News, notes and quotes from Saturday’s minicamp practice and media availability sessions:
— Ended the previous report by noting the apparent lack of fire and enthusiasm, so it’s only fair to offer up a possible reason following Tom Cable’s press briefing _ it isn’t always loud and boisterous in a classroom.
From system changes on offense to fundamentals on defense, Cable has stressed a teaching atmosphere. He said he could see the effects of how much was being asked of the rookies on the second day, which he thought was at least part of the reason Darrius Heyward-Bey struggled to catch the ball.
“They got a lot thrown at them. What they got in a day for two practices they’d probably get in a week and a half, two weeks, of spring football,” Cable said. “So right now he got that same thing again this morning. What he got in two days is probably what he got in entire spring football. So there is a lot on his brain. Probably worried a little bit too much `am I in the right place’ in terms of routes and maybe not focusing enough on the football.”
— Cable and JaMarcus Russell made reference to how well the quarterback was throwing earlier in the practice before being erratic late (most of the on-target passes came against no defense at all).
Russell is unconcerned and said he is pleased with his progress.
“I have guys who are new targets for the ball. I try to put the ball in great places to give the team a chance to catch it,” Russell said. “That’s what we’ve got practice for.”
Said Cable: “At times, it seems kind of streaky. In the early part of practice he was really hot, and then he was a little erratic,” Cable said. Same thing, yesterday. As you look at it, some of this is new for him too, some of the concept that is going in, yet it plays to him, because it is down the field more. I think it’s just a matter of getting comfortable with it.”
— Last year when the Raiders gave Javon Walker a contract which paid him $12 million in his first season, he said there were no more issues with his surgically repaired right knee.
Walker now says he has been playing in pain since his orignal surgery as a member of the Broncos and said he was “probably 65 percent” of his former self.
If true, it means whoever gave Walker a physical before the contract was signed has some explaining to do.
Walker said last year’s training camp episode about considering retirement _ only to be talked out of it by Al Davis _ had to do with the pain he was feeling in his knee.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to play football. I still got a love for the game. It was that I was going to retire from the pain,” Walker said.
Walker said he decided to have the surgery on his own _ he declined to go into specifics about the procedure _ because he thought it was the best thing for himself and that he didn’t want to bother the club during draft preparations.
“The Raiders have been a great organization to me,” Walker said.
Cable and the Raiders are hoping for the best.
“We knew there was an issue, it’s almost like he was never getting over it,” Cable said. “So here we are, the key issue there is he’s really excited about it, feels good about it, so if we can get back the Javon he would used to be that’s really exciting for our offense.”
— Jeff Garcia has been flawlessly diplomatic in his acceptance of being Russell’s backup quarterback since his arrival. He said he is fine with being called a “mentor” by Cable, and had some interesting observations about what Russell can pick up from watching him.
“Deep inside we’re all competitors and we all play this game to be on the field, to not be on the sidelines,” Garcia said. “Hopefully that competitive drive is just what allows JaMarcus to increase his own competitive spirit.
“The greatest understanding that needs to come out of all this is that this is a small window in our lives. It’s a small window of opportunity to and to make the most of this opportunity. And if that means you need to put more pressure on yourself to strive to be better, to do the little things that are going to make you better, then that’s what we all need to do. Hopefully that’s something that he will see in me in the sense of how I approach every single day.”
— Conventional wisdom, always a dangerous thing, has it that either Mario Henderson or Khalif Barnes will eventually be shifted to right tackle since they would appear to be the two best tackles in the roster and that the Raiders would want both in the starting lineup.
At this point, there’s no rush to make a move. Cable said he would be comfortable with waiting until preseason games if such a move was made and that it wouldn’t take that long for a player to be accustomed to working on a new side.
Barnes, having worked almost exclusively on the left, didn’t sound so sure, and it’s typical to hear linemen talk of the difficulty of moving from one side to the other.
“I really haven’t taken a right-handed stance since my last years at Washington,” Barnes said. I really don’t expect that, but you don’t know how things play out in this league.”
Barnes is fine with his current status as a backup, given Henderson’s performance late last season.
“I knew I wouldn’t just come here and they plug me in there right away,” Barnes said. “I don’t think that would happen. But like I said, I’ve only been here a couple months. Sometimes you got to get a feel for how a guy picks up stuff, how fast he can learn how to get the system down. And like you say, Mario and those guys started last year, so it’d be fair to pick up and start again like this.”
— In explaining why play wasn’t halted after false starts or encroachment during the morning session, Cable said, “I think the old saying about you get what you emphasize, so if you want to make a big deal out of it and panic over it right now, then they’ll worry about that. I’m more about them playing well and learning. I want them to come out of tomorrow when we’re all done saying I understand the new terms, newe words, new thought, my new coaches. All those things. That to me is the most important thing right now.”
— LG Robert Gallery sat out part of practice with a calf strain incurred during conditioning a couple of weeks ago. G Paul McQuistan will practice once a day a as he rehabs from knee surgery. Cable is not sure if Derrick Burgess will practice this weekend.
— Will file another update following the afternoon practice session . . .