Day 18: The case of the five-run homer

Raiders writer Bill Soliday

Posted by Bill Soliday, Raiders beat writer for ANG Newspapers
So now we find out.

All the while he was getting pummeled for throwing a ball he never should have thrown and winding up having it go the other way, Marques Tuiasosopo had a broken finger.

And you thought you had a bad day at work.

Here’s the deal with Tui, who has been getting skewered for what now consists of two preseason interceptions that are being blamed, at least in part, for two exhibition losses.

This is a guy who stated earlier in camp that he was not around to pick a nice spot to lay down and die in camp. He wanted it known that he was competing for the starting job.

Cynics heard that and practically split a gut laughing. The Raiders didn’t go out and buy the services of Kerry Collins to let that happen, went the reasoning.

OK, so Tui was brash. You want that in a quarterback. Reality should have utterly no bearing on his approach. If you don’t believe me, ask the quarterback who lives in Palo Alto and just got his bust unveiled in Canton.

But with that disinclination to follow the rendering of the football gods meekly comes something else: knowledge you’d better do better than just go through the motions. You better darn well open up a six pack or so of awesome.

And so it was in the opener when Tui made the mistake of trying to force a sideline ball in to Johnnie Morant. Eighty-seven yards later, the other guys had a touchdown and Tui sat there with egg on his face.

Enter Game 2…a chance for redemption. During warm-ups, having been pressed into duty as the holder for placements due to an injury to the usual holder Shane Lechler, Tuiasosopo is working with Sebastian Janikowski’s backup, one Gregory Cook.

Cook kicks right. Janikowski kicks left. Tui hasn’t held much for placements. The timing is all wrong. Cook plants his right foot smack on the finger of Mr. Tuiasosopo that is holding the ball.
Ouch. Bummer.

Doctors confirm it’s broken but if he can handle the pain, he can play. No more damage will occur. So Ice it and gut it out, otherwise David Rivers is going to be Kerry Collins’ relief pitcher come the second half and the customers back in the Bay Area are likely to be in for a big dose of televised ugly.

That’s because Rivers has never taken an NFL snap in anger and ranks somewhere down in the No. 4 to No. 5 quarterback spot on the depth chart. Rookie Andrew Walter, No. 3, is already out with an injury and No. 4 or 5, depending on your point of view, Bret Engemann, didn’t even make the trip.

Redemption be damned. Tui now found himself in a position to show he can play damaged, which is a little like asking the No. 2 ballerina to fill in for the sick prima and dance with a broken foot.

“There wasn’t much we could do except keep icing it, hope the swelling stops and grip the ball as hard as you can and throw,” Tuiasosopo said.

He fell back on the relatively recent mantra of just about everybody: get ‘er done.

“When you go play, there are no excuses,” he said. “I wasn’t worried if they knew I was playing through pain or not. I just wanted to go out and execute the way I know I am capable. It wasn’t stopping me.”

He said his grip on the ball wasn’t up to standards “but I could grip it enough. I could still make the throws accurately. I was just concerned about getting enough juice on the ball.

“I went through the pre-game and it was no problem hitting guys on deep outs or comebacks or throwing the deep ball.”

But here’s where it gets unfair. Tui is a competitor. He admits to a tendency to try to do too much in the first place. And he did just that on a throw to Alvis Whitted that got picked.

It was the old biting off more than you can chew syndrome coming out of the cellar with a pick axe. Tui explains.

“There’s no question I want to make big plays and sometimes that gets in the way,” he said. “But there is also part of quarterback that is managing the game. When you manage the game, you make big plays.” Without forcing them.

“Well, there is a fine line,” he said. “There are times when you make plays when you probably shouldn’t go there. But you do it because you anticipated and you just throw the right ball.

“And there are times when you do that and you don’t throw the right ball and it doesn’t work out. I think the more you play, the better feel you have for when you can stick it in there and when you can’t … when to go for it and not.

“Hey, I am out there trying to score. That wasn’t the right decision, obviously. You know … you continue learning. If you are not 100 percent sure, maybe tuck it down and run. Second and short…keep moving the ball, which we were doing. To me, it’s just a matter of continue to play.”
Tui knows that what has happened so far this summer has not exactly been what you would call a confidence builder. Does he worry?

“It’s not something that is dire, where I am worried about it,” he said. “When we get to the first week, then we’ll look back and say `Know what, you can overcome those (mistakes) and learn from that and not do that. I am not going to worry about two plays. I’m just going to keep playing and worry in the future that it doesn’t happen.”

In the meantime, Kerry Collins sleeps the sleep of the blessed. Until his next interception, mind you.

Eyes and ears
Only a single practice Monday and not a whole lot going on but …

  • Rivers might not be so bad after all. Not after he connected perfectly with free agent wide receiver Cedric Bonner on a 58-yard touchdown pass.
  • Not to be outdone, moments later Collins launches what would have been a 75-yard touchdown bullet to Randy Moss had the ball not been snapped so far back on the south end of the field that it was pointless to carry on. Moss could have run to Calistoga. On the other hand, it came on a busted play by the defense.
  • Meanwhile, Mr. Touchdown, Doug Gabriel, lets one dribble through his fingers in the middle of the field. Later on, Gabriel hauls in a pass deep down the left sideline from Collins. Although this is getting to be an August habit for the two, the secondary gets a major chewing out for letting it happen.
  • Linebacker Danny Clark tips a short pass over the middle and safety Calvin Branch gathers in the deflection for an interception. Not bad for a washed up old scout, ya think? Somewhere Kent McCloughan is planning a comeback.
  • Cornerback Charles Woodson leaves his feet to make a diving shoe top interception of a badly thrown ball.

    OK, shoot me: last week I referred to the Raider center who got poked in the eye and saw his career end in an Austin, Tex., workout with the Cowboys as “Dan Turk.” It was Don Mosebar. Yeah. I knew that. Wrote about it. If Calvin Branch would like to assail me for having tapioca for brains, he’s got an open invitation. Sorry. At least I haven’t as yet referred to Napoleon McCallum as Napoleon Kaufman.

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    Bill Soliday - Raiders Writer