By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, August 9th, 2009 at 8:24 pm in Oakland Raiders.
For the record, Darrius Heyward-Bey walked out of the field house behind the Napa Marriott with no sign of a limp and was not wearing a protective boot.
Tom Cable said as much after Sunday’s heat-is-on practice, easily the hottest session of the season. Heyward-Bey, although suited up, did not participate in team sessions and worked on a separate field doing hands drills with intern/quarterback Danny Southwick.
Following practice, Heyward-Bey first spent five or 10 minutes on a bench talking with Sanjay Lal, at one point showing him a push-off maneuver.
“Heyward-Bey’s got a sore toe,” Cable said, later adding that it was nothing serious and they simply wanted to be smart about it and not “prolong” anything.
Which immediately brought to mind Darren McFadden, who looked to be among the best rookie backs in the league during training camp only to be rendered average because of nasty cases of turf toe on each foot.
McFadden’s injury started innoncently enough in Week 2 and dragged on throughout the season. So it was worth the wait just to make sure Heyward-Bey didn’t emerge wearing one of those protective boots which came to symbolize the rookie season of their 2008 big money draft pick.
“Just being smart,” Heyward-Bey said, echoing Cable. “I’ve had this injury before, on the other foot, you’ve just got to be smart with it. Don’t want to do something stupid.”
Heyward-Bey is told that toe injuries are a sensitive subject, given McFadden’s rookie year, and asked if his condition was “turf toe.”
“Trust me. I know all about feet and toes,” Heyward-Bey said. “I know what turf toe feels like. This is just a sore toe.”
Heyward-Bey said he didn’t know if he would be available to face Dallas Thursday night and would find out Monday.
More news, notes and observations from Sunday’s padded practice:
– Cable, who had been hoping for more heat, apparently has some juice. It was above 90 degrees Sunday afternoon.
The Raiders started a bit slow during drills, and were exhorted on by assistant coaches to pick up the tempo and the enthusiasm. Things picked once they got to more competitive team sessions, and play was spirited (Stanford Routt and Nick Miller scuffled) if not exactly crisp.
“We needed a little bit warmer weather, we got it, and we did a nice job today of pushing through and dealing with that so it was good to see that happening,” Cable said. “Now, with the weather the way it’s going to be in the next few days, that should really help us.”
Team sessions and seven-on-seven sessions were heavy in red zone and third downs, with lots of blitzing. Cable, as coaches usually do, claimed it a good day for both sides.
– JaMarcus Russell, who ran hot and cold with his passing at the Raider Nation Celebration, was inconsistent again Sunday and at no point strung together more than three good passes in a row during team sessions.
The hot weather, if it holds up, could be a good thing for Russell. When he arrived at camp, Russell admitted to being “a little heavy,” rather than falling back on the “he’s a just a big guy” company line espoused by the organiation as well as teammates who have his back.
You’d prefer that Russell arrive in top shape, but short of that, conceding he has a ways to go is better than disregarding the issue as irrelevant. Fighting through the heat could bring him out the other end in better condition, even if his performance suffers for a few days.
– Still no Jeff Garcia (calf), meaning it’s unlikely he’d play against Dallas. Meanwhile, Bruce Gradkowski keeps getting reps with the second team, but to the untrained eye he seems to be being outplayed decisively by Charlie Frye.
– Impressive play in coverage drills between running backs and linebackers _ Oren O’Neal made an inside fake on a pass rout that flummoxed Kirk Morrison to the point where O’Neal made the catch with Morrison a good seven yards away. Caught it away from his body, as smooth as Jon Ritchie, too.
– Another offsides for Tommy Kelly. Seems to me I remember this being an issue with Chester McGlockton, and to a lesser extent, Darrell Russell. They attempt to anticipate the snap, and when they happen to hit it right, they blow the play up from the outset.
But it’s annoying as hell to the coaches when it doesn’t happen.
“Watch the ball, please!,” defensive line coach Dwaine Board said following the play.
– In the middle of practice, Gerard Warren had his hands and knees on the ground gasping for air. He arose and looked a little like George Foreman staggering to his feet in Zaire, only to get back in the mix and finish practice.
Not only did Warren finish, but he kept up a running commentary which would have done Warren Sapp proud, at one point telling Board, “PeeWee, the tackle is stabbing me.”
No evidence of weaponry was found.
– Strong safety Mike Mitchell slapped himself in the helmet and uttered an expletive on a play in which John Paul Foschi broke five yards into the clear in the flat and caught a pass for a gain. Mitchell, an impressive physical specimen, is struggling in coverage and spending a lot of time talking to defensive backs coach Lionel Washington.
– Cable said he had not begun to work out playing rotation for the Dallas game Thursday night. The Raiders have a single practice Monday at 3:30 p.m., a double session (8:30 a.m., 4:20 p.m.) on Tuesday and a walkthrough Wednesday.
– Johnnie Lee Higgins (leg soreness) was held out of team sessions although he suited up. Zach Miller left practice with his left leg wrapped from below the knee to just above his ankle. Linebacker Jon Alston, running second team at strong side linebacker behind Ricky Brown, left for a time with an ankle injury but returned.
Justin Fargas and John Bowie did not finish practice with unspecified injuries, but both seemed fine as they left the field house. Mark Wilson (back) was working with the training staff and given his spot on the depth chart, is nearing the “can’t make the club in the tub” classification.
– Lal, the first year wide receivers coach, met with the media for the first time, and I’ll post that interview later . . .
– Additonal practice observations can be found on my Twitter page.