Source: Raiders to sign Keller today


UPDATE: Steve Corkran reports that Keller’s signing is official. The Raiders waived QB Erik Meyer to make room for him.

Looks like the Raiders’ backup quarterback situation is going to get a bit more muddled, with word coming from a source close to Sam Keller that the ex-San Ramon Valley High, Arizona State and Nebraska signal-caller will sign with Oakland today.
Keller worked out with the Raiders at a post-draft mini-camp, but left without signing a contract. The Raiders later re-signed Marques Tuiasosopo, who joined Andrew Walter as the main competitors to back up JaMarcus Russell.
Keller would join Erik Meyer and Jeff Otis, giving the Raiders six quarterbacks heading into training camp in July. Our reporters thought Keller was actually more impressive than both Otis and Meyer in May.


Suspect arrested in Javon Walker case


We could soon be getting some answers in what happened to Raiders wide receiver Javon Walker in Las Vegas. Police there arrested a suspect today in the robbery and beating case.
According to the Associated Press, 30-year-old Arfat Fadel was arrested and charged with a bunch of felonies, including kidnapping and robbery. Apparently, Fadel was arrested by Vegas police last Friday. They are still looking for a second suspect.


Harris-for-Sims a good `trade’?


EDITOR’S NOTE: Jerry McDonald will be taking the next few days off as he grieves the passing of his father. In the meantime, we’ll keep you guys as updated as possible during this period, with help from writers Steve Corkran and Bill Soliday.

Now that longtime Raider Barry Sims officially joined the 49ers on Monday, the unofficial swap of Bay Area offensive linemen is complete _ ex-49er Kwame Harris having traded in his red & gold gear for Oakland garb earlier this offseason.
The natural question is who is a better fit for their new team, Harris with the Raiders or Sims with the 49ers? Click on the link and cast your vote.
Sims was, at worst, a serviceable starter for years with the Raiders. Some might say he was a solid starter _ those might be the ones who choose to ignore Sims’ meeting with Simeon Rice in San Diego.
Sims, though, didn’t seem a great fit for Tom Cable’s zone-blocking scheme. Sims, who started most of his nine years with the Raiders, signed a two-year deal with San Francisco because the 49ers are giving him a chance to compete with Jonas Jennings for the right tackle spot.
Harris, who showed flashes early in his 49ers career, had become a frequent target of disgruntled 49ers fans after some unbelievably poor performances. It is hoped that Harris’ fortunes will improve under Cable’s system. Harris has been given the chance to become JaMarcus Russell’s MIP (Most Important Protector) as the Raiders’ starting left tackle.
Can Harris hack it?
Would you have rather the Raiders kept Sims around?
We’ll find some answers over the next couple of months as training camp and the preseason games begin.


OTA highlights


Highlights from Thursday’s organized team activity session, the last time the media will see the Raiders as a group until they convene at the Napa Marriott on July 25, with practice starting the following day:

— Cornerback Michael Waddell intercepted an Andrew Walter pass on the dead run and returned it for a touchdown on the final play of the session.

The first-team offense avoided a turnover, but didn’t manage to move into position for even a field goal attempt during their two-minute drill. A JaMarcus Russell pass bounced off the hands of running back Justin Fargas on fourth down.

— Midway through the two-minute drill, defensive tackle Terdell Sands was looking for shade and bent over at the waist near the hydraulic lift machine, gasping for air. Sands was back at practice after missing last week’s OTA due to a personal matter.

— Free safety Gibril Wilson missed practice for the second straight week with another personal matter, which arose Monday, Kiffin said.

Wilson’s absence gave rookie fourth-round draft pick Tyvon Branch work with the first team.

“ It’s been great for him and he’s really seized the opportunity,” Kiffin said. “That’s what happens and we don’t look at when somebody’s not here as that guy not being here. We look at it as more reps for someone else and more guys to seize the opportunity at different positions. Tyvon’s done a great job.”

Although there were no major gaffes Wednesday, this quote has the earmarks of Kiffin talking up a rookie’s confidence. Branch has struggled in coverage during most media sessions. Known as a big hitter and a sure tackler, Branch’s true worth will become more apparent during training camp.

— During one team session, Russell saw an opening and ran up the middle up for a 12-yard gain, prompting an exasperated Keith Millard to chastize his defensive linemen.

“C’mon, guys,” Milllard urged.

Kiffin agreed with the assessment that people don’t realize how mobile Russell truly is and noted, “I think they’ll forget how hard he is to bring down, too. There’s a lot of plays in college where guys are draped on him and they can’t bring him down because of his size and strength.”

— Rookie Trevor Scott was getting work with the first team at right end, although it should be noted the Raiders were substituting liberally.

— Fourth-round draft pick Arman Shields is not practicing with a hamstring pull _ he’s been out since the rookie minicamp _ and it has put him behind fellow rookie Chaz Schilens, a seventh-round pick of similar size who has had some solid moments.

“It puts him in a hard situation,” Kiffin said. “It puts him behind right away. It’s a lot of work. Those other guys have gotten a lot of work and a lot of work with these quarterbacks. But the first day of training camp isn’t the first thing he can do. He’ll be in there this offseason so he can throw, he can work with our coaching staff at certain times. It’s up to him how fast he catches up.”

— With both Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard missing practice with previous engagements, it meant a lot of practice time for Ricky Brown and Jon Alston, both hoping to remain as reserve linebackers/special teams players.

Alston prompted a brief sideline scuffle with a hit on Drew Carter on the sideline which was clearly beyond the bounds of the “no contact” limitations.

— Chris McFoy beat Chris Johnson in a seven-on-seven drill and hauled in a perfectly thrown corner route from Walter, prompting a playful headslap by Johnson to McFoy after the play.

— Tight end Tony Stewart, who was active for 16 games but did not catch a pass last season, made several catches Wednesday, including one difficult, juggling grab.

— Free safety Hiram Eugene made a nice break on Walter pass intended for McFoy and broke up the play.

— Jarrod Cooper, apparently fully recovered from ACL surgery, was back on the field with no restrictions and was getting lots of defensive work. Always quick to apply the needle to a teammate, Cooper’s target Wednesday was Johnnie Lee Higgins.

“Hey Higgins, make a play,” Cooper said.

Later, Cooper urged Russell, “Throw it to Higgins. He hasn’t made a play in two weeks.”

— Center Jake Grove, who hasn’t practiced through minicamps and OTAs following offseason surgery, looks more bulky, but Kiffin believes the weight is well distributed.

“Jake’s doing extremely well with what he can do as far as the weight room and rehab,” Kiffin said. “We’ve got a lot of expectations for Jake to come in and battle for the starting spot at center.”

Chris Morris was back working with the first team at center after giving way to John Wade last week.

— Justin Griffith missed practice to run a youth sports camp, with Tony Jackson getting most of the work at fullback. Oren O’Neal remained sidelined with a hamstring pull, watching from the sidelines.

— Marques Tuiasosopo looks as if he could challenge Walter for the starting job, operating in an offense more suited to his skill set than the systems run by Norv Turner and then Art Shell/Tom Walsh.

“He’s done a real good job, especially in the move-the-ball situations, moving the ball around and getting it to the right people,” Kiffin said. “It feels like he’s been here a long time.”

That must of been the problem with Shell and Walsh. Not enough “move-the-ball” situations and too many instances of “drop back and look for a soft place to land.”

— Kiffin continues to laud Russell’s preparation and work ethic, and Russell said he is working as hard mentally as he is physically.

“I have everything on DVD and I watch it at home myself,” Russell said. “Everything _ runs, steps or pass settings _ anything that I can become good at _ I go home and look it over myself.”

— Russell said he planned on getting some R&R time, but wouldn’t overdo it, joking that stories would surface that he is “back up to” 300 pounds.

— The Raiders opted to make Wednesday’s session open, keeping their final session out of the prying eyes of the media.

“Tomorrow we’ll go to more of a team format, kind of have fun with guys, divide them up, let them play a little bit,” Kiffin said.

A Raiders spokesman confirmed there would be no confirmation of Javon Walker getting into town Wednesday night and that Walker would not be available for interviews Thursday.


Walker due in Alameda tonight


If Javon Walker is this hard to keep track of when the 2008 regular season begins, JaMarcus Russell will have himself a wide open receiver.

Tracing the steps of Walker over the past few days is tricky business, but according to coach Lane Kiffin, the wide receiver is supposed to arrive in Alameda and be examined by the team’s medical staff Wednesday night and be with the team Thursday on the final day of organized team activities.

Kiffin declined to get into specifics regarding Walker’s condition, but did say, “The information I have at this point is he’s going to be fine. Training camp won’t even be an issue.”

The Raiders team statement is as follows:

“We are aware that Javon Walker was the victrim of a robbery. We have been told that he will make a full recovery in the near future and resume his preparation for the 2008 NFL season. we will provide further updates as they become available.”

Earlier Wednesday, Kennard McGuire, the agent for Walker, said in a statement that Walker had been released from the hospital and was “recovering in a private environment.”

That came as a surprise to the Las Vegas Police Department. Officer Jose Montoya, speaking on behalf of Lt. Clint Nichols, said it was his information that Walker was still hospitalized as of Wednsday morning.

“The investigation remains ongoing, he’s been upgraded to stable condition and we’re following up leads,” Montoya said.

It is not clear whether Walker suffered an orbital fracture, as has been reported. Nor has the story printed by TheDirty.com, which gave an account of Walker describing what happened, been confirmed.

The Web site decribed itself as a “friend” of Walker, and attributed a wild, hard-to-believe-account of what happened to the wide receiver, who was staying at the Bellagio.

“I was just back at my room and at about 5:30 in the morning, I got a knock at the door, I opened it and three guys with guns were there, they cracked me in the head a few times knocking me unconscious,” Walker said “They then robbed me of everything I had, my watch, money, everything! Somehow they got me to the car and dropped me off in the street. That’s what happened.”

Kiffin was keeping details in house.

`All I can give you is I spoke to him, he’s doing well, and he’s on a plane, he’ll be on a plane this evening, back here,” Kiffin said.

Kiffin said he hoped the Walker experience would resonate with other players on the team.

“All we can do is educate them the best that we can,” Kiffin said. “We can’t babysit ‘em. We talk to them all the time about certain places to be, where not to be, and you guys have heard it a million times, not many good things happen after midnight.

“This is an example of that, I think, just talking to some of our players today, relaying the message from Javon to them, I think it’s a wakeup call to some of them, just to remind them about how dangerous it is out there in certain places and how much they have to think before they put themselves in situations.”

Russell said it was a lesson for players to “watch your surroundings, it could happen to anybody,” and recommended “that you always (take) somebody with you when you go places.”

More details to come regarding practice later today . . .

Agent Kennard McGuire said Walker was “recovering in a private environment.” An aide to McGuire, of MS World in Richmond, Texas, declined to say where Walker was staying.

“Javon looks forward to getting back to his family and teammates,” the statement said, “and is looking forward to the start of the upcoming season.”


Walker matter under review


A Raiders spokesman said “We are in the process of gathering information,” regarding the status of wide receiver Javon Walker, who was reportedly found unconconscious in Las Vegas with an orbital fracture Monday morning.

Walker, according to Fox affiliate KVVU-5, was listed in fair condition.

The Las Vegas-Review Journal reported Walker was spotted at the nightspot “Tryst” at the Wynn “spraying the crowd with some of the 15 bottles of Dom Perignone Rose champagne he ordered.”

Walker signed a free agent contract with $16 million in guaranteed money in the offseason but was still rounding into shape following knee surgery. Coach Lane Kiffin said he wanted Walker to lose weight before the Raiders went to training camp in Napa.

A report filed with the the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department identified Walker as the “victim of an early morning crime.”

The statement read as follows:

“The victim of an early morning crime near the intersection of Winnick Avenue and Koval lane has been identified as Javon Walker. Officers responded to a report of a man down at that location at approximately 7:19 a.m. this morning. When officers arrived they found an unconscious male, who appears to have been the victim of a robbery. The victim was transported to an area hospital with siginficant injuries. Late this afternoon detectives were able to positively identify the victim as Walker.

“Walker remains hospitalized at this time and this investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information concinering this event is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at (702) 385-5555.”


Raiders sign McFadden


The Oakland Raiders announced late Thursday night that they’ve signed first-round pick Darren McFadden, the former star running back from Arkansas who was the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL draft.

Stay tuned for a more detailed story on our Website from our beat writer, Steve Corkran.


Hall breaks through


At 5:32 p.m. Wednesday, cornerback DeAngelo Hall stepped in front of a JaMarcus Russell pass intended for Johnnie Lee Higgins and ran the other way with an interception.

Not earthshaking news, but a rarity in that it was the first time I’d seen a defender step make a play on the ball and make a clean interception without help from a deflection off the hands of an intended receiver during all the allotted media availability time through rookie minicamp, two organized team activities and three practices at the mandatory minicamp.

Thirteen minutes later, it happened again. This time it was Andrew Walter throwing into double coverage, withThomas Howard stealing the pass. He considered a lateral to Michael Huff, thought better of it, and kept the ball.

More quick hits from the evening session:

— Al Davis made his first appearance on the field at the minicamp.

— Visitors included former Raiders defensive tackle Chester McGlockton, who had a very brief exchange with Davis. McGlockton is working as an assistant coach with Hayward’s Chabot College and was accompanied by a few other members of the Chabot staff.

— JaMarcus Russell made jaw-dropping throw on a broken play, rolling to his right and flicking a pass that traveled 60 yards in the air to Drew Carter, who got behind Michael Huff for a big gain.

— Neither Fred Wakefield (knee) nor Javon Walker participated in the second practice. Neither did fullback Oren O’Neal, who sustained a knee injury in the morning session. That meant a busy practice for the only other fullback on the roster, veteran Justin Griffith.

Arman Shields (hamstring) missed his third straight practice, watching Todd Watkins and Chaz Schilens get plenty of work and have some positive moments.

— Practice ended with coach Lane Kiffin calling for a two-minute drill, putting 2:28 on the clock, giving the offense two timeouts and the ball at the 31-yard line.

The first team defense responded with Gerard Warren dropping Russell for a 10-yard “sack” on first down. On second down, Russell found Johnnie Lee Higgins for 9 yards to the 30.

Blitz fans will be pleased to note cornerback Stanford Routt got to Russell for a five-yard loss on third down, with Zach Miller failing to hold a short pass far short of the first down marker on fourth-and-long, with Russell under pressure by Kalimba Edwards.

The second team offense fared somewhat better against the second team defense. Andrew Walter hit Griffith against a blitz for a 12-yard gain on first down, with Will Buchanon dropping a Walter pass on second down.

That prompted a rebuke from offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, who barked, “That’s three drops today! Let’s go!”

The offense moved past midfield on another pass from Walter to Griffith. Walter had an an opportunity for a deep strike to Drisam James for a score, but Hiram Eugene made up enough ground to deflect a slightly underthrown pass.

An offsides penalty by Jay Richardson and a completion from Walter to Schilens got Sebastian Janikowski in range for a 46-yard field goal attempt. Janikowski missed slightly to the left, then converted when he got another chance, ending practice.

— Defensive tackle Terdell Sands, who has been playing both at the nose and three-technique and been working behind Josh Shaw, drew the eye of at least one sideline observer for playing with fire and emotion.

— Darren McFadden was one of several players working at fielding balls from a JUGS machine to simulate kickoffs.

— Wide receiver James Lofton throws his own passes during drills and was instructing his charges to “see the ball, feel the sidelines,” and was making one perfect pass after another on out patterns.

— The Raiders complete the minicamp with one practice today starting at 12:30 p.m.


Junking the backup plan


Got a call Saturday from a Raiders official who took exception to a reference to an interview conducted with Fred Biletnikoff on a Sacramento radio station.

In making a case for taking a flyer on free agent linebacker Odell Thurman, I included Biletnikoff’s contention that the Raiders had too many players of backup quality who were starting.

The Raiders’ position is that Biletnikoff wasn’t necessarily referring to the Raiders, but to the entire NFL, and that the interview if heard in its entirety was extremely positive in nature with regard to the future of the franchise.

I didn’t quote Biletnikoff because I had the contents of the interview relayed to me via e-mail and posts on this board, so I’ll take the Raiders word for it.

But I will say this _ if Biletnikoff wasn’t talking specifically about the Raiders, he could have been have been (or should have been). And the biggest reason he has reason for optimism regarding the future of the franchise is that the Raiders have attempted to bring in more players of starter quality.

The 2007 team refuted the myth that the Raiders have this seemingly endless reservoir of talent, just waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting NFL once they get the proper direction from the coaching staff. Even coach Lane Kiffin said picking a roster wasn’t all that difficult because there were so many players who didn’t measure up, and that he hoped it would be a tougher process in future years.

To look at the roster position group by position group is a perfect illustration of what Biletnikoff was talking about (regarding the NFL, of course, not the Raiders).

Quarterbacks: Josh McCown was signed keep the seat warm for JaMarcus Russell. Daunte Culpepper is hoping to hook on somewhere as a backup. Andrew Walter couldn’t separate himself from Aaron Brooks.

Running backs: LaMont Jordan was an excellent backup for Curtis Martin with the New York Jets. The Raiders made a calculated gamble in making him a starter. When Jordan is cut, perhaps this week, he probably won’t end up being a starter anywhere else. Justin Fargas had a terrific season once he moved in to the starting lineup, but his running style leaves him prone to injury and he has below avearge receiving skills. Hence the selection of Darren McFadden.

Fullbacks: It’s not really a fulltime position anymore, with fullbacks coming out for three wide receiver sets. Justin Griffith is a cut-blocker with receiving skills, and the Raiders hope Oren O’Neal can become a Lorenzo Neal-style power blocker.

Offensive line: Robert Gallery will never be the franchise left tackle, but he showed promise in his first year as a starting guard. Right guard Cooper Carlisle graded out as the Raiders best lineman last season. That’s two-fifths of a line. Jeremy Newberry made an admirable comeback but is now hoping to sign on as someone’s backup. Cornell Green’s picture may as well be next to the definition of “journeyman” in the dictionary _ the guy you want in case the starter goes down. Barry Sims was waived and at this point in his career is probably a reserve at best.

Kwame Harris struggled in San Francisco, but Tom Cable is convinced he could be the ideal left tackle. There are numerous skeptics, but then again who would have thought Cable could do what he did with the Raiders line last year.

At center, Chris Morris will compete with veteran John Wade and Jake Grove (if healthy) to replace Newberry. The hope is Mario Henderson can show enough to win the job at right tackle after a season of watching from the sidelines as a third-round draft pick.

Wide receivers: Ronald Curry has led the Raiders in receiving the last two years, but is at his best as a third-receiver in the slot, which gives him fewer snaps and means less wear and tear. Some of Jerry Porter’s best work came as a third receiver with Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, although Jacksonville is convinced he can be a high-quality starter. Tim Dwight signed, showed flashes and also a propensity to be injured near the end of his career. Johnnie Lee Higgins was a non-factor.

Coming to the rescue? Javon Walker, if he can stay healthy, and Drew Carter, who Kiffin said is working well with Russell. Plus a pair of draft picks, Arman Shields and Chaz Schilens.

Tight ends: No worries here. Zach Miller could hold the position for the next decade.

Defensive line: Since defensive linemen are often rotated in and out, the concept of starters is overrated. Derrick Burgess is a proven pass rusher who, based declining production the past two years, probably could use fewer snaps. The Raiders have invested heavily in Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands, and how they fare will go a long way toward determining how the Raiders play defensively.

Linebackers: Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard are among the best pass defending linebackers in the NFL, and if Kelly and Sands can do the dirty work inside, could have the opportunity to prove they can be stout against the run as well. As for the third spot, Sam Williams can’t stay healthy and Robert Thomas is a capable reserve because he can play all three spots.

Secondary: Stuart Schweigert is looking for work, probably as a backup, somewhere else. Hiram Eugene looked like a fringe player when given the starting position. Nnamdi Asomugha is a top-level corner, but Stanford Routt has yet to prove he can hold up every down.

Huge offseason upgrades came with the signing of Gibril Wilson at strong safety and DeAngelo Hall at cornerback. Wilson’s presence will allow Michael Huff the chance to justify is No. 7 overall selection in 2005 with playmaking skills instead of simply being a solid coverage player against tight ends. Hall pushes Routt to the nickel corner.

Even if Biletnikoff’s points were out of context, as I was politely told by a club official, it’s pretty clear the Raiders themselves realized they had a team with too many backups and took strides to make things better.