Fort Bragg, Pervier is taking in his first Raiders game and was presented with field passes for his two sons and father-in-law by Raiders Chief Executive Amy Trask. Pervier said he is scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan next.

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RB Marcel Reese has been promoted from the practice squad to take the place of the suspended Luke Lawton, who is serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substance policy.

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Al Davis is not on this trip. Officially, he chose not to come so that his son Mark Davis could take the trip on the team charter, alongside his mother. Last year, Al Davis did not attend the season finale at Tampa Bay, ostensibly for the same reason. Though that game was three weeks after Davis took a nasty spill in San Diego.

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Raiders captains - Michael Bush, Michael Huff, Sebastian Janikowski

December 24, 2009
Gradkowski hopes to play in finale vs. Baltimore

Bruce Gradkowski is still holding out hope that the MCL's in each of his knees will be healed enough that the journeyman quarterback-turned-Raider Nation folk hero can play in the finale on Jan. 3 at the Coliseum against Baltimore.

"I'm feeling better," Gradkowski said. "It's crazy how much better you can feel in a week. I feel a lot better. Not as good as I want right now. The doctors are kind of surprised how fast I'm moving along. I'm not where I need to be to play just yet, but I'm getting there. Just got to take it day by day."

"Next week's a definite possibility. I just have to keep working. Once the trainers give me the OK to really push it outside, then I'll try that, but until then I'm just kind working it day by day and seeing how it feels, seeing what's right. It would be a lot easier if it was just one knee. If it was one, I might just brace up. I would have been out there last week. But it's coming along a lot better. I'm very encouraged and positive."

December 24, 2009
Frye gearing up for Cleveland homecoming

Charlie Frye says he's ready for his Cleveland homecoming after suffering a concussion Sunday in Denver when former Browns teammate Andra Davis hit him and Frye's head bounced off the grass. Frye said that was the first time in his career he had suffered that type of concussion, though the symptoms are now gone.

"It's scary just to feel like that," Frye said. "You're really not into what's going on. That's why it was so interesting watching the film the next day of how we won the game. It was pretty cool to see how that unfolded, for me really for the first time."

Frye, who holds the distinction of being the first quarterback in NFL history to be traded the week after starting a season opener, also spoke about what it means to him heading back to Cleveland.

"It's exciting," he said. "It's a different team now. I looked on the roster and there's like 14 guys still there. When the Romeo Crennel (Era) was over, they brought in a lot of new guys with (Eric) Mangini, but it's still home. I live like two hours from there. It will be special. It will be a special game for me. My sister (Elizabeth) is getting married on Saturday, so it's an event-packed weekend."

The Raiders, though, are not expected to land in Cleveland until around 7 p.m. Cleveland time Saturday.

And on his distinction: "There's nothing in the world that can prepare you for something like that because it's so unexpected. To be the first guy in the NFL that that's happened to is pretty unreal but coach (Mike) Holmgren told me when I got to Seattle that it's all about how you respond...this is how the rest of your career is going to go.

"I didn't want to hear that then because I was mad but it was the total truth, because I could have either pouted and said, 'Woe is me,' and felt sorry for myself, and I probably would have been sitting at home right now. But I kept fighting, I learned a lot in Seattle with...that crew, and now I'm here with a great group of guys here."

December 24, 2009
TE Zach Miller still concussed

Apparently, there was some misunderstanding yesterday as tight end Zach Miller, who is recovering from his second concussion of the season, has not yet been cleared to play Sunday at Cleveland.

"Really, again, I don't know how the whole thing reads but he is cleared to practice and work," but not yet play, coach Tom Cable said following practice Thursday. "He's got to pass one more last test."

Said Miller: "It's the same test I've taken four times already. I'm really close. I've been practicing, feeling fine practicing, so everything looks good."


December 24, 2009
FB Luke Lawton suspended by NFL

Raiders fullback Luke Lawton has been hit with a four-game suspension by the NFL "for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances."

Following is a statement from an NFL spokesman: "Luke Lawton of the Oakland Raiders has been suspended without pay for the team's next four games - the final two games of the 2009 regular season and the first two games of the 2010 regular season - for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.

"Lawton's suspension begins immediately. He will be eligible to return following the first two games of the 2010 regular season."

The Raiders have yet to issue a statement.

December 23, 2009
Frye to start at QB Sunday in Cleveland

Charlie Frye will make a homecoming, of sorts, and start at quarterback for the Raiders Sunday at Cleveland.

Frye was knocked out of last week's game at Denver with 10:57 remaining when he was tackled hard by Broncos linebacker Andra Davis and Frye's head bounced hard off the grass. Frye was diagnosed with a concussion at the time but has since passed his "baseline" tests and deemed healthy to play. He practiced Wednesday but was unavailable to Bay Area media.

Frye was born in nearby Willard, Ohio, played collegiately at Akron and was Cleveland's third-round selection in the 2005 draft. With Bruce Gradkowski's success in leading the Raiders to an upset over the Steelers in his hometown of Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, coach Tom Cable hopes the Homecoming theme continues with the Frye Guy in Cleveland.

"I hope that pattern stays intact but I think it means more to that person," Cable said Wednesday. "It certainly has shown that already, and Charlie will be excited to go back to Cleveland, no question."

So what kind of improvement does Cable hope to see from Frye in his second start?

"I think he will be better from the standpoint of A, conditioning, and then B, the fact that now he's been in there and gone through it and got on a nice run, a nice stride, in terms of his flow of the game," Cable said. "Now he'll be able to relax and go play."

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The similarly concussed Zach Miller has also been cleared to play and the third-year tight end, who missed the first game of his career last week due to the concussion, also practiced Wednesday.

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Quarterback Jeff Otis has had two previous training camp tours with the Raiders and was back with the team Wednesday, purportedly as a practice squad signee. Still, the team had not announced any signing by Wednesday evening.

His appearance gives credence to the notion that with Frye's concussion, Gradkowski's sprained knees, JaMarcus Russell's benching and J.P. Losman's recent signing, the Raiders are simply looking for more depth heading into their final two games.

December 20, 2009
Raiders-Broncos live game Blog

Greetings from sunny Denver, where I overheard several fans in the Invesco Field parking lolt complaining about how warm it is here today. The forecast high is a downright balmy 52 degrees. Follow me on Twitter @paulhgutierrez

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The list of INACTIVES is out and TE Zach Miller (concussion) is on it, as are QB Bruce Gradkowski (knees) and WRs Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot), Nick Miller (shin) and Javon Walker (um, doghouse?!?).

Also INACTIVE for the Raiders are LB David Nixon and OT Khalif Barnes.

The recently-signed J.P. Losman is the 3rd QB, meaning JaMarcus Russell is Charlie Frye's backup.

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Among the INACTIVE Broncos - S Renaldo Hill, CB Ty Law, RB Correll Buckhalter and WR Brandon Lloyd.

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Broncos WR Brandon Marshall has "HENRY" on the back of his No. 15 jersey, ostensibly to pay pre-game tribute to the late Chris Henry...

Overheard in the press box: "Then JaMarcus Russell has 'LEAF' on the back of his."

Ouch.

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Raiders captains - Chaz Schilens, Trevor Scott, Sam Williams....they win the coin toss and will receive.

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After Raiders go three and out on opening series, Broncos answer with 10-play, 60-yard drive that culminates with a 23-yard field goal. DEN 3, OAK 0 with 8:40 to play in first quarter.

Broncos had two big plays in drive - an 18-yard pass from Orton to Royal on 3rd and 12 from their own 33; and a 21-yard screen pass from Orton, with Warren on his tail, to Moreno on 1st and 10, getting Denver to the Oakland 13-yard line. Broncos ran at least two no-huddle plays in the drive.

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After Frye and JLH have a mix-up and Champ Bailey picks off Frye's duck, Denver gets another field goal. Denver coach Josh McDaniels getting cute with no-huddle, QB sneaks and a pass play to left tackle Ryan Clady. Really? All adds up to two field goals.

Broncos 6, Raiders 0, 4:10 remaining in first quarter

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Interesting way to end the first quarter. Denver's Mitch Berger uncorks a 7-yard punt and then Charlie Frye with a bootleg around the left end that picks up 26 yards.

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Michael Bush with a 23-yard run, untouched, for the TD and the sudden lead, with SeaBass' PAT. OAK 7, DEN 6 with 13:01 remaining in the half. Raiders went 66 yards in 5 plays taking 2:34.

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Frye is playing in control now, even as Chaz drops a perfect 37-yard pass at the goal line. SeaBass answers with 54-yard field goal and Raiders take a 10-6 lead with 6:40 remaining in the first half.

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CB Chris Johnson has an injured ankle...his return is "probable."

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SeaBass makes it 13-6 with a 28-yard field goal with 32 seconds to play...Frye is managing this game well, with lots of help from Bush.

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Halftime, the Denver natives are restless, booing the Broncos off the field...OAK 13, DEN 6. Looks like refs are thinking of adding 1 second, which they do because of an illegal touching penalty on punt. Nearly all of the Broncos were already in the tunnel leading to the locker room.

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Raiders run one last play, a 13-yard McFadden run, and Chaz Schilens needs help getting off the grass...looks to be limping on that left foot, which was broken in training camp.

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Raiders limited Broncos to just 1 of 7 on 3rd down conversions in first half

And just like that, Denver has converted its first two 3rd down conversions of oteh second half

Broncos irate over non-PI call on Chris Johnson against Gaffney. Consider it make-up for the non-fumble call on Marshall in 2nd quarter

Prater's 51-yard FG makes it 13-9 with 10:07 to go in third quarter

Schilens on the field for the Raiders

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McFadden fumbles at midfield and Denver takes full advantage.

Marshall comes to life...three receptions on drive, including go-ahead 6-yard TD...DEN 16, OAK 13, 3:48 remaining in 3rd

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Wow...running Bush between the tackles and bouncing McFadden outside gains 86 rushing yards. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm

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Three shots at it from the three net no yards...4th and goal from teh 3 to start the 4th quarter

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Raiders go for it on 4th and 1, McFadden stopped at the one on a pitch

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Raiders defense holds, forces a punt.

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Frye is leveled by Andra Davis...and here comes JaMarcus Russell

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Frye is diagnosed with a "head injury" and his return is "questionable."

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Looks like Losman is coming in, and looks like Gradkowski broke the news to Russell

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Raiders limit Broncos to field goal with 5:54 to play. DEN 19, OAK 13...and it's now in UFL champ Losman's hands...1st and 10 at the 21. WAIT, Russell returns to the field

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2-minute warning...Raiders have 1st and 10 at the Denver 32

1st and goal at the 10, 59 seconds to play


Russell hits Schilens on a slant-like pass for the TD. SeaBass' PAT makes it 20-19, Raiders, with 35 seconds to play.

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BALLGAME...Raiders 20, Broncos 19...Denver runs out of time with long poass to middle of the field and clock expires

December 18, 2009
Walker to start at LG, TE Miller likely a game-time decision

Langston Walker, a lifelong offensive tackle, will start at left guard in Denver in place of the injured and out-for-the-season Robert Gallery and the struggling Chris Morris, coach Tom Cable announced today.

When Walker went in at left guard in the Pittsburgh win two weeks ago, it was the first time he had played on the line's interior since the infamous Brett Favre game on Monday Night Football in 2003.

Walker said he didn't "like" any of the schemes that day in Pittsburgh but has warmed to the position of late.

"I do feel a little bit better at it, just because I've had a week's practice at it," Walker told reporters. "The coaching staff is pretty confident in me playing it. I'm just going to go out there and do it.

"I've always been, 'You want me to do this? I can do it,'" he added. "I put that in my mind that I can do it and I go out there and play at the highest level that I can. In terms of a permanent solution, who knows? I've seen stranger things. I could drop 100 pounds and might play linebacker or something like that."

Walker was joking, of course. But giving up eight sacks to Washington last week - six in the second half, when JaMarcus Russell was in the game - was no laughing matter.

Said Cable, when asked what went into the decision to start Walker over Morris: "Just the play of what we got last week at left guard and trying to secure that a little bit."

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Tight end Zach Miller's second concussion of the season will most likely leave him a game-time decision. He was scheduled to undergo tests this afternoon to see if he would be cleared to play against the Broncos. He did not practice this week after being stood up and leveled near the Raiders sideline in the closing minutes of the loss to Washington.

So who will start at tight end should Miller be inactive, Tony Stewart or rookie Brandon Myers?

"It wouldn't matter," Cable said, meaning both would get significant time.

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Rookie receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) is listed as "out" for the Denver game - it will be his third straight missed game - as are QB Bruce Gradkowski (knees) and receiver Nick Miller (shins). Linebacker Sam Williams (illness) is "questionable."

Defensive end Greg Ellis (knee), safety Michael Huff (stinger) and defensive tackle Matt Shaughnessy (groin) are "probable."

December 16, 2009
QBs Galore in Raiderland - Frye, Gradkowski, Losman speak out

There were Quarterbacks Galore in the locker room access period today in Alameda, with new starter Charlie Frye, new acquisition J.P. Losman and the injured Bruce Gradkowski all making appearances. Nowhere to be seen, the deposed JaMarcus Russell, whose time as the franchise quarterback is all but done. Or at least as long as Tom Cable remains the Raiders coach.

Frye, on how it feels to get his first start with the Raiders: "It's very exciting. Any time you get an opportunity to play in this league, it's a great opportunity. It hasn't happened to me for over a year now. I started a game last year, I think, in October. When it comes, you just thank your blessings."

On if he's sufficiently prepared: "I'm always prepared. That's something about me is my work ethic is something I take pride in. The coaches let me sit in a lot of the meetings as far as the game planning and write up ideas and things. I've been a big part of the game plans the last few weeks"

On what he brings to the table: "I think my athletic ability plays a part in it. I've made some plays in this league with my legs. That's one thing of it. And I think another side is just being around. This is my fifth year so I've been around some good quarterbacks in Seattle and a great coach in Seattle and also here. Coach (Paul) Hackett, he's a real good (QB) coach as far as getting guys prepared, getting guys to understand the game. I feel ready."

On if he will close out the season as the starter or if it's a one-game trial: "I don't know. I'm not worried about that because Denver's the next game on the schedule. I'll approach that game like it's the next game. You never worry about three at a time. You worry about one at a time."

On how many reps he's gotten in practice this season: "Scout team. I've been a big part of scout team all season. It will be good to get back out there and get with the offense and run some plays that aren't on cards."

And on if he's a vocal leader like Gradkowski: "I've got a lot of fire in me. But that's the guy's job who's playing, to be that guy. The backup's (job) is to support that guy. So I've been that crutch and that supportive guy all season. So now it's my turn to be the fiery leader."

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Gradkowski, meanwhile, said he's still holding out hope that the sprained MCLs in each knee will heel sufficiently enough for him to start again at Cleveland next week. He said there has been no talk of him being placed in the season-ending IR.

"Because in my mind, I'm a competitor," he said. "If I can play through the first half on one knee, then I can sure as heck get back quick...just keep working hard and see what happens

"They said, 'I've never seen this...because usually you come out of the game after the first one.' But it's going to be all right, though. It's nothing major. No need for surgery or anything like that, just rehab, and I feel like I'm a quick healer so I'll be back fast."

Gradkowski also offered hihs best wishes for Frye against the Broncos.

"I'm excited for Charlie; he's a true professional and he's going to give our team a good chance to win this football game," Gradkowski said. "He's going to be prepared, he's going to have a good game, and I'm looking forward to it.

"I'm going to do everything I can this week to help him out. He was there, the past couple of weeks when I was starting and hopefully we can put a good game together and (do) whatever we can do this week to help him out."

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Losman, obviously, was signed as the insurance policy after working out Tuesday at the facility.

"It's a great learning experience for me; I put myself right in there," Losman said. "It's like an ultimate cram session, I get to come in here and see how much I can learn and how fast I can learn, and how quickly I can pick it up, and I've just got to be ready. I know this organization is looking to get a 'W' any which way it can, and if it happens to fall where I actually have to go in and provide that service, I want to come through for them."

Losman, who just won the UFL title with the Las Vegas Locos after five-star-crossed seasons in Buffalo as a first-round draft pick, saw a familiar face in offensive lineman Langston Walker, who played right tackle for the Bills in 2007 and 2008.

"He's a fiery guy and he's a California kid, so he likes warm weather and shorts and flip-flops," Walker cracked. "I think we were both a little bit out of our element in the cold of Buffalo. But he's definitely a good player. He's a leader and I think he'll step in here and do a good job and do what he's asked to do."

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Fiery? Leader? No one has any issue throwing those tags on the likes of Frye, Gradkowski or Losman. Can't recall if they've ever been used to describe Russell.

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Coach Tom Cable first broke the news of Frye being the starting quarterback to the Denver media in a Wednesday morning conference call. Later in the day, he spoke with Bay Area reporters and was asked what Frye, a guy who has not started a game in more than a year, being picked over Russell says about Russell.

"I think what it says is we feel like where we're at right now, and Charlie's preparation, and how he goes about things, he's ready to go in and run and manage the offense,a nd we weren't able to do that in the second half on Sunday, and for a lot of reasons, not just JaMarcus," Cable said. "As of right now, where we're at as a team, Charlie gives us the best opportunity to succeed."

Cable was also asked if the franchise has done all it can to help Russell.

"I think both as a staff, as a coach, as a team, I think everybody is working to try and help him get better all the time," Cable said. "He's certainly giving back to that, as best he can, and at some point you hope to, as I always say, have a breakthrough and move forward."

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The corresponding roster move to the Losman signing was waiving guard Roy Schuening, who had just been signed from the practice squad on Saturday.

Former U.C. Davis lineman Elliot Vallejo was signed to the practice squad this week.

December 15, 2009
J.P. Losman to sign with Raiders, PFT reports

Pro Football Talk is reporting that former Buffalo Bills starting quarterback and reigning UFL champion J.P. Losman has agreed to a contract with the Raiders.

Losman played this past UFL season with the Las Vegas Locos. Some might say he's just as crazy for signing up with the Raiders for their final three games. Just leads to more speculation as to JaMarcus Russell's future with the franchise, let alone who will start Sunday at Denver.

Bruce Gradkowski sprained the MCLs in both knees against Washington and No. 3 QB Charlie Frye has yet to play in the regular season. Losman played well for Las Vegas coach Jim Fassel, who last year campaigned for the Raiders head coaching job. Fassel's son John is the Raiders current special teams coach.

December 15, 2009
Ricky's in San Leandro welcomes Gruden

Different sport, I know, but I just returned from our annual Baseball Writers' Association of America Bay Area Chapter luncheon at Ricky's Sports Theatre and Grill in San Leandro. Of course, you know that Ricky's, voted the No. 2 sports bar in America by Sports Illustrated a few years back, is also a haven for Raiders fans.

And they're still buzzing inside Ricky's, three days after former Raiders coach Jon Gruden threw a party there Saturday night. Ricky's Web Site - www.rickys.com - has posted a photo gallery of the night. Enjoy, Raider Nation, and yearn for better days. Especially when you see Gruden, who was in the Bay Area to broadcast last night's Monday Night Football Game at Candlestick Park, sporting his trademark Raiders visor and a Raiders Bo Jackson jersey.

Oh yeah, the sign in front of Ricky's is still welcoming Gruden back and a special parking spot for him his been set aside as well.

December 14, 2009
Run DMC's hybrid skills FINALLY show through

Finally, the Raiders seemed to used hybrid running back Darren McFadden to his strengths against Washington. Lining him up in the slot as a receiver, he came across on a pair of slant passes from Gradkowski.

The first one went for 48 yards as he beat LaRon Landry. The second one, also beating Landry, was a 26-yard pickup.

"For me, I've been sitting back waiting, waiting for them to call my number," McFadden said. "Just trying to make the best of it whenever they do. The main thing for me yesterday, I guess, he called on me, we ran the slant, had two good plays off pass plays."

He also caught a 10-yard pass from Russell in the fourth quarter.

Cable intimated McFadden not being 100% healthy had limited such plays called for him.

"He's pretty smooth, he really is," Cable said. "He catches the ball out of the air and he's pretty good with it that way. He made a nice adjustment on the fade route. He's definitely a talented guy. You just keep finding ways to use him."

December 14, 2009
Miller concussed, Raiders peeved

Tight end Zach Miller suffered a concussion, his second of the season, on that hard hit along the sidelines in the game's final minutes.

"We'll be as cautious as we have to be," Cable said. "And what I mean is we'll protect the athlete and do all the testing and due diligence in terms of his return."

Several Raiders, most notably rookies Mike Mitchell and Louis Murphy took exception to what they said was Washington cornerback Fred Smoot celebrating over a fallen Miller and talking trash.

"It was a good football play, a good hit, a good, solid hit you'd be excited about, but once you realize a guy's hurt, you leave it alone," Mitchell told CSN California. "Even say a prayer for him, that's what I would do. That was a classless act to point at him and continue to get excited, and then to do it right in front of our sideline, who do you think you are?

"I understand you've been in this league a long time, I'm a rookie, but I haven't seen you do anything. I've been watching this game a lot time, I see you talk a lot. I'm not really a talker, I'm a doer. I stay right here in Oakland, I live in Florence, Kentucky, I travel a lot. Hopefully I can see you and we can talk about it."

Cable said he had no issue with his players sticking up for a teammate.

"I liked the fact that guys stood up for their teammates," Cable said. "I have no problem with that. In fact, that's one of the issues that we need more of sometimes, about playing for each other, sticking up for each other, staying strong together, all those things.

"That's just another example of it. I told the team this earlier, I was glad to see our approach to how what happened with that hit, the way those guys were talking and all that. It's like family. You got to take care of your family."

Cable was also asked if he would send tape of the tackle, which looked like an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit, to the league offices?

"You know, after seeing it on film, yeah, it was a shot, it was a free hitter and all that," Cable said. "But I think the league will take care of that if there's going to be an issue with it, definitely."

December 14, 2009
Cable declines to name Russell starting QB, holding out hope for Gradkowski

Bruce Gradkowski has strained MCL's in each knee, making the likelihood of his season being finished a strong possibility. And yet, coach Tom Cable could not bring himself during his Monday media conference to name JaMarcus Russell the starting quarterback heading into Denver on Sunday.

Read between the lines all you want and come up with what you will, but this sounds like Cable has lost total confidence in the former No. 1 overall draft pick. Could this mean Charlie Frye gets the call to make his Raiders debut? Stay tuned. Cable said he would name a starter on Wednesday.

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Defensive lineman Richard Seymour has been through this before, the gritty team leader of a quarterback being lost to injury and his backup coming in and the team seemingly not losing a step. Except Gradkowski is not Tom Brady, Russell is not Matt Cassel and the Raiders are not the New England Patriots.

So, you see, its not as easy is simply plugging in a backup QB and everything runs smooth.

"No it's not," Seymour told reporters Monday. "I think quarterback is a different position than most on the field. They really make a lot of decisions with the football and I think your team really rides on that so I'm not saying anything you guys don't know. You know? You know. It is what it is."

December 13, 2009
Gradkowski injures BOTH knees

Bruce Gradkowski said he has a torn MCL in his left knee and a partially torn MCL in his right knee. Doesn't sound good. Are you ready for more JaMarcus Russell?!?

December 13, 2009
Raiders-Washington live game Blog...

Greetings from the soaking wet Coliseum...should be a fun one with the rain showers...INCREDIBLY small crowd....follow me on Twitter @paulhgutierrez

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Raiders have put left guard Robert Gallery (lower back) on the IR and promoted Roy Schuening to the active roster from the practice squad...

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Then, they put Schuening on the Inactive list for the game...along with receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Javon Walker and Nick Miller, linebacker David Nixon, offensive tackle Khalif Barnes and defensive tackle William Joseph.

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Johnnie Lee Higgins will start at receiver in place of DHB.

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Samson Satele's strained calf is well enough for him to start at center, meaning Chris Morris will start in Gallery's spot at left guard.

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Raiders captains - Bruce Gradkowski, Kirk Morrison, Ike Ekejiuba...win coin toss, elect to receive...

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Lechler, the Bee's Raiders co-Player of the Decade, along with SeaBass, hits a booming 68-yard punt...

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OAK forces 3 and out, with 6-yard sack by Trevor Scott. Washington QB Jason Campbell, hit by Mike Mitchell, on 3rd down, helped off field

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Washington getting big pressure on Gradkowski...sacked twice, throws ball into ground on 3rd and 19...

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Raiders force another Washington 3 and out...

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Gradkowski hits McFadden, lined up at WR, in stride on a quick slant, beating Landry, for a 48-yard pickup. Janikowski ends drive with a 34-yard field field goal. Raiders 3, Washington 0, 4:12 to play in 1st quarter.

SeaBass with 34-yard field goal, Raiders 3, Washington 0, 4:12 remaining in 1st quarter...

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Washington answers...Campbell hits Davis for 6-yard TD. Drive helped out by a pair of BIG PLAYS - 42-yard Ganther screen pass pickup on 3rd and 1, and 13-yard scramble by Campbell on 3rd and 8.

Washington 7, Raiders 3, 13 seconds remaining in 1st quarter

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Raiders take advantage of Davis' excessive celebration penalty. Russell returns ensuing kickoff to midfield, Gradkowski hits McFadden for 26-yard reception, then Fargas dives in from a yard out on fourth-and-goal.

Raiders 10, Washington 7, 11:14 to play in 2nd quarter.

And the rain is coming down in sheets now...

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Washington answers yet again...Gano's 46-yard field goal culminates a drive in which the Raiders were offsides three times and surrendered another BIG PLAY - the 28-yard pass play from Campbell to Davis.

Raiders 10, Washington 10, 7:21 left in half...

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Michael Huff OUT with a stinger..,must have been on that 42-yard screen pass pickup by Ganther, when Huff bounced off Ganther...

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Raiders melt down at end of first half, let refs' questionable calls get to them. Louis Murphy's clutch, rolling 29-yard pick up on 3rd and 2 overturned. Then Hiram Eugene called for interfering with punt return, giving Washington 15 extra yards. Then special teams coach John Fassel is so irate, he gets another 15 yards for his troubles. Washington scores with 56 seconds to play in half to go up 17-10.

And on Raiders' ensuing drive, Chaz Schilens' apparent catch on the sidelines is ruled incomplete...

SeaBass' 66-yard field goal attempt as time expired was WAY short, and actually returned by Fred "Love Boat" Smoot to near midfield.

HALFTIME

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Gradkowski is OUT with a knee injury...here comes JaMarcus...and the crowd BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!

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Nnamdi Asomugha with a right forearm injury, return is QUESTIONABLE...

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Hey, JaMarcus is 1-for-1 in scoring drives after SeaBass nails a 54-yard field goal. WAS 17, OAK 13, with 8:49 to go in 3rd quarter

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Raiders were at the Washington 28-yard line. Two sacks and two penalties later, it was 3rd and 36 at their own 46...Mario Henderson getting owned at left tackle by Andre Carter

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And that should just about do it...Ganther in from 1 yard out, Washington 24, Raiders 13, with 11:22 to play. WAS went 80 yards in 13 plays

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One play later, JaMarcus picked off 21 yards downfield by LaRon Landry...Raiders challenge call.

It's upheld. Washington ball at the Raiders' 41. 11:14 to play

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Washington scores again, 31-13. 9:42 to play

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Washington defense teeing off on JaMarcus now. Coming off the field, he drops his helmet at Charlie Frye's feet. Offensive line just not playing for JaMarcus now...

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Ballgame...Washington 34, Raiders 13...


December 11, 2009
Injuries Galore: Washington without Haynesworth, Hall and Sellers

The Raiders have yet to place left guard Robert Gallery (lower back strain) on Injured Reserve and thus, make a corresponding roster move, but he has been deemed "out" for Sunday's game against Washington. Rookie receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (sprained left foot) did not practice Friday and is "doubtful" while center Samson Satele (calf) and defensive end Greg Ellis (knee) both practiced limited and are "questionable."

Should DHB be unable to play, coach Tom Cable said Johnnie Lee Higgins would start in his place.

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Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynseworth (ankle) has been ruled out of Sunday's game but that doesn't mean Cable is breathing a sigh of relief.

"They've got plenty of depth," Cable said. "They have good players along the front, but he's a good player. He makes a difference. Definitely a good player."

Washington defensive end Andre Carter has nine sacks.

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According to the Washington Post, former Raiders cornerback/Elvis "Toast" Patterson imitator DeAngelo Hall (knee) is also out, as is fullback Mike Sellers (thigh). Tailback Clinton Portis (concussion) was placed on IR earlier this week.

Washington will start a relatively unknown running back in the 5-foot-9, 214-pound Quinton Ganther, who has rushed for 88 yards on 19 carries this season. In his career, the third-year back, who had no carries in two games with Tennessee as a rookie, has 149 yards on 28 carries in 19 games.

"A cutback runner, he's a slasher but very explosive," Cable said. "So he's more than what they need.

"I think it's more their system that's the issue. They're pretty good at what they do. Good line in terms of the guys they put in for the injured people, have filled in pretty well."

Raiders middle linebacker and San Diego State product Kirk Morrison know Ganther all too well.

"He's a friend of mine," Morrison said. "He's from here in the Bay Area. Played Pop Warner against him. Definitely know him. He went to (the) Mountain West Conference, went to Utah. I know a lot about him so we follow each other's careers and we're real good friends. Had to help him out with tickets."

December 11, 2009
JaMarcus Russell speaks out...finally

Deposed starting quarterback JaMarcus Russell spoke to reporters Thursday for the first time since being pulled in the third quarter of the Kansas City game on Nov. 15. Among the former No. 1 overall pick's "revelations," he was embarrassed about being benched; he still sees himself as the team's quarterback of the future; and he would not restructure his contract, ala the 49ers'Alex Smith, to make a return to Oakland more financially feasible.

Following, then, the transcript of his chat with reporters in the Raiders' locker room on Thursday.

Q: How's it going?
A: Going pretty good, as you could see. We're doing a lot better on the field. I guess the change was (done) in the correct way. But something to learn from, you know what I mean? When it first happened, wasn't too happy with it. But the thing is, I look at it, we're both on the same team, playing under the same roof. So the best thing to me is to be a great team player, great teammate, and the same if I was in there. He'd be doing the same. That's pretty much my outlook on it.

Q: What was the message you got from this--what areas would the coach like to see improved?
A: In every way. You can always improve yourself. Any way, shape, form or fashion, before you point the finger. As long as you're taking care of business at home, then everything else can be taking place. Right now, I've learned from it. Because I've done it before. Not from starter to the bench thing, but just about coming into college. I red-shirted my freshman year, so I've kind of been in a similar situation. Best thing to learn from is to take it in stride and just keep moving. We all have road bumps in our life and this just happens to be one bump.

Q: Do you think it was deserved?
A: I wouldn't say that. You know, any guy that's competitive, which we want to be out there, and I'd say that about myself. But I guess coach wanted to go in a different direction.

Q: Do you look at guys like Alex Smith and Vince Young as paths to follow?
A: Uh, you can. I'm pretty sure that those things just ain't happening. It was something to that, you look like now, guys are making plays. That's the thing we were lacking. We wasn't making plays. Now, a few plays have been made.

Q: Do you consider yourself the QB of the future?
A: No doubt. That hasn't changed in my mind at all.

Q: Would you be open to compete for starting job next year?
A: I will work my butt off to be that guy.

Q: But if they ask you to rework your deal?
A: Oh, no. That's over and done with. I don't even consider that as a part of it.

Q: Talked to Al?
A: Oh, yeah. We talk. Both guys have good spirits about it. It's just something right now that we're just going through. I don't see the big deal about it. He's my teammate. You all acting like I'm going against somebody else. It's a big deal, but it's really not.

Q: Do you expect to get more time this season?
A: The way things are going right now he's doing a good job out there. I always prepare like I'm that guy. If my number is called, then I'll be ready.

Q: What is Bruce doing well?
A: Now it's just all around. Guys are just making plays around him. In the Dallas game, after you go out and win in Cincinnati, there wasn't plays really made the whole game, you know what I mean? Going into Pittsburgh, guys were making plays for him. That's what a quarterback needs, his surrounding players. That's what was going on.

Q: Will you be a better QB when you do get your chance?
A: You can learn a lot from this so yes, I do think so.

Q: You getting a lot of support from family, friends, etc.?
A: Oh yeah. It's not the end of the world. There's better days to come. Just move on from it. I learned from the first game and now I can just be a team player and show my support I have, It's not like I'm going against somebody else. We're teammates. Who wouldn't want to be a starting quarterback of an NFL team. Everybody don't get the chance or opportunity to play in the NFL or a football game. Why wouldn't I want that chance?

Q: Do you expect an open competition next year?
A: Uh, I'm not sure. If that's the road they want to take, then, hey, we have to go out and fight our butts off to be that guy.

Q: Anything you want to accomplish in the offseason? Work hard?
A: Work hard, that's all the time. You got to do that on your own. That's going to be part of the workout plan anyway.

Q: Are your weight and work ethic not an issue, it's just the on-field performance?
A: Yeah, that's about it.

Q: How would you grade yourself this season?
A: Uh, kind of hard because there was times where you try to get guys a chance to make plays and at the early part of the year, it wasn't happening. So, the quarterback job, I say he looks for more help around from everybody because he can't do it himself. It wasn't so well but at times it was. When we look at film, it don't be as bad as it seems on the field always.

Q: How hard to play without Chaz Schilens, Darren McFadden, Robert Gallery?
A: Pretty hard but you can't really base it upon that because you put guys in knowing that they going to go out there and they'll play the same. So, I wouldn't really put that on the table.

Q: Were you surprised when you heard the news that you weren't starting anymore?
A: I really was. I really was. At first, it was very embarrassing to get pulled out. I think that would be for anybody. I kind of took it, sat down and thought about it, just prayed about the situation, and God, he don't make no mistakes. So, kind of look at it like that.

Q: What's it like going through this for the first time, difficult?
A: It was. It really was. Like I said, it's the first time for me and that's why I say, it's not the end of the world. It's my third year, and I have a lot more football to play.

Q: What are people going to see when you hit the field again?
A: A totally different JaMarcus. People going to have their opinion, and I really don't pay too much attention to that. I worry about JaMarcus and JaMarcus only.

Q: How will you be different?
A: Time will tell. Time will tell. Time will really tell.

December 10, 2009
Gallery's season finished, Washington game blacked out

He missed most of training camp with appendicitis. A broken fibula in Week 2 cost him six games. And now, a strained lower back suffered at Pittsburgh on Sunday has ended left guard Robert Gallery's season.

"It looks like it will need a repair done," coach Tom Cable said Thursday, "so he'll be done."

And the type of, um, repair?

"That I don't know," Cable said. "I just know it's in the lower back. I don't know.
I'm not a doctor.

"He's a very good player and was playing good before he got hurt in Kansas City. He comes back and gets back into groove and all that. So it's disappointing for him and for our team. He's not had these types of things that have kept him out of games in the past. It's a tough pill to swallow but it's the game and it does it to a lot of people."

Gallery was injured on the third-quarter double-pass trick play called by Cable that lost 16 yards.

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Sunday's game against Washington did not sell out by Thursday's deadline and will be blacked out...again. It is the sixth straight Raiders home game to be blacked out locally this season after selling out the opening Monday Night Football game against the Chargers.

For those of you keeping score at home, this is the 75th black out in 119 home games since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995 from Los Angeles.

December 9, 2009
Hanson back in the fold, and other nuggets from a newsy Wednesday

A newsy day here in Alameda...

Randy Hanson, the assistant coach who claims Tom Cable broke his jaw in a training camp dustup, has been welcomed back to the Raiders, reportedly to work in the team's personnel department.

Cable, obviously, and, understandably, did not seem all that thrilled about Hanson coming back.

"I really don't know a lot about that," he said, "other than I was told that he was back."

My column tomorrow examines how strange this move is, especially at this time.

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Bruce Gradkowski was named the AFC offensive player of the week after Sunday's upset win at Pittsburgh, when he threw for 308 yards on 20 of 33 passing with three touchdowns. He is the first Raiders QB to be so selected since Daunte Culpepper won it in Week 4 of the 2007 season.

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Left guard Robert Gallery, who missed six games earlier this season with a broken fibula, is going for a second opinion on the strained lower back he suffered Sunday in Pittsburgh.

"At this point it does not look good," Cable said. "We'll know more tomorrow."

Center Samson Satele was also injured against Pittsburgh but prospects are brighter that he will be able to go. And if not? Chris Morris will go at center and Langston Walker will again play left guard.

And the emergency center?

"We're working on that," Cable said.

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Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was inactive for Sunday's game at Pittsburgh, was still walking around with a boot on his left foot on Wednesday.

"I feel fine," he said. "Just taking it step by step, doing everything the training staff's telling me to do so I can get back on the field.

"Someone just stepped on me the wrong way and it happened Friday in practice."

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And this inspirational message from the Raiders' locker room: "Sunday 12-13-09, 1:05PM - the day the Oakland Raiders break thru (sic). Back to back wins set Raiders on path to future success. (If you believe it, it will happen.)"

December 9, 2009
Hanson back with the Raiders

Silver and Black Illustrated's Michael Wagaman is reporting that Randy Hanson is back working with the Raiders...

More to come after practice....

December 8, 2009
Raiders-Steelers game replay today on NFL Network

The Raiders' white-knuckle come-from-behind victory at Pittsburgh on Sunday will be replayed today in a "fast-paced, 90-minute format on NFL Network's NFL Replay" at 5 PM PT, the network has announced.

Following is the official press release: "NFL Replay highlights the most exciting games from the weekend, re-airing them on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The abridged, yet enhanced version features the match-ups minus halftime and other elements not critical to the outcome, while granting insider access to fans with sideline and on-field sound, as well as post-game press conference sound bites. NFL Network's NFL Replay also incorporates exclusive shots and camera angles distinctive to NFL Films."

December 6, 2009
Raiders-Steelers live game blog

Greetings from freezing Heinz Field, was 29 degrees here this morning...clear skies now, a day after snow flurries blanketed the grass during the Pitt-Cincinnati Big East game.

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Follow me on Twitter @paulhgutierrez

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Raiders inactives - Raiders inactives - receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey, Javon Walker and Nick Miller, linebacker David Nixon, offensive linemen Khalif Barnes and Erik Pears and defensive end Greg Ellis. Charlie Frye is the No. 3 quarterback.

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Raiders captains - Gary Russell, Richard Seymour, Robert Gallery

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Raiders lose coin toss, Steelers elect to receieve...

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It is 33 degrees at kickoff

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Reed's 33-yard field goal gives Steelers 3-0 lead, flur plays after Stefan Logan returns opening kickoff 83 yards to Oakland's 19-yard line.

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SeaBass with 48-yard FGl after Raiders go for it at midfield and convert a 4th and 1...gutsy. But why not go for it on 4th and 1 from 30?
Raiders 3, Steelers 3, 8:36 to play in 1st quarter

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1st quarter ends with scored tied 3-3. Raiders with HUGE 4th down stop of Steelers at their own 5-yard line...Raiders have held the ball for 8:25, to the Steelers' 6:35...

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Steelers victimize Tyvon Branch twice, going 61 yards in two passes to go up 10-3 with 13:49 to go in second quarter. Roethlisberger hits Ward for 27-yard pickup, then finds Holmes for a 34-yard TD...

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Raiders center Samson Satele has an ankle injury, his return is "questionable." Chris Morris has replaced him

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Gradkowski's 27-yard run to PIT 18-yard line on a naked bootleg called back by hold on Mario Henderson...Loved 'Ski jawing with Ike Taylor, who hit him and sent him out of bounds, after the play. EVen as the refs were walking off the penalty yardage...

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SeaBass continues to be Raiders' best offensive weapon...his 43-yard field goal gets Raiders to within 10-6 with 8:17 to play in half...

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Raiders DBs must practice tip drill...Hiram Eugene's INT of Big Ben in back of end zone a thing of tip-drill beauty

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HALFTIME

Steelers 10, Raiders 6

Raiders are still in this because its offense has a 17:15-12:45 advantage in time of possession, and because its defense has twice held in the red zone - an INT by Hiram Eugene in the end zone and stopping the Steelers on 4th and 1 at the 5...

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Robert Gallery gets hurt in a busted trick play...Gradkowski pitches to McFadden, who laterals back to Gradkowski, who is then nailed for a 16-yard sack by Woodley.

It's Gallery's back, his return is "questionable" and he is replaced at left guard by Langston Walker, a lifelong tackle

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Clutch 10-yard sack by Trevor Scott to end 3rd quarter. Steelers now have to kick it 53 yards, into the open end of the stadium...

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It pays off, Reed's 53-yard field goal, which would have been a Heinz Field record, is wide left on 1st play of 4th quarter.

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Now safety Tyvon Branch is out with a groin injury. His return is "questionable" and rookie Mike Mitchell was in for him.

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Raiders convert second 4th and 1 play at midfield...gutsy.

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Wow, after hauling in Gradkowski's 17-yard TD pass, Schillens wags a finger at crowd, Dikembe style...Raiders 13, Steelers 10, 8:21 to play. Crowd booing Steelers and their three-game losing streak now.

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Big plays kill the Raiders again...a 37-yard kickoff return, followed by a 57-yard pass and a three-yard TD run...Steelers up again, 17-13, 7:13 to play.

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Raiders showing heart..score on 75-yard pass to Murphy, who beats Ike Taylor, then stutter-steps him at the 18...OAK 20, PIT 17, 5:28 to go

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Big play after big play given up again by Raiders defense...Steelers at the OAK 11 at the 2 minute warning

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How cute...Big Ben and Hines Ward kiss and make up after QB hits WR for 11-yard TD to go up 24-20 with 1:56 to play .

Chris Johnson justifiably upset as replays show Ward hooking his facemask and pushing off to get free on TD,

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Raiders go 88 yards in 10 plays, score on Gradkowski's 11-yard TD pass to Murphy with nine seconds to play...

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BALLGAME...Steelers are done, lost four straight..Big Ben's 50-yard Hail Mary to Sweed broken up by Hiram Eugene...Raiders 27, Steelers 24.

December 4, 2009
DHB added to injury report

Rookie receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey has been added to the Raiders' injury report. He is "questionable" with an injured foot. No other details were made available from Pittsburgh.

DHB, the much-maligned No. 7 overall pick of the draft out of Maryland, has nine catches for 124 yards with one touchdown in 11 starts. Tight end Zach Miller leads all pass catchers with 39 receptions while fellow rookie wideout Louis Murphy has 19 catches. Running backs Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush are next on the receiving list with 14 catches apiece, followed by DHB.


December 4, 2009
Ellis ailing, thoughts on Nnamdi speaking out, Scott's an "Elephant"

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.

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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."

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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.

December 4, 2009
Emails advocate Plunkett, Flores for the Hall of Fame

My Thursday column advocating Jim Plunkett and Tom Flores for the Pro Football Hall of Fame generated mostly positive responses. And here I thought I'd get the random racist email or voicemail I usually get when I address race in a story. Thankfully, none...yet. Following, then, the emails I received, with the writers' first names...

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- "Good morning - Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your piece yesterday regarding Flores and Plunkett being excluded from the HOF. I couldn't agree more with you ... and I'm not even a Raiders fan (I'm a Jets fan, so go easy on ol' Joe Willie - lol). I especially appreciated your mention of Jerry Tarkanian as well. The fact he isn't in the Basketball HOF is unbelievable. Thanks for the great work, Paul.

Sincerely, Darren

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- Thanks for the column on Flores and Plunkett today Paul. You're right on.

While reading it I also thought about how Plunkett came back from the dead after a disastrous start to his pro career with the gawd-awful Patriots.
And then he had a brief try-out and dismissal by the 49ers.

As an old Raiders fan I loved it when he became a winner with the silver and black.

Will

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- Your article in today's Bee "Why No Room for Plunkett, Flores?", is dead on the money. Every year when the Hall of Fame Selections start I get sick of/at the unfairness that takes place and in particular when Jim Plumkett and Tom Flores are not properly considered. I would like to think Your article would cause the voters to take more into consideration, but I doubt it...Thanks for mentioning these two truly football greats.

Jim

December 1, 2009
Billboard message is clear; Raiders need a G.M.

If it's true that a picture speaks a thousand words, this grassroots organization got its point across with significantly fewer syllables. The Web Site messagetoal.com erected its long-promised billboard on the side of the 880 freeway near High Street in Alameda today, basically urging Al Davis to stand by his year-old, thus far unfulfilled pledge to bring in a football operations-type manager.

Billboard Message to Al.jpg

December 1, 2009
Live blog replay

December 1, 2009
Trevor Scott replacing Thomas Howard? and other Monday notes

Trevor Scott, who had played nothing but defensive end since coming to the Raiders as a sixth-round draft choice out of Buffalo last year, seemingly has a little "Mad Stork" in him. That is, Scott can play standing up on the end, ala Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks, and has now, apparently, supplanted Thomas Howard as the Raiders' starting weak-side linebacker.

Scott started in place of Howard at Dallas on Thursday but coach Tom Cable was trying to keep his plans close to the vest on Monday, saying, "We'll see," when asked if Scott would start Sunday at Pittsburgh.

"He'll just get better and better, I would think," Cable said of Scott. "He had some issues in terms of coverage, just having a feel for it, but really nothing critical or big mistake where you say 'Wow, there's an issue there.' You want to move forward with that and let it keep developing."

With that, it seems Howard has fallen out of favor, what with Sam Williams starting at strong-side linebacker against the Cowboys.

Howard had a breakout season in 2007, when he had six interceptions and returned two, from 44 yards and 66 yards, for touchdowns. But he has only had one pick in his last 29 games and while he has been more than serviceable in pass coverage, Howard has had issues in run defense.

"I think you always try to do what gives you a good chance to succeed," Cable said, "so if you want to improve an area you make a move like we did. And certainly Trevor was able to go in (for Howard) and back it up."

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Steelers second-year quarterback Dennis Dixon showed he is more Kordell Stewart-Slash in his breakout performance on national T.V. against Baltimore on Sunday then he is a pure drop-back passer, like Ben Roethlisberger. So you'd think the Raiders defense would have their hands full this week trying to prepare for two distinctly different styles under center should Big Ben's post-concussion syndrome keep him sidelined, right? Eh...

"You watch that game last night and you see what (Dixon's) strengths are," Cable said. "Obviously he's got dynamite feet, can run, and throws the ball pretty good. But all indications are that Ben will be back."

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The Raiders have the worst kickoff return game in the NFL, averaging 18.2 yards. And while I'm of the mind they should do something radical like, oh, I don't know, throw the speedy Darrius Heyward-Bey out there to return kicks, Cable said Gary Russell will get another shot. This despite his less-than-inspiring showing on Thanksgiving, when he returned one kickoff 17 yards, appeared to go down with minimal contact on another, and fumbled away another before downing it in the end zone.

Maybe Russell will have a chip on his shoulder in Pittsburgh, what with his having played for the Steelers last year. He scored their first touchdown, a 1-yard run, to give them a 10-0 lead in their eventual 27-23 Super Bowl victory over Arizona.

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While the Raiders were well represented in the list of 25 semifinalists for Hall of Fame inclusion - Tim Brown, Cliff Branch, Ray Guy, Lester Hayes and those guys that were mostly known for their days across the Bay, Jerry Rice and Roger Craig - there were two former Raiders made more conspicuous by their absence.

That Jim Plunkett and Tom Flores are not part of the 25, let alone already enshrined in Canton, is a crying shame. And I'll address it in my column this week.

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JaMarcus Russell has not addressed the media since being demoted and replaced by Bruce Gradkowski. But one scene following Monday's walkthrough, which ended with extended passing drills, spoke volumes.

Russell walked off the field in a jovial mood and in a vibrant conversation with rookie receiver Louis Murphy. About 10 paces back walked Gradkowski and DHB, engaged in just as animated a discussion.

A few minutes later, Cable was asked what he has seen in Russell since his demotion.

"I don't really see any change whatsoever," Cable said. "He's working, doing what he's asked to do. He's preparing like normal. So I wouldn't say there was any change or anything I've noticed."

Not too much of an endorsement, right? Well, what about this, then - have you seen him doing things in his benching that he wasn't necessarily doing before?

"No, I see him staying the course and working," Cable said. "Preparing, the reps he gets, going in and working hard at them, preparing himself in the classroom, all those things that he has to do."

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And lastly, just in case you think DHB feels a huge weight lifted off his back after getting his first touchdown catch against Dallas....in his 11th game. Think again.

"Tell you the truth, I really haven't looked at it that way," he said. "It's like, a touchdown was what we needed at the time, and now if I can help out the team more, it'll be great.

"We lost, so the touchdown didn't really mean much."



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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