The Raiders’ offense may not have gotten even with the 49ers during Wednesday’s second practice session, but gave a measured, physical and professional account of itself without feeling the need to retaliate.
With the 49ers gleefully celebrating over a red zone drill in which they intercepted JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski four times, you wondered if the Raiders might attempt to get something started, hockey-style, when the two sides met again.
Instead, Robert Gallery dropped Kentwan Balmer on his back with a clean, legal block on the first play from scrimmage during the team session, opening a hole for Justin Fargas, and the Raiders simply went about their business.
Oakland still had difficulty getting the ball downfield to wide receivers, although Darrius Heyward-Bey made a pair of nice grabs, one from Gradkowski and another difficult catch from Jeff Garcia on a crossing route.
Garcia was the most effective of the Raiders quarterbacks, moving well and spreading the ball to different receivers.
Russell didn’t deserve his only interception, a pass slightly behind Johnnie Lee Higgins which bounced off his arms to the 49ers’ Reggie Smith. The 49ers got another interception on the last play between the two teams until Saturday night, with Marques Harris stealing a Charlie Frye pass intended for Samie Parker.
Russell did have two passes deflected by 49ers defenders and struggled with his accuracy.
The Raiders defense, despite giving up three touchdown passes to Vernon Davis in a four-play span at one point, also acquitted itself well, Raiders coach Tom Cable said.
“It was a tremendous response. Defensively, really lights out on third down,” Cable said. “Just want to see us make a couple of those throws down the field. You saw one get tipped and you saw one get dropped, and one got tipped and intercepted. So I just want to clean up those three plays. Third-down run looked good, blitz looked good there at the end. Two of ‘em I thought we mis-keyed it, but other than that pretty good.”
Cable was pleased the Raiders didn’t come out wild-eyed and overanxious after the morning practice.
“I think we’re starting to turn the corner in terms of understanding, `Hey, this is what (the morning practice) was, and now we have to come back with the right way to handle it,” Cable said.
More news and notes:
— Cable said Lorenzo Neal had not been secretly considering retirement and that his departure wasn’t voluntary.
Instead, it had more to do with the recovery of Oren O’Neal, who missed all of last season after having his anterior cruciate and lateral collateral cruciate ligaments repaired and having his hamstring re-attatched to the bone.
“I think it says a lot about O’Neal,” Cable said. “I think he’s really got back out here, got back into it. He gets better and better with each day.”
He said the Raiders hadn’t thought ahead to the 53-man roster, but surely Cable and Al Davis realized that keeping two fullbacks who were essentially blockers with limited receiving skills was a luxury. Not when it meant a developing block-and-catch back such as Marcel Reece or a versatile halfback/fullback such as Gary Russell would have to be cut to make room.
— One bit of concern _ at the end of the first practice. O’Neal appeared to be in considerable pain. He sat on a bench collecting himself for a few moments then walked very slowly into the field house. He didn’t practice in the second dession, watching in a baseball cap. But that isn’t unusual, in that O’Neal hasn’t been going in both practices during double-days.
— Rashad Baker was cut by the Eagles Tuesday, and ended up back in Oakland the following day. Baker was a special teams player for the Raiders last season who gradually worked his way into a prominent role as a third safety in some defenses. He led Raiders safeties with three interceptions and was tied for the team lead.
It also allows the Raiders to be patient with Mike Mitchell, (hamstring) who Cable conceded earlier in the day may not be ready to play when the regular season begins.
“(He was) a heck of a special teams player and a guy who really worked himself into being that third safety when Tyvon (Branch) went down last year, so it gives us good depth.”
— Cable confirmed that wide receiver Chaz Schilens had surgery Wednesday morning. Breaks of metatarsals often require screws to promote healing and make the affected area stronger. Cable put Schilens’ absence at four to six weeks.
— Cable on Heyward-Bey’s progress: “I see his progression, how to release, how to run routes much better. Now it’s just getting him confident that he’s going to catch every ball. Not most of them, but every ball.”
Heyward-Bey did have one drop in the afternoon session, admittedly on a pass by Russell which was slightly behind him and thrown at a high velocity.
— Offensive tackle Cornell Green did not finish the second practice after being poked in the eye but is expected back for Thursday’s single session. Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t finish practice because of his sore heel. Asomugha expects to be nursing his heel and hip flexor until a week or so before the regular season and said it’s been a common issue for him during camp.