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Tom Cable on the draft

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A transcript of Tom Cable’s press briefing Tuesday regarding the Raiders and the NFL draft:

Cable: All right, let’s talk, what do you got?

Q: Who are you going to pick?

Cable: I don’t know. There’s a lot of choices. Really good choices. This is an exciting time for us because we have a chance to make our team better, so there’s a lot to choose from We can go a lot of different ways. I think that’s a good thing, in that we’ve got about three or four real needs that we need to address, so we’ll kind of sort it all out and see what we do with it.

Q: Being at 7, there will be guys projected to go high like Crabtree, Raji, who had things that, their stock has dropped or there are some red flags, does that help that top three talent could be available to you?

Cable: You know, it might. A lot of that, though, is really speculation, none of those things are really real other than maybe the injury to Crabtree, so some of those other things, you know, they are what they are, but when you really dig down and look at it, they’re probably OK. They’re probably OK in the way that they’re evaluated and the way everybody sees them.

Q: Think that was the case with Darren McFadden last year, why he was there at No. 4?

Cable: No, if you look at the draft last year, it’s probably about right, it’s about right, and where the first back would go this year would probably be somewhere in the same area, so it’s about right.

Q: Are you getting a lot of action or attention at No. 7?

Cable: We hear a lot of things. We hear about players. We hear about where we’re positioned. So there’s a lot of things go on. It’s really an interesting time, in that there’s so much involved with that pick. You just kind of listen to everything and see what happens.

Q: Assistants have always been involved in the talent evaluation process, but now as head coach how have things changed for you?

Cable: It’s the same. We’re all doing it. The staff has been great. The scouting department has been phenomenal. Jon Kingdon and his his crew has been outstanding. The thing I’ve probably noticed more this time around than before is how much we’re all in this on the same page, and we see things a lot the same way. Maybe that’s a product of being around each other awhile longer, and them knowing me, and all that, but the staff has done well. I think we have this thing pretty well evaluated, and it’s just a matter of seeing how it sorts out, and what’s best for us.

Q: But in terms of strategy, who is selected, whether you trade up or down, I imagine there is a level of that kind of strategy you’re involved in that you weren’t before . . .

Cable: It is, and you’ve really got to look at, what’s the best thing for us at seven? Is it to stay there, is it to move. What’s the best thing in terms of, is the right player there? Is he not? Do you move back? Do you get more picks? All those things. So that part is kind of exciting for me.

Q: If Raiders have moved back with first round, I can’t recall it . . .

Cable: I don’t think there’s a lot of history to that, yeah. I’ve looked at that myself.

Q: But that’s an option . . .

Cable: It has to be. Has to be, based on what’s in the draft this year, for this year, 2009, and the types of players that are there, where the strength of the draft is, all that. I think you have to consider that.

Q: Has what you done in free agency altered your thinking?

Cable: It has altered it, because we did some things on purpose. We did the trade for Satele, the signing of Pears and Khalif Barnes. I think those three guys probably helped do some things. But as I mentioned before, the last time I spoke with you, the strength of this draft may be at the tackle position.

Q: See a guy who fits what you do at the tackle spot?

Cable: There’s four of them. There’s four of them that are outstanding at that position. Outstanding.

Q: You said three or four needs, elaborate?

Cable: I’m not ready to do that yet. I’m going to be specific as we get closer to the draft and kind of dial that in.

Q: How does your line shape up at this point heading in to the draft?

Cable: I think it’s in the right spot. Maybe needs another guy. That potentially could be at that tackle spot. We’ll just wait and see.

Q: Al said he wanted to add power to the zone blocking scheme . . . what does that mean?

Cable: Michael Bush. A little stronger, maybe, I don’t know. Power to the zone blocking scheme . . . maybe just have a little more consistency, like the Tampa and Houston game there, I’m not sure.

Q: Would it in any way mean drafting a bigger lineman, or at all adjusting what you do?

Cable: Oh, no. No. For one guy, you’re changing 10 others. You would never do that.

Q: Is there enough Crabtree on film to ignore the lack of 40 time?

Cable: Yeah, he’s on film, he’s all over the place. He’s a great player, he is, he’s a great player so I think just looking at your normal evaluation of tape, of what he’s done throughout his career, there’s plenty to see. You know who that guy is.

Q: Even healthy, Crabtree might not have posted an elite time?

Cable: Probably not.

Q: Any room for a guy like that in this offense?

Cable: At the end of the day, it’s about touchdowns and production and if you look at that, there’s probably nobody better, you know? Nobody better.

Q: Jeremy Maclin remind you of Higgins?

Cable: I don’t know. I haven’t really looked at it that way. I haven’t compared them like that yet. Now I’m going to do that next week, OK, as we get closer but it’s not time to do that. It’s really time just to prioritize where they’re at by position, who you think the best player is down to whatever and then we’ll get down to what we need specifically next week and do the comparison.

Q: Upgrade in run defense at year’s end, but really soft overall, do you look real hard at the draft to address that or already have the players in place who need better schemes?

Cable: Well I think it’s all three things. I think you got to look at your scheme, you got to look at how you’re coaching it and you got to look at your players and does the draft help any or all of those? Maybe. Do you have enough to do it with here? Yeah, I think so. We gotta clean some things up how we teach it within the scheme. But certainly you want to add and make your team better every chance you can.

Q: How concerned with lack of depth at safety?

Cable: Well it’s a concern. Maybe that’s one of those priorities I mentioned earlier. As we get going into that, we kind of know what our team is and you’ve got to know what the draft is and how’s the draft fit your team, or how your team fits into the draft, and that’s what I think next week’s gotta be about.

Q: Lost two fullbacks last year, Griffith and O’Neal. O’Neal was coming along slower. How is he now and do you expect him for training camp?

Cable: I think the hope is he’ll be ready to start at training camp. He is progressing. Because of the type of injury and everything, there is good days and bad days but he is getting better and it is progressing so I think the plan is still at training camp we’re ready to go.

Q: Is Javon Walker been here and how is he doing?

Cable: He is working. He is not here but he is working and he is healthy, cleared, good to go, for sure.

Q: Schilens and Higgins play change your draft plan?

Cable: It could. You’ve got two young guys who made some plays there at the end that kind of has you excited and do you add to that, do you have enough with those two plus who you have on your team? It’s exciting to think about what those two did and what they’re capable of as they get better and mature so it’s just a matter of do you need more and how do you need it.

Q: What is Jeff Garcia’s role?

Cable: To be very clear in his role, his role is to come in and be a backup that you can go in with that, if necessary, he plays and then second I think it’s important that you have a guy that’s a pro in there that’s really been through a lot. You think about his career, going to Canada, coming back to the NFL, going to the Pro Bowl, being in the playoffs, doing all that. So he’s seen a lot, done a lot and I’m hoping, my goal was, that he would create an environment in that room with JaMarcus to kind of take him where we’re trying to go. I think his role is pretty well laid out and if the opportunity comes to that we have to have him and he’s got to go in and play, you feel good that he can go in there and win for you.

Q: Work ethic a consideration . . .

Cable: Mmm-mm, all those things, he’s a pro, he really is. He understand what it means to be a starting quarterback in the National Football League. He’s done it. He’s had some failures, had success, had a lot of stuff in between so I think this will be a great tool for JaMarcus to grow from.

Q: Lot of interaction between the two at quarterback school?

Cable: Those guys have been going at it. Jeff is such a competitive guy, and going at it with JaMarcus and JaMarcus is taking to it and it’s been everything I’ve wanted it to be so far.

Q: Would you term Garcia a `mentor?’

Cable: Why not? You know, why not? I think that’s a good way to look at it, in many ways.”

Q: Would the dynamic of the offense change if Garcia were in there?

Cable: Not really. I mean, maybe you run more keepers, naked or boot with him because of that. But I don’t think you can change, you can’t have two separate schemes in. You got 10 other guys you gotta worry about.

Q: Is getting Russell help the theme of this draft?

Cable: I think the theme of this draft is to make this football team better. We’ve got enough issues on both sides of the ball that have to be addressed. I think we’ve done some of that. But at the same time you’ve gotta make sure we take care of this football team, and so we’ll do that. Next week we’ll really dial it in.

Q: Did you sign Khalif Barnes expecting him to start?

Cable: I signed him expecting him to compete. Mario did a great job at the end there. And Mario Henderson ain’t going away, and that’s a good thing for our football team.

Q: What have you learned about the players you’ve had in for visits?

Cable: You learn a lot about who they are, I guess is the best way to look at it. That’s what I’m trying to do is, build a team that can be good for a while, a team that can do it right, as you’ve heard me say, and take care of the little things the way you’re supposed to do on a day-to-day basis. So I’ve tried to learn about those kinds of things from these guys as they come to visit. You know, you find out interesting things when you kind of get ‘em away from the combine and get ‘em away from the agents, so to speak, and just get ‘em relaxed and talking with you one on one, and just picking their brain, see what they know football-wise and those kinds of things. So it’s been good.

Q: Have you had any of the consensus top 10 guys here?

Cable: We’ve had a number of guys, and we’ll continue to have a number of guys. I’m not gonna go into who we brought in or any of that stuff.

Q: What were you trying to communicate when you talked about JaMarcus at the owners’ meetings?

Cable:That he has to embrace being a starting quarterback in the National Football League. It’s like you and your house. You’re the head of the household. And he has to be, as the face of the organization, he has to accept the responsibility that comes with that. So to compare to being the head of the household, I think is pretty fair. That’s a huge responsibility, regardless of what your age is, where you’ve come from or this or that. If you’re gonna be that, you’ve got to embrace it. And he’s doing that. And I think it was just to reassure him, hey, I see that in you but you gotta keep doing it. You gotta do it all. You gotta do the full circle, if you will.

Q: And have you seen more from him since?

Cable: Oh, yeah, absolutely. That’s the part of it I’m excited about right now. He’s doing everything you’d want and then some. So we just gotta keep him on that course.

Q: How’s his ankle doing?

Cable: He’s good. There’s no issues. He’s training, running, doing his drill work, everything that you’d normally be doing. No issue.

Q: You’re allowed an extra minicamp. Will you use it?

Cable: I’m actually doing some things different for a reason. Our strength program is so right for this football team, meaning we’re getting stronger and bigger. I like the games we had last year, I like what we’ve done thus far this year, so I don’t want to take away from that and take time off for that. The other thing is, I’m having a quarterbacks school. That’s the most important thing on this football team, is getting the quarterback position to a level which we can succeed at. So I think that’s far more important. I like where we’re at training. I don’t want to mess with that at all. We’ve had tremendous, tremendous attendance. And then we’ll go ahead and have our minicamp and get with OTAs and all that after the draft.

Q: Has even Derrick Burgess been around?

Cable: We’ve had a lot of players here. I think we’re at like 88 percent or something. Who’s been here and who’s not, I don’t want to talk about that cause it’s not an issue. They’ve all been around somewhere, somehow, but consistency-wise, some have been here more than others. Most of this team has been here every day.

Q: Have all of your QBs been at quarterback school?

Cable: No.

Q: Which coaches are taking part in the QB school?

Cable: we all do. We all have a part in it.

Q: your thoughts on Andrew?

Cable: wait and see and see where he’s going to compete and fit on this football team and all those things that go with trying to earn a job in the NFL. He’s got an opportunity just like everybody else.

Q: Has he said he wants to be a Raider?

Cable: I really haven’t had discussions with him about that. He’s a Raider. That’s the way I’ve looked at it.

Q: What are some of the things you’re doing in QB school?

Cable: I don’t want to talk about that.

Q: Does Crabtree playing with the stress fracture show take away concern about the injury?

Cable: Sure it does. He’s a good player. Flat out, that guy’s good. A good player.

Q: how do you weigh talent vs. a compelling personal story, like Michael Oher, for example?

Cable: No, I know the background very well. Some of those things, at the end of the day, it’s still about can this guy help you be a championship team. Sometimes all that other stuff is good, sometimes it’s bad. But I don’t think that’s any part of it until you know who the player is talent wise and what he brings to the table as a football player. Then you start to find out who brings those extra things. those things the kind of salt to the earth things if you will. Or who maybe strikes themselves out based on their past.

Q: and if two guys are equal maybe that can give a guy an edge?

Cable: I think we’re all that way. Yeah, I think all coaches are similar that way.

Q: do all the things the guys did in college get lost since they haven’t played in months?

Cable: You’ve got to keep it real. You really do. You’ve got to keep it to who they are as football players. The level of talent they played, who they played against, and being able to compare players that way because you do get into this. A l ot of meetings and interviews. They sit down with a reporter this week and do that then they go on some blog and do this and then their agent and do that. Then pretty soon that doesn’t have to do with anything. It’s still about, like you said, who is this player, what is this player and you’ve got to really keep that real.

Q: Your opinion on a rookie wage scale?

Cable: I’m not involved in any of that….happily.

Q: how has this team improved without the big-name signings?

Cable: First of all I didn’t think you need to take this football team and add some names or high salaries to it. You needed to get the core re-signed. Like a lechler, like an Asomugha, like a Chris Johnson and a Cooper Carlisle. Those guys to me were really important. Tony Stewart. Maybe he doesn’t have a huge role but he’s got a big role in that locker room and on this football team. Certainly getting three offensive linemen added to that group helped us in a big way. Getting Ryan boschetti signed, gives us another depth guy at the defensive tackle spot. And another guy that I’m familiar with because I came into UCLA as he was leaving so I’m familiar with him and what he brings to the table. So those things were important. And that for me, and you guys are getting to know me, that far outweighs signing some name or some big salary because that didn’t do a damn thing for us. This team needed to be taken care of from inside out and then add to it through the draft and so forth.

Q: Thoughts on opening with San Diego?

Cable: That’s perfect for us. That’s perfect. That’s perfect. That’s where it should be for us. We need that game. We need San Diego to come in here, we need to do it at night so everybody can watch us. We won the last two games we played in that mattered. It’s a great time for it. They’re a great football team. They’ll have Merriman back, they’ll have LT, everybody will be fresh and ready to go. It’s perfect for us. We need that right away.

Q: So you eagerly anticipate the schedule release?

Cable: I do because you want to kind of look at it and see how it all kind of fits together, where you’re going to travel, maybe some of your planning as the season goes, part of maybe that last couple weeks of camp and those sort of things. If you’re going to do a bunch of traveling right after that San Diego game maybe you want to pull back a little bit or whatever that is. There’s no question that the teams that get started usually are the freshest teams, then the teams that really get a second wind come Thanksgiving, they’re the ones that if you look at the history of this thing, typically are your playoff teams and do something in January. You’re trying to position yourself to do that. You have to start preparing to do those things.

Q: Have you seen it yet?

Cable: No. I know we play San Diego that first one and then Dallas at Thanksgiving. That’s what I know.

Q: Does it help to have all four preseason games and opener on West Coast?

Cable: You mean the preseason and the … I think it’s fine. I think it’s fine. We traveled enough. You think about last year’s travel, it’s amazing. I think we’ve done that enough. We have to go to where … New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Houston. That’s not bad compared to the really six East Coast trips we made l ast year. That’s a pretty good deal.

Q: Can you compete with Chargers with only adding five draft picks?

Cable: I do. I do. First of all I know what specific players we need and I’m hoping that the draft shows that to me in the next two weeks and as we get through all these meetings. I know exactly what we need to beat those guys and where we need to be to have a chance to compete in the division. Hopefully the draft will bring that to us.

Q: Can you single in on one guy at No. 7 like you did in past two years or is it too difficult?

Cable: I think it is. Because of what can happen in front of you. You’re kind of sitting right there where if you start moving around or whatever it may really help you or it may not help you to do that either. There’s enough that could happen in front of you that could change that mind-set. I don’t know that this team could say, ‘You have to have this right now.’ I think it’s a matter of what’s the best thing for us at No. 7 if that’s where we stay.

Q: Have you narrowed down to few players?

Cable: Four spots. I’m not going share them with you either. But I know we need one of four guys.

Q: Anyone changing positions?

Cable: One thing we have tried to do is to just get into our team and really know it. We started out doing that right away. As we got through the combine and all those things, we went back and looked at our team one more team before we started this actual draft process. I think we’re pretty secure that way in terms of knowing who we are and what we are. We like what we’ve added and know we need about four spots to come to us here and if they do we feel like we have a shot.

Q: Any spot for Huff on this team?

Cable: I think so. Everybody here gets the opportunity to compete. Michael is a talented, talented player. You hope that he’ll put his best forward and go for it. I think he will. Knowing him, I think he will.

Q: Are you looking forward to getting your hands on a high-profile offensive lineman?

Cable: If that’s the best thing for us, absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve never had one like that, so, yeah. There’s a part of me that would say, ‘Yeah.’ At the same time, is that what this team has to have right now? I don’t know. I’ll know next week.

Q: Do you get more excited breaking down film of offensive linemen?

Cable: Oh, yeah, especially, like I said, there’s four legitimate guys that can play for anybody, regardle ss of what your scheme is and probably all four can play left tackle. It’s a luxury if ever there’s been one, and I don’t know if there has ever been that many good ones in the first round like that. But there is this year. There has always been a number of first-round picks, don’t get me wrong, but some were right, some were left. These four guys probably can play left.

Q: Doesn’t this system allow you to find someone in the later rounds who can fit?

Cable: “Yeah, but remember your question was to get one of those Cadillacs.

Q: Is Andre Smith one of the four O-linemen you’re talking about?

Cable: “Absolutely. He’s a dynamite player. Dynamite.

Q: Does Russell understand Garcia’s signing isn’t a threat to his status?

Cable: Oh, absolutely. It wasn’t a matter of where I went to him and talked to him about it. It was a matter of explaining, this is what we’re planning to do and we want you to be aware of it. This is what you need to take from it. JaMarcus is a pretty smart kid, now, so he understands that and, as I mentioned, he has embraced it and so I like where we’re headed.

Q: How has the new coaching staff come together?

Cable: Thus far, I would say I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s better than I thought, for a couple reasons. One, the way they have all fit together offensively and defensively. Second, my want and desire was to hire good teachers, as I mentioned, and to go out and watch these guys teach on the field. Great detail. If you ask the players; and that’s really where I have gotten my feedback from, is to hear our linebackers talk about Mike Haluchak or to hear the defensive linemen talk about Dwaine Board or hear the receivers talk about Sanjay Lal. All those things, just the feedback I’m getting from the players has been very positive. So, I’m really pleasantly surprised that it’s come together. Well, now, there’s a lot of work to do still. So, let’s just stay the course.

Q: How much have you changed the offense during the offseason?

Cable: “There’s been some change. How much? That’s probably for another day. There has been change. It has been good change. My focus right now is just on the strength and the speed and athleticism of this football team.

Q: Nice that the dysfunction is somewhere else, like Denver?

Cable: (Laughter). It’s someone else, huh? Yeah, you heard it. I visited with Josh at the (owners’) meetings, we talked about it just briefly. That’s not my issue. I’m glad it was someone else dealing some of that stuff and not us.

Q: Does that help out the Raiders?

Cable: “We’ll see. Any time a team loses its starting quarterback, it’s definitely difficult. But we’ll see.

Q: What will John Marshall’s defense look like compared to Rob Ryan’s?

Cable: There will be a lot of similarity. Hopefully, we’ll just be maybe a little more fundamentally sound, a little more structured.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer