You never know

By Jerry McDonald

     A few weeks ago, I watched Phillip Rivers look as good as Drew Brees ever has for the San Diego Chargers.

     This came not long after Aaron Brooks looked as bad as Donald Hollas ever has for the Oakland Raiders.

       Fast forward to this weekend. Brooks passes the Detroit Lions silly, and Rivers can’t handle a snap from center on San Diego’s first two possessions without fumbling.

      All it proves is nothing when measuring the Raiders’ chances against the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 11 at McAfee Coliseum.

      I decided in 1994 to quit paying serious attention to the pre-season after watching the 49ers slog through football in August only to open against the Los Angeles Raiders on Monday night and look as crisp and precise as any team ever has in Week 1.

     It was a playground for Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Co. at Candlestick Park and the 49ers won 44-14. The 49ers went on to win the Super Bowl. The Raiders, darkhorse Super Bowl candidates, finished 9-7 and Al Davis rewarded Art Shell with a pink slip.

     That said, what the Raiders have accomplished the last two weeks is fairly remarkable. Their defense has looked decent since July 25. On offense, they looked about as poor as a team could look in practice for a good two- and a half weeks.

      Don’t kid yourselves. Some of the players were concerned. While they all maintained a united front, I know of a few former teammates who have talked to some current Raiders who were wondering what the hell was going on.

      Shell, through it all, never wavered, either with his team or with the media.

      And while it’s still to way too early to formulate a conclusion, this much is clear _  leadership makes a big difference.

     Other observations as the Raiders begin to shape what will be their 53-man roster:

     — I so seldom get to be right when it comes to corrections from Raider fans. But it may interest “RFM” on the previous post that the Raiders were 5-1 in the pre-season in 1975.

     — The report on Andrew Walter _ no structural damage. That’s a good thing, but bursitis and tendonitis aren’t conditions normally associated with the shoulder of a 24-year-old quarterback.

    — Don’t expect Shell to sell out to get that unbeaten pre-season record. It sounds as if a lot of players could be sitting this one out.

    — Examples of Shell’s faith and patience include place kicker Sebastian Janikowski and running back Justin Fargas, both of whom could have been shipped out of town without a whimper of protest from Raider Nation. Each looks rejuvenated under Shell.

   — Saw defensive end Bobby Hamilton and running back Zack Crockett engaged in a serious-looking conversationin the post-game locker room. Approaching cutdowns may be tougher on veterans than rookies because they know the end is in sight. If not now, then soon.

   — For the life of me, I’ll never figure out Randy Moss. Which is probably exactly how he wants it. He treats the local media with disdain most of the time, even though for the most part he hasn’t been the target of any hatchet job that I can remember.

    He was portrayed locally last season as a guy who was hurt but wouldn’t admit to it, kind of admirable trait, really.

     Yet when Moss goes on the road, he’ll chat like a magpie, particuarly when when the national media is around. Invariably, he winds up with negative press. And he’ll do national radio interviews and shows such as “Real Sports” which target his checkered past.


    Too bad, because he often has interesting things to say and his home fans are the ones getting short-changed, although admittedly they care far more about his yards per catch than his quotes per day.

     — Jerry Porter for Deion Branch . . . nah, Bill Belichick is too smart for that.

     — Speaking of Porter, wonder if he still wants to play for Mike Martz considering how the Lions looked.

     Al Davis has a fondness for ex-Raiders, but Raider fans can be thankful he never put Matt Millen in the front office.

     — Tough to tell what was more heartfelt _ the boos for Porter or the cheers for Ronald Curry.







Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

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