News, notes and quotes from the Raiders training camp practice Monday:
— The Raiders have two more practices before they break camp in Napa, but have already begun to go into their Alameda mode.
Instead of having the first team offense against the first team defense, and second team offense against the second team defense, and so on, JaMarcus Russell and Co. were operating against a defensive scout team, while the lead defensive unit worked against offensive players who may not be around when the club cuts to the final 53.
The result was the Raiders passing game, which has relied heavily on running backs and tight ends with occasional spurts by the wide receivers, involved the wideouts heavily. Russell opened with a perfectly thrown deep cross to Louis Murphy and a nice connection to Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Coach Tom Cable said involving the wideouts more heavily was the result of “being a little bit more dialed in about some game plan thoughts for this week. It’s the first itme we’ve game planned anything this offseason adn we wanted to focus on that a little bit more.”
— It was a play Javon Walker has done hundreds of times before, only not in the last nine months.
In his first practice after being elevated from the Physically Unable to Perform list, Walker found an open area, sat in it, and caught a pass from Jeff Garcia.
Walker didn’t do much else _ truth be told he worked a lot harder on his rehab days than he did during a full practice session. But if all goes according to plan, Walker will practice again Wednesday and Thursday and see game action Saturday night.
“The rehab part is the hard part,” Walker said. “The easy part is getting out there and catching balls.”
Walker said it felt good to know he could still “get in and out of breaks against NFL corners,” (hold the jokes about being the defender on his reception being John Bowie), and noted, “the catching for me has always been the easy part. The hard part is, OK, what’s the quickest way to the end zone? That’s what I try to figure out.”
Walker didn’t get a lot of work in with Russell, and couldn’t work with him at practice while on PUP. It’s something Walker will need to work on if he hopes to ascend on the depth chart.
He spent part of practice catching passes on the sideline with intern Danny Southwick.
“From my Pro Bowl year to the year in Denver to my rookie year I’ve always done that,” Walker said. “I’ve always just played catch because I treasure catching. I don’t drop the ball. That’s not something to get back in the groove. I’ve been doing that for the last eight years.”
Said Cable: “(He) looked a little rusty but he ran some good routes, caught some balls, looked decent in individual. We’ll kind of bring him along a little more each day as we go through the week.”
Walker said he isn’t concerning himself with earning a role as the lead receiver.
“What I expect is to be No. 1 in my ability that I know I can be,” Walker said. “I expect to be No. 1 in the plays that I know can make. I expect to be No. 1 in my confidence.”
— Napoleon Harris, the starting middle linebacker for the Raiders in their AFC championship season of 2002 as a rookie first-round draft pick, arrived to help pick up the slack for the injured Kirk Morrison (disclocated elbow).
There’s no guarantee that Harris will be around much longer than the man he replaced, cornerback Ricky Manning. Manning was a Raider nine days and struggled in coverage from the outset.
“A lot of new faces,” Harris said. “It’s not the same Raider teams I played with but, hopefully, we can have some great results like we did the first year when I was out here.”
— Cable avoided criticism of Terdell Sands while discussing the elevation of Harvard undrafted free agent Desmond Bryant to the second team.
“I don’t know if I’d say disappointed (with regard to Sands),” Cable said. “I just think it’s a young guy stepping it up. He just continues to improve daily and played really well Saturday night.”
Bryant said the jump from Ivy League to the NFL hasn’t been as daunting as he thought, and said, “Obviously that was my ultimate goal, to make that progress. I didn’t know what kind of timetable I’d be able to make it, so at this point I feel like I’m doing a great job. There’s always going to be room for me to grow.”
— ESPN dispatched a reporter hoping to get to the bottom of the Randy Hanson/Cable issue and didn’t get any elaboration from the coach, although he did say he hasn’t been contacted by local law enforcement or the NFL.
— Safety Rashad Baker, who arrived last week, had an interception in practice and has performed much as he did last year when he had three interceptions. He said despite the turnover on the defensive staff, “it’s still Raider football,” and described his role as a free safety as unchanged.
“That’s one of the freedoms of being a free safety in this defense is you get to read the quarterback and make plays downfield,” Baker said. “You’ve got great corners on the outside and you’re in the middle of the field, if you’ve got good vision, you’re able to make plays and I’m grateful for the corners we got so that I can roam a little bit.”
— Running back Michael Bush seemed pleased but not overly excited about a chance to start Saturday against New Orleans.
“It’s the preseason, and I really haven’t been getting a lot of work,” Bush said. “We’ve been rotating. So it’ll be something fun.”
Bush has learned to wait his turn, having spent his rookie year rehabbing a broken ankle even though he thought would be activated, and then doing a lot of watching last season before exploding for 177 yards agaisnst Tampa Bay in the season finale.
“You kind of learn to go with it,” Bush said. “There’s not a lot you can do about it, you know what I’m saying? I’m not rushing to do anything spectacular or anything like that. I mean, it’s normal.”
— Russell was running sprints following practice along with some linemen, including defensive tackle Gerard Warren.
— Those who didn’t practice included Chaz Schilens (foot), Khalif Barnes (ankle), John Wade (stinger), Justin Fargas (hamstring), Matt Shaughnessy (foot), Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder), Kirk Morrison (elbow), Jason Horton (toe) and Shane Lechler (groin).
Tight end Brandon Myers didn’t finish practice with a tight quadriceps and Hiram Eugene was out with the stomach flu.
The Raiders, attempting to simulate a game week right down to the 1 p.m. kickoff, will take today off and pick up practice Wednesday.