Break time

By Bill Soliday
   NAPA _ The Raiders were provided with their first break from two-a-days in training camp both Saturday and Sunday. They practiced Saturday morning, were given Saturday afternoon and evening and then Sunday morning off. They will return to practice Sunday afternoon.
      That’s probably a good thing since there was no mistaking an air of hostility that was beginning to develop. Although there haven’t been any fights (yet), there have been instances of tempers being piqued, such as when Justin Fargas fired a football at Danny Clark after what Art Shell refers to as heavy “thuds.”
   “I’m excited because now I can count down to next week … it will be like a real game week,” linebacker Kirk Morrison said.
   The break also brings with it some good news on the injury front.
   Shell said Sunday afternoon should mark the return of left tackle Robert Gallery to the practice field. The timing couldn’t be better because the Raider offense has been getting shoved around by the defense the first week of camp.
     That isn’t exactly promising insofar as there is a game coming up in Canton in a week against a pretty fair Eagles defensive unit. The way things look right now, Oakland may be struggling to make first downs.
   The addition of Gallery can’t hurt.
   “I know him,” Shell said. “He’s anxious to get out there. He’s like a wild horse. It’s killing him that he’s not out here working. We’re looking forward to getting him back.”
   Along with Gallery, RB LaMont Jordan is expected to return to practice Sunday afternoon. Although Fargas has had his moments, he has also had the wrong kind.
  Saturday morning he was stacked up on consecutive runs up the middle, tackled by so many defenders it was hard to tell who got the first lick in.
   However, a humorous moment came on the third play. QB Andrew Walter faked a handoff to Fargas and instantly, or so it appeared, 11 Raider defenders tackled him.
  Only Walter kept the ball himself, scoring while defenders looked fruitlessly for the fumble that Fargas had not committed.
 That says, I suppose, something good about Walter’s play fakes.
   On another play, in the middle of the field, Marques Tuiasosopo bollixed the defense with a bootleg around left end that was good for around 25 yards before he slid safely out of bounds.
 With the offensive goal line situation looking more grave by the moment, Tui tried the same play around left end later during a goal line session. Oops. This time, the defense was ready. Tyrone Poole and Sam Williams ran him out of bounds for no gain.
  Tui got the last laugh moments later, though. He fired a touchdown pass to his brother, Zack, over the defense of Williams.
   Rookie right guard Paul McQuistan disappointed a lot of Raider fans whose hair might still be stuck in the 70s when he cut his mullet and arrived at camp looking like Dobie Gillis (or are we dating ourselves?).
  Curses. Why did the big redhead do it? Turns out he had a reason.
  “A little changeup but mostly it was because of a buddy back home,” McQuistan said.  “His wedding was two weeks ago. I was in the wedding.”
  And because his photograph would be part of his high school buddy’s wedding album, he chose not to look like a refugee from a Travis Tritt concert.
  Probably a good call.
   During his visit to camp Friday, NFLPA boss Gene Upshaw had a few things to say about steroid use in the NFL … or the lack of same.
  “The only reason we were there (at the Congressional hearings where Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire embarrassed themselves) was because of baseball,” he said. “We started doing this (policing) in the 80s. Our guys said `Hey, I know HE is using it. I don’t want to use it so stop HIM.’
  “That’s what got it out of our business. The players wanted it out. Hey, we didn’t come to this party late.  When the players want it out of baseball, it’ll get out.”
   It was downright brisk when the Raiders took the field Saturday, a marked change from five days earlier when it was hot enough to melt a cockroach.
   During the bad days, one player — 315-pound guard Jabari Levey — got such a heat reaction he had to be hospitalized for two days.
   On the topic of the defense being ahead of the offense at this stage of camp, Shell admitted it was true, saying it was “just like the pitchers are ahead of the hitters.”
   An interesting comparison since in spring training, the hitters are usually ahead of the pitchers. Or were all those 12.00 earned run averages a figment of the imagination.

Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer