Quick hits from Thursday morning’s practice:
– He may not have had his best fastball, but JaMarcus Russell was felt good enough to rejoin practice and make due with off-speed stuff, choosing to simply flick his wrist rather than unleash the full power of his $60 million right arm.
In his first team session, Russell completed two of five passes, one a short pass to Johnnie Lee Higgins and a dump-off to fullback Oren O’Neal. Michael Huff broke up a sideline pass intended for tight end Darrell Strong, a screen to Louis Rankin fell incomplete and Derrick Burgess pressured him into an incomplete pass.
In Russell’s second team session, there were two more short completions.
During seven-on-seven drills, Russell was the victim of a perfectly-played pick by Nnamdi Asomugha, who stole a pass intended for Arman Shields in stride and ran the other for what would have been a touchdown.
“You can see a little bit of a velocity issue with him right now, different from normal,” Kiffin said. “I think that will go away here pretty soon.”
Kiffin said the staff watched Russell closely and that trainer Rod Martin gave the go-ahead to continue.
Russell acknowledged he wasn’t 100 percent but wasn’t comfortable watching from the sidelines.
“I just wanted to get out here today just so I could get back in practice,” Russell said. “I don’t really like sitting out and watching guys bust their behinds when I can be out there doing something. Just anything out there I can help.”
– Right guard Cooper Carlisle and right tackle Cornell Green were given the morning session off, with the Raiders reshuffling their line to accomodate the absence of two starters. Seth Wand got some work at right tackle, Chris Morris at right guard, and Mario Henderson has been working on both sides.
– Speaking of Henderson, it sounds as if Kiffin’s patience has about run out on the first of three third-round picks in the 2007 draft. During the offseason, Kiffin said the Raiders were working on Henderson’s lack of aggression and his passion for football.
It sounds like Kiffin and line coach Tom Cable haven’t made much headway. Rather than shift into coach-speak when asked if Henderson was challenging Green at right tackle, Kiffin was blunt and to the point.
“No, he’s not pushing him. We’ll continue to move Mario around to both sides,” Kiffin said. “Mario is not improving the way we’d like him to so we’ll just continue to push him. But it’s not close right now.”
When asked if Henderson needed to shore up a particular area, Kiffin said, “No, it’s everything right now. Unfortunately.”
– Sounds like Javon Walker, the free agent aquisition whose salary suggests he is the No. 1 receiver but whose practice play has been so-so, will begin getting some extra work starting Monday.
Kiffin said Walker and Fred Wakefield, rehabbing from a knee injury, would begin working twice per day Sunday when the 49ers visit Napa.
When asked if Walker was making progress, Kiffin said, “There’s progress being made. I wouldn’t say as much as I’d like at this point so we’re going to continue to push them. I think pushing him back into two-a-days will help him.”
– Defensive tackle Gerard Warren missed with a thigh injury sustained Wednesday night. Kiffin said he didn’t think the injury was as serious as one that hampered Warren last year and said he was day-to-day. Tommy Kelly sat out as scheduled and should practice tonight. Cornerback John Bowie (knee) did not practice.
Safety Greg Wesley (back spasms) was back at practice but did little of note.
– Defensive tackle Terdell Sands, who has avoided speaking with reporters for the first week of camp for reasons that ranged from a team meal to a team meeting to a doctor’s visit, stopped and chatted for a few minutes.
He conceded to being in better condition this year and was affected last season by the death of his mother.
“I lost my mother last year, so that was very big,” Sands said. “You lose anything like that, some things take tolls on you. You lose things that are aspects of life right there. That’s behind me. I’ve got to push on this year.”
Sands said he takes responsibility for the Raiders’ run defense in 2008.
“I take it all, because they look for me to be a big part of it,” Sands said. “And like I say, I wasn’t mentally in it, so I did some gap responsibility and all my true effort wasn’t out there. I thought I was. But when I watch film, it really wasn’t like I was the year before. So I take responsibility and put it on myself.”
Sands declined to specify how much he weighed last year and how much he weighs now.
– Kiffin has taken to visiting with members of the Raiders’ personnel department occasionally during practice sessions. Wednesday it was Bruce Kebric, Thursday it was Kent McCloughan.
– Defensive tackle William Joseph was worked over by Chris Morris and Jesse Boone on consecutive plays during a blocking drill. Kwame Harris buried Kalimba Edwards on another.
– McFadden was fielding kickoffs along with Hiram Eugene, Rankin, Adimchinobe Echemandu and Tyvon Branch, prompting Kiffin to be asked whether the Raiders’ biggest off-season investment might be utilized on that role.
“He’s such an explosive player that it’s something we have to look at,” Kiffin said. “Part of that will be determined by how the other returners do. Let’s say Branch in preseason is returning great. Then it’s not worth it. If you have a great return situation to put Darren out there that may not be worth it. If we’re struggling, then it becomes more valuable to us.”
Said McFadden, who has been in camp eight days and has had a sunny and agreeable disposition for every one of them: “I don’t know if they’re going to use me back there or not but I’m always prepared for it.”
– Practice joggers for pre-snap violations included Harris, Robert Gallery, tight end Chris Wagner and defensive end Greyson Gunheim.
Gunheim, an undrafted free agent from Washington, actually protested his lap, telling Kiffin that Henderson had first moved his leg, drawing him offsides. Gunheim was right, by the way.