By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, September 22nd, 2008 at 5:43 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Aside from the continuing saga of coach Lane Kiffin, the most significant news had to do with injuries which could cost the Raiders two starters for their game against the San Diego Chargers Sunday at the Coliseum.
Defensive tackle Gerard Warren, who has been Oakland’s most dominant interior defender, has a torn pectoral muscle (it was originally identifed as a neck injury against the Bills). Right guard Cooper Carlisle, who left the game against the Bills and returned, has an ankle injury and may not practice this week.
While most coaches do their best to mask the seriousness of injuries, here is what Kiffin said regarding the Raiders two injured players.
Regarding Warren: “That could be a serious issue for us.”
Regarding Carlisle: “It’s bad.”
Not coincidentally, with Warren out of the game, the Raiders faded down the stretch against the Bills. That leaves Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands as the two remaining tackles. Kiffin also counts Fred Wakefield as a third tackle, but in reality Wakefield is a tight end/offensive lineman/defensive end who only recently began playing tackle.
The Raiders can also move Jay Richardson inside.
If Warren’s injury is for the longterm, the Raiders will be on the lookout for available tackles. It is doubtful anyone could be brought in this week to have an impact.
Carlisle was replaced in the lineup by Chris Morris, who would assume the starting role if Carlisle can’t play. The Raiders prefer to use Paul McQuistan exclusively on the left side.
(Correction: McQuistan, of course, is on injured reserve and out for the year. Brainlock after nine hours of travel headed home from Buffalo . . . thanks to those who pointed out the error)
Another injury of note belongs to Derrick Burgess, who has having an MRI for an triceps injury. Kiffin said it is conceivable Justin Fargas could rest another week, giving him two more weeks, including the bye, before returning to action.
Missed the locker room session while returning from Buffalo, making it just in time for Kiffin’s press briefing _ where the surprise guest was none other than Lane Kiffin.
Some quick hits:
– If the Raiders hope to get Kiffin to resign, it sounds as if they’re wasting their time.
“There’s no way I’m quitting, and that’s got nothing to do with money, at all,” Kiffin said. “That has to do with our players. I talked a lot of these players into coming here at some point – obviously, money has a lot to do with that – in free agency over the last two years. A lot of our coaches, I recruited them and their families to come here and build this thing together. So the last thing I’m ever gonna do is quit, the way that you guys are talking about quitting or even quit behind closed doors, as far as my energy or my passion towards getting this thing turned around.
“Because I believe we can turn this thing around. And there’s a lot of good things going the right direction, and I think we’re gonna turn it around.”
– Kiffin said he hasn’t spoken to Al Davis since before the Denver game and doesn’t feel it is his place to walk into his office and ask for a definitive statement one way or the other.
“There’s so many things to worry about running an NFL team and keeping this team together and coaching it, and our staff, that I’m not about to tell Al how he should be handling this situation,” Kiffin said. “He’s been doing this for a long time, has had great success in the league for a long time. I’ve got enough things to worry about, so I don’t need to worry about telling him how he should handle it. He’ll do what he feels in the best interest of our team, I’m sure.”
That was almost a compliment. He even called him “Al” instead of “the owner.”
– For those keeping score, ESPN and Fox Sports had Kiffin fired as soon as today, the NFL Network said Kiffin would make it through today but that Tuesday is a possibility.
– The bottom line? “Until Al Davis tells me I’m not the head coach, I’ll keep plugging away.”
– The bitter end against the Bills failed to serve as some sort of revelation that the Raiders ought to open things up offensively.
In fact, Kiffin sounds as stubborn as ever.
He talked about playing to position punter Shane Lechler in the fourth quarter and conceded, “It’s very foreign to me. That’s not the way I would want to manage a game. But it is where we’re at right now. And there’s no doubt in my opinion managing the game that way with the way we were playing gave us the best chance to win.”
– Linebacker Thomas Howard told reporters in the locker room Kiffin came to the back of the plane to talk over the game with Nnamdi Asomugha and Kirk Morrison.
– Kiffin said he expected everyone to be hurting with the end result.
“If you’re feeling good about yourself in this organization after that, then you’re not our type of guy,’’ Kiffin said. “Every person should be feeling they could have done something better. I know that’s the way I feel.’’
But he also found the silver lining in the black cloud in stepping up against a difficult opponent on the road.
“I compare that to last year, basically two similar situations where we went on the road, long trips, and that was Green Bay and Jacksonville, two playoff teams that we had to go on the road and play them in a tough environment, and we got handled pretty well,” Kiffin said. “As opposed to yesterday, where we outplayed them, we’re up by two scores with six minutes left. Once again, no one is pleased with the outcome or the way we finished. There are no moral victories, but I do like the direction that we’re going.”
– Kiffin credited Buffalo with speeding up the tempo on the Raiders defense with a “hurry-up, sperad out” situation and cited missed tackles as a culprit in the eventual demise.
If you’re looking for him to say they should have been blitzing . . . sorry. Kiffin said he leaves the defense to Rob Ryan but didn’t seem to have a problem with the strategy.
“Naturally you’re gonna be more conservative on defense in that situation, up by two scores, you’re gonna feel better about letting them complete five-yard passes and making a tackle,” Kiffin said. “And all of a sudden you miss a couple of those tackles and they go for 15, 20 yards now, where before you’re trying not to let ‘em get a five-yard completion. That happens a lot of times, and it happened in that game. And unfortunately, it happened fast.”
– Running back Darren McFadden said again he was unaffected by the turf toe injury against Buffalo _ he slipped at least four times _ but Kiffin ins’t so sure.
“Hardly anybody else had any issues with it but him so I’d be surprised if it wasn’t having to do with his toe,” Kiffin said.
– Film review indicated to Kiffin that Gibril Wilson deserved his 15-yard personal foul against Josh Reed.
“From what I saw on the film Gibril deserved to be thrown out. He clearly punched the guy. I don’t know what happened before that because you can’t see it on the film. I’d love to protect him in this situation but there’s no reason for that,” Kiffin said. “No matter what’s happened before there’s
no reason for that and it hurt us. It hurt us with field position and it hurt us by not having him in there. We’re playing Branch, a rookie, instead of a guy who’s one of the highest paid guys and one of the keaders of our defense. I don’t like the decision that he made. I’m sure
Gibril regrets it as well.”