By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Thursday, August 9th, 2007 at 8:56 pm in Oakland Raiders.
News and notes, sights and sounds from the Raider Nation Celebration Thursday night at McAfee Coliseum:
– The Raiders ran through a situational practice before a crowd of 12,000 fans that served its purpose even if it didn’t make for sensational viewing.
Oakland simulated the ride over from the hotel, the exact amount of time spent during warmups and one-on-one drills before a game, tested out its communication system from the press box to the field and even went in for a “halftime” which will mirror what takes place Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals.
“It was not going to be something where we’re going to come out here in a scrimmage format where guys are going to be hitting and flying around,” coach Lane Kiffin said. “So that part of it, I’m sure, was painful for you guys to watch, as it was for me, but we got done what we needed to get.
They practiced safeties, free kicks and punt blocks. They walked through most any situation which could come up in a game.
Kiffin said he and the Raiders coaches had already walked through the communication aspect two months ago, putting on the headphones and experimenting with coaches in the booth.
“Some people say I do too many walkthroughs,” Kiffin said.
The fans didn’t seem to mind, and although Kiffin doesn’t realize it because he wasn’t here, it was a better show than the wave and lollygag affair the Raiders went through last season during the Raider Nation Celebration.
– During Oakland’s first offensive possession against the scout team defense, the offense lined up in a different formation in each of the first four plays, the last of which went for a touchdown from Josh McCown to rookie tight end Zach Miller.
On first down, the Raiders opened with double tight ends in Miller and John Madsen, with Jerry Porter at left split end and Ronald Curry to the right at flanker. Dominic Rhodes was the single back.
On second down, Travis Taylor was wide left with Porter in the slot and Porter split right.
On third down, Porter was on the left, Curry on the right and Miller at tight end with Zack Crockett and Rhodes lined up in the “I” formation.
– On the Raiders’ first defensive possession, Fabian Washington intercepted a sideline pass from scout team quarterback Jeff Otis and ran into the end zone.
– In contrast to last year, when Porter drew thunderous boos for his well-publicized feud with coach Art Shell, the wide receiver drew a round of cheers during wide receiver drills for catching a pass in the end zone.
During introduction, the announcement of Porter’s name drew cheers and only a small smattering of boos.
– If Thursday night’s crowd represented a cross section of Raider fans _ and chances are it did _ the two players most to blame for last year’s 2-14 season were quarterback Andrew Walter and left guard Robert Gallery, who were the only players who drew nearly as many boos as cheers.
– The people’s choice at quarteback is Daunte Culpepper, who got the biggest ovation among the quarterbacks when the roster was introduced. He got a rise out of the crowd for completing his first two passes, the first a crossing route to Johnnie Lee Higgins and then a corner route for a touchdown to Madsen, plays in which he locked on both receivers early and executed the throws.
On his second possession, Culpepper threw one a good 60 yards in the air that was intercepted by Levonne Rowan near the end zone.
– The Raider “legends” in attendance were wide receiver Cliff Branch, linebacker Jeff Barnes, linebacker Jerry Robinson, guard George Buehler, tight end Ted Kwalick, wide receiver Morris Bradshaw, wide receiver Rod Sherman, running back Clem Daniels, linebacker Gary Weaver, defensive back Howie Williams, offensive tackle Robert Jenkins and cornerback Willie Brown.
– In case you were wondering, no sign of Shell . . . or Fred Biletnikoff, for that matter.
– LaMont Jordan played catch with a football with fans in the black hole before warmups.
– During a “halftime” interview with Warren Sapp shown on the big screen, broadcaster/cheerleader J.T. the Brick was blathering on about something or other regarding the Raiders’ potential.
When J.T. was finished, Sapp arched an eyebrow and said, “Was that a question?” Then walked away.
– Spotted in the stands, walking on the bottom walkway of the second deck _ a fan wearing a white, long-sleeved Randy Moss jersey. It was modifed with a red circle and a cross through the No. 18.
– JaMarcus Russell turned 22 Thursday but doesn’t appear any closer to a contract.
– The Raiders will hold another walkthrough for Saturday night’s game against Arizona Friday at their practice facility in Alameda. It is closed to the media.
– Kiffin talked to the crowd before introducing several players, who gave words of encouragement to fans in attendence. Then Kiffin said, “We’ve got to get back to the meetings, but it’s the bottom of the ninth and here comes the closer.”
Rob Ryan stepped to the microphone to pump up the crowd, but was mostly drowned out by chants of “defense, defense.”
– During a highily entertaining interview with Ryan following Friday night’s practice, the defensive coordinator opened by saying, “Heck, yeah, we’re ready. We’re playing the Cardinals, you know, long history there. Fired the whole family. So we’ll be ready to go.”
Ryan and his brother Rex were on Buddy Ryan’s staff when Arizona fired him as head coach following a 4-12 season in 1995, also putting the twin sons out of work.
A few more snippets from Ryan, a mass of unfiltered confident bluster whom the Raiders really ought to turn loose more often:
– On the signing of Terdell Sands: “Sands is the premiere run-stopper in this league, and I’ve coached several of them. This guy, he’s the real deal.”
– On the possibility that the newly svelte Warren Sapp is too light: “Warren knows Warren. I can’t wait to see him. It’s a pleasure to see him out there, and also see him, like when he was back in Tampa Bay days when he was raisin’ hell. It’s gonna be fun, ’cause the rest of the league’s in trouble.”
– On the signing of Donovin Darius: “First of all with Donovin Darius you’re talking about a guy that’s got an aura about him. He’s a man, he walks on that football field, he demands respect. When he’s on that field, people are scared to death of him. And so we like that intimidation factor.”
– On possibility that Kirk Morrison could become a Pro Bowl player: “He’s smart and tough, he’s durable and he’s got all those great plusses that he does. And I expect he’ll be in the Pro Bowl. If we win on defense and win as a team, like we’re gonna do, he’ll be in the Pro Bowl.”
– On how much he communicates with Kiffin with regard to defensive matters: “Lane’s in charge of this team, and we communicate all the time, going in we bounce ideas off each other. But he’s head coach, and he’s established an unbelievable tempo out here and it’s got nothing but respect from our defense. We look forward to winning a championship for him and obviously Mr. Davis.”
On cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington:“I mean, the league ought to be studying those two. I see those two as the best two corners in football.”