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.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer