The Thursday file


News, notes and observations from Thursday:

— Another day of practice with the scout team for Josh McCown had Lane Kiffin optimistic about his availability. So got a quarteback for us, coach?

“It’s a lot of decisions,” Kiffin said seriously. “It’s whether he starts, whether he’s active. We’ll have to go in and sit down and watch the film again and talk with Josh also.”

It’s also a lot of, well, nonsense. Daunte Culpepper is starting against Tennessee and everyone in the locker room knows it.

— Defensive tackle Gerard Warren sat out again with a quadriceps injury. If he plays against Tennessee, it will be a major upset.

— Chris Carr and Sam Williams were limited in practice again. Not a big deal where Williams is concerned, with Robert Thomas available to start his third straight game at strongside linebacker.

If Carr can’t play, it likely will be Dominic Rhodes on kickoff returns and Johnnie Lee Higgins on punt returns.

— With McCown getting closer to being available as a backup and the Raiders getting JaMarcus Russell as much work as possible, it could mean the Andrew Walter is nearing the end of the road.

— Kiffin said he anticipated Jerry Porter’s receiving numbers will increase as time goes on. Porter has just 11 catches but is averaging 21 yards per catch. Maybe the mere site of Kerry Collins on the same field will serve as a jump-start.

In Porter’s last two games against Tennessee, with Collins as the quarterback, he caught 14 passes for 271 yards and five touchdowns.

— The Raiders will be looking for a Collins-type quarterback at some point in the future to serve as mentor to Russell when he eventually takes over. Hopefully one with some game left, like Collins, as opposed to a past-his-prime Trent Dilfer.

Tennessee quarterback Vince Young told Bay Area media Wednesday Collins has been a valuable resource about things both on and off the field.

“We’re like best friends. We talk about everything,” Young said. “Anything I have questions about, on the field, off the field, he’s pretty much been in the same situations so he’s been helping me out a whole lot. What people don’t know about Kerry, he’s silly, he’s fun, he knows his position with the Tennessee Titans and everyone respects him for it.”

All four Raiders quarterbacks seem to get along well. I’ve been in 49ers locker rooms where you could feel the tension between Joe Montana and Steve Young, and with Young and Jeff Garcia. It’s nothing like that with Culpepper, McCown, Russell and Walter.

Both Culpepper and McCown are scheduled to be free agents after the year. McCown would likely be more inclined to stick around as a backup than Culpepper.

— Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported the Raiders could be considering dumping Dominic Rhodes. Glazer, the guy who got his hands on the New England videotapes as well as tape of the casino brawl between Levi Jones and Joey Porter, has broken more than his share of stories.

The timing seems strange on this one, however. Rhodes was already paid a $1.5 million signing bonus and is earning just over $765,000 in salary (that includes losing four weeks pay because of a substance abuse suspension), so it’s not a cap move. Just outright cutting Rhodes seems unlikely after they went to the trouble of signing him even though they knew he would likely be suspended when they signed him.

With LaMont Jordan hoping to nurse a bad back through the season, the Raiders need another experienced back to go with Fargas just in case.

— Saw Michael Bush walking off the practice field carrying shoulder pads and thought he might have been activiated from the Physically Unable to Perform list. False alarm. He was carrying Jordan’s equipment for him.

Bush is in the second week of a three-week window which he can practice with the club. Once that window closes and he does not practice, Bush cannot play this season.

— Jordan said Thursday his back “felt better than it has all year” and sees the Tennessee game as an opportunity to prove the Raiders running game as it was through four games is more reality than illusion.

The Raiders led the NFL in rushing at 194.2 yards per game after four games, and have since dropped to fifth at 145.8 yards per game behind Minnesota (163.7), Pittsburgh (159.0) and Jacksonville (148.5).

“When we were first, people questioned how good our running game was because they say we didn’t run against anybody, so this is a great opportunity for us to show what we can do,” Jordan said.

The Titans are giving up an NFL-low 59.7 yards per game on the ground. Part of that low figure is because opponents are running the ball 17.3 times per game. Part of it, Kiffin thinks, is because the Titans are that good.

“I think some teams have given up because of lack of success,” Kiffin said. “They’re not doing well running it so they’ve gone to the pass. Or like last week, the game was so lopsided Houston didn’t have much of a choice. I don’t think that’s because they look at it and say well, they’re not good at pass defense so we’re going to throw it a bunch. I think it’s probably people are looking at it and getting discouraged about running the ball because the front seven is so strong and physical.”

— RB Justin Fargas and practice squad DT Josh Shaw were involved in a prolonged scuffle before team sessions got underway which was broken up by teammates.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer