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Can Mario be super?

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Tuesday, July 1st, 2008 at 2:25 pm in Oakland Raiders.

First in a series of concerns regarding the makeup of the 2008 Raiders with the reporting date approaching on July 25 at the Napa Marriott:

There is a lot of speculation regarding the Raiders’ potential problems at tackle, with most of it centering on the left side and free acquisition Kwame Harris.

I am more concerned about the right side, where it appears Cornell Green was in the process of holding off second-year man Mario Henderson during the mandatory minicamp and OTAs.

Harris, the way I understand it, was personally approved by line coach Tom Cable, who deserves the benefit of the doubt considering what he did with the Raiders line last season. The Raiders think they can take some of the pressure off Harris with quick timing passes and blocking help from fullbacks or backs in motion, and think Harris can be a real asset on the second level in the running game.

This isn’t a knock at Green, who is coming off knee surgery and beginning his 10th season. He is your classic veteran backup, a good locker room guy who can fill in in a pinch without a significant dropoff.

In other words, the perfect guy to have around to help out a first-time starter.

In theory, that would be Henderson, whom the Raiders traded up to get in the third round in the 2007 draft. Henderson was so raw he suited up only once even though Green was gone after 10 games with a knee injury.

Instead of seeing Henderson take a quantum leap after his year of learning, there have been more red flags than in the parking lot at Arrowhead Stadium.

It was more than simply the sight of Derrick Burgess racing around Henderson during the mandatory camp, and other linemen doing the same. Burgess can make a lot of linemen look silly, especially when they’re prohibited from firing off putting them on the ground. Nor was it the fact that other linemen were also getting past him.

It also wasn’t all that big a deal to see Cable get into Henderson pretty good on occasion, because that’s what Cable does.

It was coach Lane Kiffin’s assessment of Henderson’s issues which make you wonder if the 6-foot-7, 300-pounder is ready to seize the job and make his mark as an NFL player.

“Pads will be big for Mario. Mario’s got a lot of tools but he needs to become a physical player,” Kiffin said. “To play on this line, we want physical guys and so that’s where Mario is going to have to really grow.”

And then there was this:

“There was a lot of ability there when we picked him,” Kiffin said. “There were some questions about how physical he was, about his passion for the game, for the position, so we’re trying to improve that.”

So he’s an offensive tackle on a run-oriented team who is neither physical nor has a real passion for the game _ which only happen to be two of the most important attributes a lineman can have.

Perhaps Henderson isn’t physical because he is not yet sure of his footwork or responsibilities. He was a late-bloomer of sorts at Florida State and the same thing could be going on in the NFL.

The “passion” issue is more troubling. Kiffin talked of developing the trait, but is that even possible? You’re either passionate about something or you aren’t. If Henderson isn’t consumed by the desire to be a great player, it doesn’t seem likely to happen because his coach said it should. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a professional, a clock-puncher who works at his craft even if he doesn’t love it, but it certainly could prevent him from being an elite player.

The most striking example I can remember of passion being an issue with an emerging player was with tight end Rickey Dudley. In researching a lengthy profile on Dudley in 1998, I learned that all his basketball coaches absolutely loved him and his football coaches never knew what to make of him.

Dudley loved basketball. As a player at Ohio State, he was the team captain, most inspirational player and requested to defend the opposition’s best player so he could lock him up.

As a football player, Dudley liked the sport but never loved it the way he did basketball. It wasn’t his fault, really, because that sort of thing can’t be faked.

If Henderson has issues with passion now, it’s fair to speculate he may always have them.

Catching up

– So the police report says Javon Walker has a broken jaw as well as a fractured orbital bone. If that report is correct, and frankly I don’t know if the officers check with the hospital to verify medical facts, then Walker is either one fast healer or Kiffin was being overly optimistic in saying the injuries weren’t an iassue for training camp.

– Jason Cole’s Yahoo.com story which reported that Al Davis was second-guessing some of his offseason decisions drew a stern rebuke from Raiders spokesman Mike Taylor.

“You obviously don’t know Al Davis. Self-doubt is not part of teh equation with Al Davis. I’m not going to justify this tripe, this drivel by even asking (Davis) for a response,” Taylor said. “It’s ludicrous, it’s insane, it’s rumor-mongering and it’s irresponsible journalism.”

In one sense, Cole came off better in the Raiders eyes than Adam Schefter did when he reported (correctly, as it turned out) that Art Shell would be fired at the end of the 2006 season.

In that instance, the Raiders response was that Schefter was a “false rumor-monger.” Cole was simply involved in “rumor mongering.” Nobody said it was false.

Seriously, I have a hard time imagining Davis spilling all his doubts and fears regarding the offseason, not when the Raiders haven’t even reported to training camp.

If things don’t go well, the more likely scenario is silence, with someone else taking the fall.

– Warren Sapp told the St. Petersburg Times that his experience with the Raiders was “as dark as a black hole” and noted “stuff went on in that organization that shouldn’t go on in sports.”

What to make of it?

What did you expect? Sapp came from tremendous success at Tampa to a team with the worst record in the NFL during his tenure. Losing teams get bashed by departing players. All of them. Period.

Sapp is a more brash, profane version of Tim Brown _ a great storyteller and a remarkable quote, but someone who will fashion his answers for the best effect. When talking to NFL Films about the Bucs Super Bowl season, he said Jon Gruden took them the extra step and his hiring was necessary to get there.

Now he is saying Tony Dungy baked the cake, and all Gruden did was put on the icing. And you can make the argument that both answers are right.

Many thanks

A lot of people I talked to at my father’s memorial service Saturday who had read my blog regarding his death made mention of the string of heartfelt comments that followed the piece.

My family thanks you and I thank you.

I’d also like to thank Bay Area News Group-East Bay for making a “Toys for Tots’ contribution in my father’s name.

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  • Dakota

    Al Davis is responsible for the Raiders…he ruined us…hopefully he will fix us…but I am not holding my breath.

    I am afraid that Kiffin is pretty much gone after next year unless he goes 9-7 or better…

  • Johnny Rebel

    MR your a closet Tampa fan, you should go root for them but you are afraid the Raiders will start winning again so you hang around incase you need to jump on the badwagon this year.

  • Dakota

    MR is a fraud, a liar, and a pathetic 44 year old living in his mother’s basement…

    I only talk to him because I feel sorry for him.

  • http://none MR

    The Raiders aren’t the Raiders without Chuckie.

  • Dakota

    Your mom’s basement is not a basement without you MR.

  • Johnny Rebel

    Here is a little lesson about your boy Obama.
    http://gunowners.org/pres08/obama.htm

  • Johnny Rebel

    Gruden gets credit for blowing the big games for the Raiders, thankfully is he gone now.

  • Dakota

    MR, I hope your mom is a good cook at least…what else do you have to live for???

  • Dakota

    Okay, I will check in later to see the meltdown.

    Guitar Hero III on PS3 is calling.

  • Johnny Rebel

    MR needs a Dick Cheney doll to go along with his Barack Obama one.

  • http://none MR

    Chuckie had stylle. Chuckie had flair. He looked at me once. It was the single greatest moment of my life. There will never another coach like Chuckie.

  • Johnny Rebel

    He will be 1-2 vs the Raiders at the end of this season.

  • Johnny Rebel

    Everyone can feel the energy, its going to be a great season and a good team for the next few years. You got to make a choice MR sooner or later, riding the fence won’t get it done. You are either commited as a fan or not, you worry about things you cannot control. If you are afraid of rooting for a team becaue they have been loosing then find another team and quit bitching.

  • http://none MR

    Johnny Retard When the 1 out of the 1-2 is the SUPERBOWL, I wouldn’t brag about it.

    Come back Chuckie.

  • Johnny Rebel

    When you have been to 5 Superbowls and won 3, I can brag all I want.

  • Johnny Rebel

    All under Davis, Gruden will never even come close to matching it. Go root for Tampa or are you too cowardly to take a side and stick with it?

  • http://fixthebold.com Terrapin

    Jerry – Henderson is truly a big question mark in my book (heck almost that whole line is). However, I’m not going to read too deep into that “passion” remark of Kiffins. I can’t say whether or not it was taken out of context – that is, if he really meant Mario had no desire for the game or was he referring back to the physical aspects of Mario’s play that ‘we need to “improve” upon’. I can’t say. Only Kiffin, Cable and Knapp can.

    Either way, a Super Mario would be a Godsend but I’m not holding out too much hope. A lot can change in one year and lights do go off; but from what I remember of him from last preseason, the boy was Super Green – too green as a matter of fact. He has a lot of potential but needs a lot of work.

    If Mario ends up resembling a dominate or just above average Tackle that’ll catapult this offense 2 years ahead of itself (and I know we all want it now). If the sucks – nothing changes – we’ll just be stagnant and have an eye out for better Tackles.

  • http://none MR

    SilverNBlack666, at least you got my hyperlink right. Oakglenn always screws up and leaves “Raiders.com” when posting under my name. You’re smarter than him. Then again, that isn’t hard to be. Continue cloning me. You’re doing fine. You’re about a 7 out of 10 on the cloning effectiveness meter.

  • http://none MR

    Anyone who doesn’t wish we had Gruden back considering the last 5 years obviously doesn’t care about winning. I’d take Gruden back 10 times out of 10, and most Raider fans probably would.

  • http://none MR

    SilverNBlack666 dreads bringing back those winning ways. It’s no fun. Winning does get boring. But those of us fans with an ounce of dignity actually would prefer it.

    SnB, you’re just not cool enough to be a devil worshiper. So what’s with the 666? You’re just a KISS fan, aren’t you? Do you dress up for the concerts? What a dork. You’re divorced, aren’t you? If you aren’t, you will be soon.

  • http://none MR

    Johnny Rebel, you’re right. I’ve got to make a choice, so I’ll make one. I’m giving up on Al Davis. If we win, I’ll give Kiffin the credit. There. The choice is made. I’m no longer riding the fence regarding Al Davis.

    Go Raiders!!!

  • http://none MR

    Gruden would have taken last year’s Raiders to the SuperBowl. He could turn a grown man to stone with a LOOK. You can’t teach that kind of charisma.

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    Jerry thank you … thank you … thank you… everything gets better with time

  • http://none MR

    The last five years of my life have been wasted rooting for the Raiders without Chuckie. Seeing Chuckie in Tampa colors is a pain that gets worse every day. If you guys had any guts you’d admit you feel the same way.

  • El Dirty

    LMN
    No Red Bulls lately this is the recover period. Just victory smoken for the good month!

  • http://none MR

    Just admit it would be a rush to watch Gruden roam the Raiders again. Gruden is the biggest star to ever wear the Silver and Black. The franchise will never recover. Deep down you all know it’s true.

  • Florida Pete

    MR Says:
    July 1st, 2008 at 8:36 pm
    The last five years of my life have been wasted rooting for the Raiders without Chuckie. Seeing Chuckie in Tampa colors is a pain that gets worse every day. If you guys had any guts you’d admit you feel the same way.

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    drinking again???

    chuckie ain’t built no dynasty down here…

    in fact… his record is pretty ordinary…

    oh… let me help you with your response…

    “well, ‘ordinary’ would be a huge improvement over the 19-61 nightmare that i, personally, have suffered for the past five, count ‘em, five, years…

    “and oh, did i mention 9-11″…

  • Florida Pete

    Anybody who wants to post under someone else’s name, I’m just retarded enough to think it’s the real person, and I’ll even respond to it.

  • Florida Pete

    Every time that piece of mail shows up that says I won 10 million dollars, I always fall for it. Always call a couple of relatives to announce it. The first two will just laugh at me but usually the third or fourth will let me in on the fact that I didn’t win anything. Hey, I’m from Florida. Give me a break. So please, people, stop posting under other peoples’ names, because I can’t tell the difference.

  • http://www.raiders.com Oakglenn

    MR, how’s my ass taste? Ha ha!! Yes!!!

  • http://none Bob Marley

    MaddenRaider, I’m sorry I lied yesterday. Yes, at first I tried to say that Sapp was referring to Turner and Shell, then in the same breath I said that Sapp was lying. I figured most people in here would be stupid enough to buy it all. Usually, they are. But you were here, MR, and you called me on it. Big props to you.

  • http://raiders.com 408RAIDER

    MR wtf is up i saw that im a choker fan thing .. dude not cool @ all ….

  • http://none MR

    Gruden would’ve kept Moss happy and he wouldn’t have wasted Russell’s rookie year. We would’ve won another 3 SuperBowls by now. You never know, Billy Martin returned to the Yankees several times. I still hold out hope for a Chucky return to Oakland. Al can’t live forever.

  • http://www.raiders.com Oakglenn

    MR, Gruden was the best coach we’ve had since Madden. I hope he comes back, too. But Kiffin’s close to him. Anyone who runs the team and just ignores Al’s nonsense is ok with me.

  • http://none MR

    I know you want him back Oakglenn. We all do. Props to you for being man enough to admit it. Don’t worry. He’ll be back. He just has to. It’s just not the same without him. It’s like the all the air went out of the baloon the day Chuckie left Oakland. We need Chuckie. I like Lane but he just doesn’t have that steely glint in his eye like Gruden did. He could make a grown man cry with one look. That’s what I call talent.

  • MR is a Liar and Hater

    MR..do you have that crystal ball visionary karma thing goin..you know how everything turns out..if your so good at knowing all..why dont you see yourself as a liar and hater..why cant you change..does that crystal ball only work in your favor..or against what other may say..you should try to ask the crystal ball why you are a loser on this blog..nite and day always..and why you cant pull chicks..most hate you..i feel very sorry for you..have a great work shift tonite..i enjoy you remarks in the mornin..

  • Darkhorse

    Great to have you back Jerry!

  • MR is a Liar and Hater

    MR Says:
    June 17th, 2008 at 11:52 am
    # BART Bridge Balla Says:
    June 17th, 2008 at 11:47 am

    MR isn’t a racist, he hates everybody.

    ………

    You know? I can agree with that. I don’t hate everyone, literally, but I do hate most people. I believe the human race has peaked and is on it’s way down the sewer, and there’s absolutely no stopping it. So, yeh, I’ll take that label.

    MR Says:
    June 28th, 2008 at 12:09 am
    Hey, about the bet with Dakota. I lied to him. Big deal. I respect the respectable. Dakota? Come on. I’m here. Deal with me, ladies.

    ..
    Enuff said, also a gutless man
    ..
    any more truthful tidbits you have to explain..any time is the right time..so you lied to dakota…do you lie to your mom an dad..i bet you have lied all of your life..i guess you could be called a thug..just bringin up the points you have been preachy about recently..

  • MR is a Liar and Hater

    Mr..looks like you left..i will leave and you will come back and say i cant hack with you..no prob..i will be back manana..im off to a party..chicks may be there..in your honor i will go easy on them..you sensative dude you..no pullin here..late

  • http://none MR

    No pullin here either. Not since Chuckie left town. I’m relly drunk.

  • http://www.Raiders.com Oakglenn

    MR why are you posting as me again??

  • http://none MR

    Becase you get mad.

  • jraider

    Good to have you back JMac.

  • http://www.Gaylove.com MR

    But mainly because I let men pound my 5hole

  • http://none MR

    194 is not me. Every one knows I’m a top. Your dad knows, Oakglenn.

  • http://www.raiders.com Oakglenn

    MaddenRaider, as much as I don’t like you, we’re agreed on Gruden. I really do miss him, too. I see shades of him in Kiffin, though. Like Gruden, Kiffin knows what it takes to win and thumbs his nose at crazy Al.

  • http://www.raiders.com Oakglenn

    196 is not me!!! Dammit, Jerry, what can we do about this? This isn’t fair, Jerry. People are posting under my name. I want action to be taken, at once. I’m sick and tired of this, so sick and tired of it I might actually consider leaving this blog.

  • http://www.raiders.com Oakglenn

    Who wants to talk football? Just ignore the trolls, everyone.

  • http://www.raiders.com Oakglenn

    MaddenRaider, how’s my ass taste? Ha ha. Yes!!!

  • http://www.raiders.com Oakglenn

    I pull chicks!!!