By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 8:21 pm in Oakland Raiders.
There are two ways to deal with a media brushfire.
Attack it head on with the facts, maybe even be proactive, and snuff it out before it starts.
Or just go silent, let the fire rage, and act as if it’s none of your damn business.
Guess which one the Raiders picked after it finally leaked out that a Raiders assistant coach, presumably Randy Hanson, was hospitalized after being punched by another coach, reportedly Tom Cable?
“It’s an internal issue and we’re dealing with it, and that’s all I’m going to say,” Cable said following practice.
Cable invoked the same answer when asked if he was involved, and declined comment when if Hanson was still employed by the Raiders. Hanson wasn’t with the team in Napa.
After being informed one last time there were reports that it was he who had punched Hanson, Cable said, “I’m not going to comment on that. No comment.”
It was at that point a public relations employee terminated the press briefing.
A few things worth noting:
– When Raiders players chanted, “Cable, Bumaye,” during warmups, it is not in and of itself any proof that Cable slugged Hanson.
It was, however, hilarious. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said it started with Justin Fargas, with others joining in. “Ali, Bumaye,” was what Ali fans shouted in Zaire as they rooted for him to take down heavyweight champion George Foreman, and it roughly translates to “Ali, kill him.”
It was a big part of the documentary, “When We Were Kings,” which recounted “The Rumble in the Jungle.”
If Raiders players had heard the story of Cable clocking Hanson before Monday, they were doing a pretty good job hiding it. Most had just begun to hear about it Monday afternoon as it infiltrated the Internet, first through the National Football Post and then AOL Fanhouse.
The chant was nothing more than a light moment breaking up another day of camp drudgery.
– Cable and Hanson have not been confirmed by anyone on the record as the combatants. According to the Napa Police Department, a 41-year-old coach was briefly hospitalized. Hanson is the only 41-year-old coach on staff, and he has been conspicuously absent of late.
– Hanson is so anonymous that he hasn’t been at practice for days, ostensibly since the altercation on Aug. 6, and few people even noticed.
“He hasn’t been around here and we haven’t seen much of him,” safety Hiram Eugene said. “They keep him in the offices.”
“I think guys were just finding out in spurts so it’s not like there was an announcement made,” cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said.
And what a great announcement that would be _ Cable standing up before the team and giving official notice that he’d dropped an assistant coach a little more than half his size like a stone.
– Is it possible Cable didn’t do it? Near as I can tell, there are no witnesses who have been quoted by name.
But if Cable didn’t do it, then why wouldn’t you at least proclaim your innocence? By saying they were dealing with the matter internally, Cable is essnetially confirming there is a matter that needed to be dealt with.
For what it’s worth, ESPN’s Mark Schlereth said he talked to Cable and was told, “nothing happened.”
If nothing happened, then why not say it again in front of cameras and recorders?
– Cast Cable as some sort of Raiders renegade hero if you wish. But if Cable did send one of his assistants to the hospital, is this the guy you want teaching self-control and discipline to a team desperately in need of self-control and discipline?
Players get in scuffles all the time. Coaches on the same staff rarely do. They get in disagreements, raise their voices, but don’t often go the Buddy Ryan route against Kevin Gilbride, even behind closed doors.
– Hanson was the same guy who got under the skin of Lane Kiffin, who suspended him for one game, said he had medical issues and then tried to fire him. Al Davis backed Hanson.
A little background _ Hanson’s lifelong dream was to become a Raiders coach. He truly lives and dies silver and black, knows every detail about every player. The philosophies are engrained him him. I’ve been told by more than one person that Davis listens to him.
Hanson’s name will no doubt come up in the matter of Kiffin vs. Davis and the firing for cause. So if Hanson doesn’t return to the staff, expect him to remain in Alameda.
– Curious to see how the NFL handles this, if they’ll handle it. It’s a dead issue with the Napa police unless Hanson presses charges. The NFL, particularly in the Roger Goodell regime, doesn’t always concern itself with due process.
Then again, what can Goodell do if he doesn’t get straight answers and a cone of silence?
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith faced league suspension for slugging a teammate, with the league stepping aside when the club invoked the penalty.
More news, notes and quotes from Monday’s single session, with the 49ers coming to Napa for four practices in the next two days:
– Jeff Garcia returned to practice and was immediately installed as the backup quarterback. He moved well, without a limp, and hopes to play against the 49ers Saturday. Cable said he thought Garcia looked a little rusty but had “good command as you would expect from someone who has played that much.”
Garcia ran as No. 2 until he gave way to Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye toward the end of practice.
– The defense closed out practice with two stops with the offensive series getting the ball with 1:12 left on its own 15-yard line.
JaMarcus Russell failed to get a first down in four plays on his series, even though he connected with Zach Miller for eight yards on first down.
On second-and-2, Russell’s slant to Chaz Schilens was broken up by Chris Johnson and nearly intercepted. He went deep down the right sideline on third-and-2 to Schilens and wasn’t close, and on fourth down, Miller dropped a potential first down pass which could have been thrown better but was catchable.
Gradkowski’s series ended with an interception by Darrick Brown.
“Great job by the defense at the end there to get out of both two-minute drives and, obviously, the interception that would have ended the game,” Cable said. “So well done by those guys.”
– Garcia said his goal was simply to make the 53-man roster, although he laughed when he said it.
“I haven’t practiced in two weeks it starts to make me feel a little bit like I’m on the outside and need to work my way back in,” Garcia said. “I’m no spring chicken, either, so it’s one of those things where, it’s just the way this league is, you always feel like there’s that possibility out there, so for me it’s just important to be back out on the field and hopefully contribute in any way that I can.”
– One of those moments that looked good in a camp practice but could be disasterous in a game _ Gradkowski made a high throw which Zach Miller caught with a leap, and would have been leveled during a full contact situation.
– Having criticized Fargas’ ability as a receiver, it’s only fair to to note that he made a terrific one-handed catch while twisting back to the ball, beating Kirk Morrison on a post to the goal line.
– Not practicing were WR Louis Murphy (hip), Marcus Johnson (calf), John Wade (stinger), Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder) and Mike Mitchell (hamstring). Michael Huff didn’t finish practice with a sore quad.
As for Mitchell, Cable said the strong safety is at least a week away, meaning he’ll miss the 49ers scrimmages and game.