8

Halftime: Raiders 14, Dolphins 7

Scoring

Miami–Ronnie Brown 9-yard run (Jay Feely kicks PAT), 12:40.

Notes:

– Justin Peele rambled 36 yards down the right sideline with a Trent Green pass on a fourth-and-four play past a blown coverage to the 9-yard line, setting up Brown’s scoring run.

Following a sack by Tommy Kelly, the Raiders had Miami in a third-and-18, but Green flipped a short pass over the middle to Brown for a 15-yard gain, setting up fourth-and-3 at the Oakland 41.

Miami coach Cam Cameron, already down 14 points, opted to go for the first down rather than give the Raiders the ball back.

– The Raiders punted on their first possession of the second quarter after Daunte Culpepper, passing on third-and-4, stumbled and came up a yard short of the first down. Shane Lechler’s punt pinned the Dolphins at their own 11 with 10:05 left in the first half.

With the Dolphins backed up, Oakland’s defensive line on the first play, from left to right, is Jay Richardson, Tyler Brayton, Terdell Sands and Chris Clemons. No Tommy Kelly, Warren Sapp or Gerard Warren _ probably their top three pass rushers with Derrick Burgess out.

– After a false start, with first-and-15, Brown broke a 60-yard run to the Oakland 34 through Brayton’s attempted tackle.

– The Raiders turned a fourth-and-7 Miami play into fourth-and-2 with an encroachment call on Tommy Kelly, and Brown raced 15 yards to the Oakland 25 on the next play for a first down.

– Green presented Stanford Routt with a gift at the 2-yard line, flinging a pass to Chambers near the goal line which hung in the air because of pressure by Kelly.

The Raiders took over at their own 2 with 6:51 left in the half.

– Culpepper completed his second pass of the game, an 18-yard strike to Jerry Porter, to convert a third-and-5 play from Oakland’s own 7.

By the two-minute warning, the Raiders had pushed the ball out to the 41-yard line and were facing third-and-4. Oakland has 23 carries for 98 yards.

– Jordan went down with a left injury after catching a 7-yard pass from Culpepper to the Miami 34-yard line with 29 seconds to play.

Culpepper dropped the shotgun snap, picked it up and managed to find Jordan under pressure. Jordan caught the ball and was spun around by Donnie Spragan. he was helped off the field by the training staff after a few minutes on the field.

Early indications are Jordan aggravated a back injury which has bothered him off and on since training camp. He spoke to the media earlier this week with an ice bag strapped to his lower back.

Sebastian Janikowski was brought in the game to attempt a 52-yard field goal as officials reviewed the play for the spot. Jordan was driven off the field on a cart.

Janikowski left the field as the Raiders instead opted to go for the first down on fourth-and-1.

Miami called time out as the Raiders went to the line.

Culpepper threw to his right to an open Curry, but Renaldo Hill was able to knock the ball loose for an incomplete pass.

Miami took over with 23 seconds left at their own 34-yard line and opted to kill the clock and end the half.

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5

Porter’s guarantee draws a yawn

Miami linebacker Joey Porter’s guarantee that the Dolphins would beat the Raiders Sunday was greeted with shrugs of shoulders, half-smiles and indifference.

“It amuses me, I guess,” safety Michael Huff said. “I guess he’s just trying to fire up his own team. We’ll just play our game, whether he said it or not. We play Raider football, we’ll be fine.”

Porter, who signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Dolphins in the offseason after parting ways with Pittsburgh, as the reputation for being a big talker.

“I don’t worry about that. We know what he’s about, so it really doesn’t matter,” running back LaMont Jordan said. “You can talk as much as you want to, the bottom line is you have to go out there and play. With that said, I know those guys are going to come out fired up, but like coach Kiff says, it’s never about the other team. It’s always about us.”

More news and notes:

– Lane Kiffin wants to see Josh McCown limp around for another two days before he can be absolutely sure about his quarterback situation.

Or maybe he is waiting to see if the Raiders hire Mr. Miyagi of “Karate Kid” fame to slap his hands together and apply his magical healing powers to McCown’s fractured left toe.

“Josh didn’t go today so we’ll take another look at him in the morning and see if he can practice tomorrow,” Kiffin said.

McCown struggled against Denver with limited practice time. Would he be comfortable starting McCown if he missed practice again Friday?

“I’ll have to look at what happens,” Kiffin said. “I’ll have to see how he was the next day.”

Never mind . . .

– LG Robert Gallery made it through the entire practice, meaning it’s likely he will be able to start against Miami. Same goes for center Jeremy Newberry and linebacker Robert Thomas.

Kiffin wouldn’t say whether Newberry or Jake Grove would start at center.

“I don’t know yet,” Kiffin said. “I have to see how he responds to having a full day of work.”

Grove’s performance against Cleveland nose tackle Ted Washington, listed at 375 pounds but looking like 475, impressed line coach Tom Cable.

“Jake has done an awesome job filling in for Jeremy,” Cable said. “Last week was a perfect example. You’re playing a guy who’s the biggest guy in the league and he handled everything we asked of him and we were able to have a little success.”

– DE Derrick Burgess did not practice. Kiffin said the bye week will be taken into account regarding the health of all injured players.

“We always talk about all the different variables that go into the decisions that we make as far as knowing that a whole week is coming up,” Kiffin said. “There are two different ways to look at it. One is, you can get him to that week and rest him, or another one is, do you push your guy knowing (that week) is coming.”

– For the past two days, the Raiders offensive players wore black jerseys and the defense wore white. Even long-time Raiders employees can’t remember it ever happening before.

“You put them in jersey colors so they get used to what they’re throwing to for the quarterback,” Kiffin said. “We’re wearing black in Miami, so he gets used to throwing to black and gets used to white on the other side.”

Which doesn’t explain why the offense wasn’t in black last week, considering the Raiders wear black at home.

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6

Is Burgess worth a nickel?

Derrick Burgess missed practice for the third straight day, but coach Lane Kiffin did not rule out the possibility of using his best pass rusher in a limited role.

“If we can push him to where he can go obviously he’s of great value to us, even if it’s in a limited role, where some players may not be,” Kiffin said. “If he can just go to where he can be just on third downs, he’s of value to us. So we’re going to keep trying to push and see if we can get him out there.”

Burgess was listed as “questionable,” meaning there’s a 50-50 chance he could play. In theory, that means he is more likely to play than Josh McCown, listed as doubtful last Friday, was against Denver.

Kiffin was asked if it made sense to put a guy on the field whose strengths are his explosiveness and speed, when those two areas could be adversely affected by a calf injury. Kiffin said that as an every-down player, Burgess might be able to push through fewer plays.

Burgess wasn’t available for comment and made it clear Wednesday he wasn’t going to be discussing injuries with anybody.

You wonder if there is a tug-of-war going on behind the scenes here. Kiffin twice used the term “push,” as if with just a little shove in the right direction, Burgess might be able to play if so inclined.

It’s a sticky subject where Burgess is concerned. During training camp, Burgess said there was talk of upgrading his contract befitting his status as the NFL leader in sacks over the 2005 and 2006 seasons, only to have the talks cease once Mike Lombardi left the organization.

Burgess didn’t attend any voluntary workout sessions in the offseason and started training camp on the physically unable to perform list after hernia surgery.

He chose his words carefully during camp on the money issue, making it clear that he would look out for himself as well as the team.

“Hopefully they decide they want to give me a new contract, cool. If not, hey, it’s a business, you’ve got to remember that,” Burgess said. “The only part I want everybody to understand, like I tell the young cats, always treat it like one. That’s it.”

Burgess could decide that it’s not good business to take the field when speed, one of his important assets, is an issue because of an injury. Going out and being ineffective is never good business, and neither is making the injury worse. He has been down that road before in Philadelphia, where he missed nearly as many games as he played.

It would behoove both the Raiders and Burgess to make sure he’s at or near full strength. If that means sitting out this week and even next week, the Week 5 bye would give him three weeks to get healthy.

He could still get a running start at the season with three quarters of it remaining to be played. At 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, Burgess is not a stout defensive end, smaller than many linebackers. He is not going to get past 330-pound tackles without the burst which has put him in the Pro Bowl two years running.

If Burgess spends the season nursing a nagging injury which robs him of his speed, it’s bad business all around.

More Friday news and notes:

– C Jeremy Newberry (questionable) practiced for the first time this week, although he did not finish practice. Kiffin said Newberry might be available, but that Jake Grove would start. Grove will give up at last 75 pounds to Cleveland nose tackle Ted Washington.

– RB LaMont Jordan (back) practiced Friday, was listed as probable and should be good to go for Cleveland.

“We’ll play him as normal and monitor him during the game,” Kiffin said.

– Those who did not practice, were listed as doubtful and likely won’t face Cleveland included LB Robert Thomas (hamstring) and FB Oren O’Neal (hamstring). LB Isaiah Ekejiuba is out with a cracked bone in his foot.

With Thomas and Ekejiuba out, Ricky Brown is the lone reserve linebacker.

– The way Kiffin sees it, Josh McCown’s struggles against Denver and the Josh bashing that ensued is not necessarily a bad thing. McCown, who left the practice facility in a protective boot on his sprained foot, was listed as probable.

“I think it helps him a lot, because he is very tough and he’s a tough competitor,” Kiffin said, noting that Denver coach Mike Shanahan noticed that McCown was passing in pain against the Broncos. “It’s of extreme value, especially to go through a time where there’s a lot of questions about the starting quarterback in the public, and I’d venture to say the public perception is they’d much rather not have him be the starting quarterback.

“It’s very valuable to have that as opposed to a quarterback who maybe hasn’t been through adversity, and is not very tough and wouldn’t be able to handle it very well. I think he’s handled it great.”

We’ll see how “good” it is if McCown experiences similar adversity against Cleveland.

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1

Looking for the cutting edge

No one expects to see Alex Gibbs at the Raiders-Broncos game Sunday at Invesco Field, but his influence will be felt every time a defensive player picks himself up off the ground, the victim of a block he never saw.

Gibbs was the architect of Denver offensive lines from 1995 through 2003 which annually were among the best in the NFL despite being comprised of smallish blockers who were often castoffs or low draft picks.

Once upon a time, Gibbs was an offensive line coach for the Raiders. Mike Shanahan had worked with Gibbs on the Denver staff with Dan Reeves, and when Al Davis hired Shanahan to coach the Los Angeles Raiders in 1988, Shanahan requested to have Gibbs on his staff.

Davis also insisted Shanahan take Art Shell. Shell believes in man-to-man blocking, power against power, may the strongest man win. Gibbs philosophy is to get the defensive line moving one way and create a lane for the running back to make one hard cut through the hole.

“The thing is to have the appearance you are going outside,” defensive tackle Warren Sapp said during training camp. “But teams that stretch the ball don’t want to go outside. They want to
cut it back – spread your holes and (put) you on an island with a great athlete
and then he can put a move on you.”

Shanahan lasted just 20 games as the Raiders coach, and when he was fired in favor of Shell, Gibbs went with him.

Gibbs and Bobb McKittrick, the former line coach for the 49ers, were the leading practitioners of cut blocking, where linemen will dive at the legs of defenders, a tactic almost exclusively used on running plays. As McKittrick used to say, “We believe a defender is less likely to make a tackle if he’s on the ground.”

It favors smaller linemen who can get out and move, with stretch plays, sweeps and traps being the most effective running plays. It’s a system in which Kevin Boothe, a promising 14-game starter as a man blocker, becomes expendable in favor of Chris Morris, a center-guard who started last season on the practice squad before being elevated to the 53-man roster, although he rarely played.

After his Raiders experience, Gibbs, no big fan of Davis, quickly joined forces with Marty Schottenheimer in Kansas City.

When Shanahan became head coach in Denver, he brought in Gibbs to coach the offensive line.

While Gibbs never made it back to the Raiders, many of his philosophies are taught on a daily basis, courtesy of coach Lane Kiffin and line coach Tom Cable.

When Kiffin was co-offensive coordinator at USC, Gibbs came to campus in 2002 and spent two days teaching his blocking system.

“You’d always watched it and studied it but you never had the real bits and pieces of it,” Kiffin said. “When he came and gave it to us, we just never looked back after that and have used it ever since.”

Kiffin said the Raiders, or even the Broncos for that matter, do not fully adhere to all Gibbs’ tenets, but have incorporated most of his theories.

When looking for a line coach, Kiffin zeroed in on Cable early in the process. Gibbs left Denver in 2003 and was brought in by Jim Mora to be the assistant head coach and line coach with the Atlanta Falcons.

Cable was hired in 2006 to be the Falcons line coach when Gibbs wanted to reduce his work load and become a consultant.

Like Cable, Denver line coach Rick Dennison also worked with Gibbs from 2001 through 2003.

The Raiders transition has been encouraging.

“Nobody wants to be told they’re not worth a darn,” Cable said during training camp. “They’re human. I think they embraced it the right way. Definitely.”

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2

Back where we started

JaMarcus Russell is here, which does the Raiders no good Sunday against the Denver Broncos, unless they take the advice of Mike Shanahan.

“I personally think they should start him this week,” Shanahan told the Bay Area media by conference call Wednesday. “If they’re paying him that kind of money they should throw him into the fire and put him in against the Broncos.”

Not likely. Impossible, in fact. Russell isn’t even technically on the roster yet, as the Raiders will get a two-week exemption before making room for the proud owner of the biggest contract ever paid to a top draft pick.

Kiffin appeared to clear things up Monday with his endorsement of Josh McCown in the aftermath of a season-opening 36-21 loss to the Detroit Lions, only to have the NFL Network report McCown was injured and may not play Sunday in Denver.

Indeed, McCown has a cracked bone in his right index finger and an ankle sprain. He didn’t practice Wednesday. Both Kiffin and McCown said the quarterback threw some passes when the media was out of view (McCown was watching during warmups and individual drills), but this has the look of the whole “competitive advantage” thing all over again.

McCown has a problem with his hand that affects his throwing, and an ankle problem that affects his running. Throwing, running … no big deal.

So look for Daunte Culpepper to face Denver Sunday.

When asked about Russell’s arrival, running back LaMont Jordan said, “I’m just happy he’s in. Especially if he’s going to be the quarterback of the future, he needs to learn the offense,” Jordan added. “But right now, when I look up Daunte’s in the huddle so that’s my main concern.”

If McCown misses practice Thursday as well, it’s a slam dunk. You let a No. 1 quarterback miss a couple of practices if he’s far and away the best guy _ you do it with Rich Gannon when the backup is Marques Tuiasosopo, for instance.

More news and notes from the day JaMarcus showed up and the Raiders world changed forever:

– Hard to imagine a more likeable, down-to-earth guy than Russell. Even the fans most angry at the time he spent away from camp would probably change their minds just listening to the guy talk for 15 minutes.

He seems well equipped to handle whatever good-natured hazing he’ll get for being a wealthy rookie.

“Whatever the guys want, I’m going to give it to them,” Russell said.

There weren’t any particulars to be had regarding the contract issue, and at this point it’s not even important. He got the $30 million or so he wanted, guaranteed, and if it seems ridiculous he didn’t get it a long time ago, it doesn’t matter.

Both sides are convinced they were right and will live with the deal. It doesn’t make Russell’s ascension to the No. 1 quarterback job any easier, but if it gives him peace of mind, so be it.

“Once I signed the contract I did drop a few tears, just to know I’m a blessed person, very blessed to be in the shoes I am today, and I worked hard for it,” Russell said. “And I can’t wait to go out there and work even harder.”

– Kiffin’s plan is to get Russell some extra work after practice with practice squad players and get him some work with the scout team. Russell said he has been speaking with quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo on an almost daily basis and knew the playbook well enough to call out plays in the Lions game while watching it on television.

– Russell, giving props to the organization which has guaranteed him $30 million, said he never wanted to go anywhere else as negotiations dragged on.

“People said that about the Michael Vick incident, ‘They need a quarterback, you need to go over there.’ I was like, ‘Nah, I’m going to the Raiders. It’s just a matter of time before I get there,’ ” Russell said. “I knew deep down in my heart where I got drafted to and where I wanted to play at and I just couldn’t wait to get here.”

– Kiffin said Russell looked good during 7-on-7 drills and that he took extra conditioning. He said Russell looked much the same physically as he did back in minicamps.

– Center Jeremy Newberry (hamstring), CB Duane Starks (groin) and LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (groin) did not practice and all seem unlikely to face Denver.

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2

Still pining for Leinart?

Set aside for the moment the analysis of all things JaMarcus Russell and consider the draft day decision to bypass Matt Leinart in 2006.

There’s plenty of time to pore over the Russell issue over the next few days now that he’s agreed to terms on a contract.

I’ve been pretty much in the minority regarding Leinart, whom many people I respect are convinced can be a special NFL quarterback.

I’m not so sure, and never have been.

Leinart’s performance in a 20-17 loss to the 49ers Monday night did nothing to change my mind. Admittedly, Leinart has a disadvantage in that he plays for Arizona, a trendy pick to turn things around although I’ll never buy into a Cardinals revival until they’re sitting on 10 wins.

Maybe some day Leinart becomes a left-handed Tom Brady, a guy who has such a good feel for the game it overcomes his lack of eye-popping skill. Leinart doesn’t have an exceptional arm, doesn’t move very well and his footwork needs work.

It’s worth noting that those intangibles are difficult to discern, as evidence by Brady’s status as a sixth-round pick.

During the “Bush Push” game in Leinart’s senior year, I remember thinking the best quarterback on the field that day was Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn, although Quinn probably never had another game that good against top-notch competition in his college career.

Even as Leinart went through a passable but not great rookie year for the Cardinals, I couldn’t figure out the hue and cry regarding Leinart and the Raiders. What, exactly, would Leinart have accomplished last year with Art Shell and Tom Walsh?

The one time Leinart came to McAfee Coliseum, he got decisively outplayed by Andrew Walter _ the one game that makes up Walter’s entire Raiders highlight reel.

My fear regarding Leinart is it was too difficult to tell how good he was in college simply because he had so much talent around him. I wondered if he was a glorified Ken Dorsey, the Miami quarterback who racked up similar win totals on the strength of his supporting cast.

Al Davis apparently didn’t think so, blaming Shell for the Leinart selection. He said it to Shell the day he got fired and repeated it the day Kiffin was hired to a group of reporters following the press conference.

If Shell really did pass on Leinart in favor of Texas safety Michael Huff (more than a little skepticism is warranted here), Davis ought to send him a thank you card.

Huff has yet to do anything special for the Raiders, but that doesn’t mean passing on Leinart with the seventh pick of the 2006 draft wasn’t the right thing to do. Blowing a first pick on a quarterback is more damaging than doing it with a safety.

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11

Final: Lions 36, Raiders 21

Scoring

Detroit–Jason Hanson 46-yard field goal, 12:19

Oakland–Justin Griffith 7-yard pass from Josh McCown (Sebastian Janikowski kicks PAT), 7:43.

Detroit–Shaun McDonald 32-yard pass from Jon Kitna (Kitna pass failed), 4:15

Detroit–Hanson 23-yard field goal, 1:56.

Detroit–Tatum Bell 14-yard run (Hanson kick), 1:16

News, notes and observations:

–It’s nice to have a reliable kicker. Hanson’s 46-yard field goal, from nearly the same spot on the infield dirt where Sebastian Janikowski missed earlier, gave the Lions a 20-14 lead with 12:13 remaining.

– The Raiders squandered the momentum built by their back-to-back scores, allowing Detroit a 34-yard kickoff return by Brian Calhoun and letting Detroit drive 28-yards in eight plays for the score.

A key give-up by the defense came on third-and-8, when Jon Kitna hit Shaun McDonald for 9 yards for a first down in Raiders territory.

– The Raiders patiently countered Hanson’s 46-yard field goal with an eight-play, 71-yard drive which consumed 5:30 and culiminated on Griffith’s 7-yard flip from McCown in the end zone for a 21-20 lead.

McCown hit Curry on a right roll for 11 yards on a third-and-2 and the Raiders ran the ball effectively with Jordan and Justin Fargas. A conservative and well-conceived drive from a team that appears to be gaining momentum.

– The Raiders will need every bit of that momentum after Kitna took the Lions 80 yards in seven plays in 3:20 to take a 26-21 lead after a two-point conversion pass failed.

Kitna rolled to his right and hit McDonald for a 32-yard strike in the end zone with 4:15 to play against a blown coverage where Michael Huff was the nearest defender.

Earlier in the drive, McDonald caught a 13-yard pass from Kitna on a third-and-9 to keep the drive alive.

Detroit opened the drive with a 13-yard pass from Kitna to Sean McHugh over Kirk Morrison similar to a first-quarter play which got the Lions off their own 1-yard line.

– Defensive end DeWayne White intercepted a McCown pass intended for Mike Williams and ran it 33 yards to the Oakland 10 and set up the Lions with the chance to punch in a game-clinching touchdown.

It was precisely the sort of play Lane Kiffin has been preaching the Raiders need to avoid if they hope to be successful. McCown has completed 28 of 38 passes for 294 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

– The Lions got as far as the 5, but eventually had to settle for Hanson’s 23-yard field goal with 1:56 to play.

– McCown was hit on a pass attempt and fumbled with 1:37 to play, setting up Detroit to close out the game at the Oakland 23 with 1:37 to play. White, the same player who had the interception, caused the fumble.

– Tatum Bell ran 14 yards up the middle to put the Raiders away and continue the exodous from the stands.

– McCown was hit on his final pass and fumbled, and appeared to injure his throwing hand as time expired.

– The Lions had won just six road games in the last six years heading into the game.

– A wrap-up blog will follow much later this evening while I tend to a Web exclusive column. Until then, fire away.

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8

Kiff’s got a secret

News and notes following Raiders practice, delayed because of Internet issues in the media room at the club practice facility:

– Lane Kiffin is keeping the identity of the Raiders quarterback a secret and hopes to do so right up to kickoff. The same with the starting center.

He doesn’t have to tell. So he’s not going to tell. Case closed.

– Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper were good sports but not forthcoming with any solid information. McCown said he told his wife the identity of the starter Tuesday night, but no one else.

– For what it’s worth, the word is McCown is getting most of the first-team reps, but he’s not getting all of them.

McCown confirmed both are getting first team work, although he said it was relatively even. With a game a few days away, an even split seems unlikely.

One player confirmed both were working with the first team and said players have drawn their own conclusions as to the starter without actually being told.

– Lions coach Rod Marinelli, who prepared for Culpepper as line coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and had McCown as his backup in Detroit, didn’t sound overly concerned.

“Really, it doesn’t (affect us),” Marinelli told Bay Area reporters by conference call. “Both are very good veteran players. Both are right-handed, both can run the boot, both move around very well, both have great arms, they’re savvy veterans. So, you prepare for one, you prepare for both.”

— The difference between Art Shell and Marinelli? One hired Tom Walsh and the other Mike Martz.

Marinelli survived a 3-13 season with a core of players backing him despite staying the course as a season went down the drain.

“We stayed in pads the full year. I made it tough,” Marinelli said. “I added some artificial adversity for them. I didn’t back off. We had a lot of guys that went down. That’s what this league is about, who can not have any excuses, just keep going. That last month of the year, I just kept going, we kept padding up, we kept working, the same meetings, nothing changed at all. And I could see the guys that would fit us, and we just kept getting better that last four weeks of the season.

“They could see it, and we weren’t even half the team that we started with. We ended up winning a heck of a game at the end. We lost some really close games to New England, and Chicago, right at the end of the game. We ended up losing nine or 10 games right at the end of the year in the two-minute drill.”

Quarterback Jon Kitna described Marinelli as unbending and demanding.

“His way is the way it’s going to get done or you’re going to move on,” Kitna said. “You love that as a player, that your coach is not going to panic and just starting changing everything becaue you lose a couple games and things aren’t going the way you want them to go. He stuck to the course and as the seaosn went on, you saw more and more guys buying into it.”

Marinelli was among the first to interview for the Raiders job Shell eventually accepted. He went from Oakland to Detroit, where he was hired to replace Steve Mariucci.

– Marinelli, the former line coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was glowing in his praise of Sapp, saying Sapp should be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player.

“He’s as bright as any quarterabck in this league,” Marinelli said. “I’m telling you, the guy is brilliant. The other thing is not, many defensive tackles in this league put a franchise on his back and won a Super Bowl. I can’t say anything higher than that.”

– I’ll expound on the quarterback issue in a Web exclusive column posted on Insidebayarea.com later this evening.

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4

Making the call

And the winner is . . .

Johnnie Lee Higgins.

He’ll return punts Sunday against the Detroit Lions, with Chris Carr handling kickoff returns.

“See, I gave you one of three,” Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said after declining to make public his choices for quarterback (Daunte Culpepper or Josh McCown) and center (Jake Grove or Jeremy Newberry).

Kiffin said he may have answers on both positions Wednesday. He did say the quarterbacks had been told, but both dodged the question. McCown played it coy, answering questions with a question and was agreeable on other topics.

Said Culpepper, “I wouldn’t lie to you . . . don’t even bother.”

Wide receiver Mike Williams said he will wait like everyone else.

“I don’t know about the quarterback situation,” Williams said. “I say that with all honesty.”

More news and notes:

– Defensive tackle Warren Sapp was involved in what appeared to be a serious conversation with Daunte Culpepper heading off the practice field. Culpepper’s body language suggested he hadn’t received good news.

Or they could have been talking about something not even related to the job of starting quarterback . . . maybe it’s best to let Kiffin or one of the quarterbacks spill it.

– McCown remembered getting the news from Dennis Green on the Saturday before a Week 10 game against Carolina that Shaun King would replace him as the starter. It never made much sense to McCown, Green keeping it to himself all week that deep into the regular season.

He believes this situation is different.

“I guess I can see right now the point of it,” McCown said. “We might get an advantage. But the other thing is, for (Detroit), they know me well enough they can prepare for Daunte all week and if they got me they’d probably be OK.”

It’s also true that the Lions prepared for Culpepper plenty of times during NFC North games, although the Lions defense has changed a great deal since 2004. Lions coach Rod Marinelli is familiar with Culpepper from Tampa Bay-Minnesota games.

“I wouldn’t say, `If you ain’t cheating you ain’t trying,’ but you try to get every edge you can in this business, that’s for sure,” McCown said.

– The Raiders went through drills at a pedestrian pace, but perhaps built up to something more akin to regular-season spirit once team sessions began and the media was out of sight.

“I said to (offensive coordinator) Greg Knapp about 30 minutes through practice, I could feel them, I could feel the players a little differently,” Kiffin said. “It made our job a little easier. You weren’t prying all the time to get them to the next drill, to get them back in the huddle.”

– The highlight during the media session of practice came when linebackers coach Don Martindale, standing in the middle of the field at the 20-yard line, arched a pass toward a trash can standing at the right corner of the goal line and put the ball dead center, raising his arms in triumph.

– Kiffin said he needed to see the film to be sure, but believed defensive tackle Gerard Warren had his best practice as a Raider.

– The Raiders added linebacker Jon Alston and tight end Dave Fells to the practice squad. Alston, a linebacker from Stanford noted for his speed, was a third-round pick of the St. Louis Rams last year and somewhat of a surprise cut.

He said he received a call from Kiffin asking him to join the Raiders, picking Oakland over two other opportunities.

Fells made the Atlanta Falcons last season as an undrafted free agent from U.C. Davis. Raiders assistant coaches Knapp and Tom Cable were in Atlanta last season.

– If the Raiders and JaMarcus Russell can ever get together on the best way to pay out a contract befitting the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, the salary cap should not be a problem. Oakland is around $15 million under the cap, plenty of room to make a deal.

– The cap has gone so high the Raiders are $15 million under despite having to account for $11,163,971 worth of “dead money” on the contracts of Randy Moss ($4,042,500), Brad Badger ($1,431,420), Bobby Hamilton ($1,260,000), Aaron Brooks ($1,000,000), Danny Clark ($861,000), Jarrod Cooper ($752,400), Tyrone Poole ($625,000), Donovin Darius ($600,000) and Zack Crockett ($591,651).

– The Raiders are out $610,000 in signing bonus cash to Quentin Moses, but only $152,500 counts toward the cap. June 1 cuts accelerate and are due immediately. Moses’ figure was prorated over four years.

– The top 10 cap figures on the 2007 Raiders roster: Warren Sapp ($6,397,000), Robert Gallery ($5,472,428), LaMont Jordan ($5,401,440), Michael Huff ($4,803,360), Derrick Burgess ($4,000,480), Barry Sims ($3,988,576), Daunte Culpepper ($3,200,000), Terdell Sands ($3,200,000), Jerry Porter ($3,152,880) and Stuart Schweigert ($2,332,428).

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