Can Mario be super?


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.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • Florida Pete


    just sharing…

    page down just a little…

  • Del 53

    Glad to have you back mate.

  • 4evaRaider Says:
    July 2nd, 2008 at 6:12 am
    408 where are you

    @ work now another 4 hour sleep night aaaaaaaaaaaaaa… I think I might have to move up 2 narcos

  • Raider4life

    F**k Sapp, F**k Baron Davis, F**k Adam Sniffer, F**k Jason Cole. Let’s all go to Arrowhead and stand for the whole game.

  • 4life

    Im In but we all gotta where home jearseys

  • Raider4life

    408–All Black. Nothing but Black!!! Stand the entire game. Make Arrowhead a sea of black. Oh and F**k the Chiefs and their sitting fans. Chiefs officials will be setting up a system so they can text them about fans who are standing or “unruley”. HAHAHA what a bunch of hillbilly morons.

  • Thanks for update, Jerry. Good to have you back.

    Offensive tackle is the Raiders weakest position on the team and a cause for much concern. Everyone knows skill players can’t do anything without a good offensive line. I am also worried about the defensive line. There isn’t much depth in either of the trenches and those are foundations of the football team. At least Tommy Kelly apparently isn’t the highest paid DT in the league anymore. No offense to him, but that seems to be a little much. Forget the injury, was he really the best DT in the league before he got hurt? Maybe he was, it just seems like he would have been making a bigger impact if he was.

  • Dakota

    Raiderrave Says:
    July 2nd, 2008 at 5:32 am
    If I may be permitted to interrupt all the talk about politics, race, religion, drugs, etc., does anyone know a site where I can find a sound byte of “there are 31 teams in the NFL………..and then there are the Oakland Raiders”..classic……my money says if anyone can find this, its Dakota

    Are you sure the line isn’t…”There are 27 teams in the NFL, and then there are the Pittsburg Steelers.” ???

  • RaiderDogg

    Welcome back Jerry

  • Dakota


    Sorry about Beard.

    Maybe you will pick up Gilbert to assuage the pain???

  • Raider4life

    Gilbert is gonna sign with Wash for $127 mil for 6 yrs. Warriors offered 100mil for 5 yrs.

  • Dakota

    Ouch…sorry Dogg.

  • RaiderDogg

    Dakota –

    The Beard claims he still wants to play for the W’s. He is an LA guy so I wouldn’t be suprised to see him in the Purple & Gold, although Clipper Red & Blue seems more likely. Hate to see him go, but Ellis is primed to be the guy. The W’s need a big man more than they need the Beard, as much as it pains me to see him go.

    Is Arenas worth over $100 million with a balky knee? He’ll stay in Washington anyway, they are offering him more $ than the W’s. With that being said I would welcome Agent Zero back with open arms, I just don’t see it happening.

  • RaiderDogg

    From what I’ve heard, Baron wants to be closer to his Grandma who lives in Compton, to be near her in her later years. He tried to buy her a house in a nicer area but she refused. So he upgraded her place instead, call it Pimp My Grandma’s Pad!

  • Jim (ct raider)

    post #9. i agree w/dakota. lakers in 5.

  • Dakota


    Glad to see you are not the madman they were after in Ill and Mo…I saw the connection to the states you have recently moved through, and I thought….hmmm, maybe Jim is the guy they are after!

    Glad I was wrong.

  • Nice to hear from you Jerry..

    Dogg, you too.

    I´d say throw Henderson to the wolves in the pre-season, it´s not like old Cornell Green needs a lot of reps anyway. Of course, we should put him in after Russell sits.

  • Raiderrave

    Dakota, in reference to #260, originally that was the quote, but, when I ventured out to Oakland a few years back to see the Jets beat the Raiders(2003?) as the Raiders came on the field, the announcement on the jumbotron said “there are 31 teams…..” havent been back so dont know if they still do that or not.

  • New post.

  • Jim (ct raider)

    caught the wrong man!!!!!! they usually do. by the way, i posted an incorrect episode i had last night on last blog. i was rushed to er because i an allergic reaction. throat completely closed and my face looked like will smith (hitch). they loaded me benedryl and other fine medicines. i thought it was strawberries because i’m allergic to tree nuts and all fruits but it was SOY MILK! Anyway, i was on the table and i said, “i can’t make dakota this happy!!!” haahaha I also thought, “i need to purchase those final 4 tickets (women’s bb) right away. I don’t want to sound too stupid (too late, i k now) but i honestly believe my dad was there (passed away). i think he fought for me because i haven’t purchased the tickets for my mom yet! haha i’m also asthmatic so they unloaded steriods in me. i think i’m not allowed to play in my softball league now! 🙂

  • Jim (ct raider)

    notice how i’m much more mellow

  • Exlaraiderseasonticketholder

    Dakota was right. He said Lakers in 5. But he meant next year. I said 6 games but meant next year!!! lol

  • Jim (ct raider)


    Nice! BUt you need some one physical. there as smooth as silk but as soft as chocolate ice cream. Except your Euros… they’re as soft as vanila ice cream with only milk!

  • Chris in NY

    Welcome back Jerry.
    Wow, how many beat writers would come back from a tough time off and dig in on reports from Rickey Dudley’s old basketball coaches to produce a thorough analysis of a second-string offensive lineman. In early July no less!
    I can’t imagine there’s another NFL team with a blog as thorough or insightful as this one.
    Thanks JM.

  • I have toadmiit I have almost 7-years clean. I used to
    be a tweeker myself, he is not doing meth. walker would not smoke cannabis{stays in your system up to
    30-35 days depending on your metabolism and body
    fat. walker was either buying coke,crack or
    prescrip drugs. it takes a recovering tweeker
    to see a crakhead. he was gonna gets some dope and
    phornacate with one or all the woman in his
    group I know I would if I was an addict in this
    situation. I don’t care just be ready to score
    td’s this season. what walker does in his own time
    is his bussiness the trick is don’t get caught
    or be stupid like he did.

  • Vinous

    It is always tough to get back to work after you suffer a loss. Welcome back Jerry, and was a very good blog today.

    Stay upbeat!