News and notes from Wednesday’s Raiders practice:
— The Raiders had their longest practice of training camp, which coach Tom Cable says was the plan all along.
It would be hard to blame him for keeping things going just so he could keep watching a passing offense that looked to be putting things together.
Keeping things in perspective, the Raiders had their first units playing against scout teams again as they game plan for the New Orleans Saints.
So they should look good.
But that hasn’t stopped them from having desultory passing sessions for the better part of the last three years regardless of their practice opposition.
During the team and seven-on-seven sessions included in a two-and-a-half hour practice, that changed. Instead of seeing balls strike the ground with alarming frequency, receivers ran crisp routes and caught passes just as they were coming out of breaks.
JaMarcus Russell was extremely accurate, Jeff Garcia had his moments and Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye occasionally got into the act.
Instead of a parade of checkdowns and block-and-release throws to tight ends, virtually every wide receiver got into the act.
Darrius Heyward-Bey may have had his best training camp practice. Yes, he had a drop, but he also had what may have been his best catch _ a play in which he came to a stop, reached back to catch a Frye pass that went behind him, and somehow caught it while falling to the ground.
“Right after he caught it, I said to him, ‘Your mistake is you showed me you can do that and so now the expectation goes up,’ ” Cable said. “But he had a great day catching the ball. You all saw that. That catch right there would be difficult for anybody.”
Heyward-Bey shrugged his shoulders, called the catch “normal,” and said it was all in a day’s work.
“It’s a catch that needed to be made,” Heyward-Bey said. “I was working for the scout team, just went out there, ran a play, caught it.”
Tight end Zach Miller, who a week before said he was hoping for a “legit” offense, was appling adjectives to the potential of the passing game which seemed laughable after a practice meltdown against San Francisco.
“As soon as our offense gets that rhythm and our quarterbacks are on time with the receivers and anticipating them coming out of their breaks, our passing game is unstoppable,” Miller said. “It’s all about timing, rhythm and quarterbacks having trust in their receivers that they’re going to be in there break at a certain yardage, coming out at the right time.
“As soon as they’re feeling them and they’re letting the ball loose on time, you can’t defend it.
Cable called for a repeat performance Thursday morning, the Raiders’ last practice in Napa.
“We’re getting there. We’re getting closer,” Cable said. “I want to see us come out in the morning and do the same thing and build some consistency. When we’ve had a good practice or two, we’ve kind of tailed a little bit, so I’d like to just see us keep it at a high level. But it’s getting there.”
Said Johnnie Lee Higgins: “If we don’t do it again tomorrow, we wasted our time.”
— Cable said he was pleased with the session all the way up to the end, which was out of view of the media.
“Loved all three phases until the last period,” Cable said. “It was a long practice and I wanted to push them a little at the end.”
— Additional practice highlights are available on my Twitter page.
— Among those who didn’t practice included WR Chaz Schilens (foot), T Khalif Barnes (ankle), DE Matt Shaughnessy (foot), C John Wade (stinger), RB Justin Fargas (hamstring), LB Kirk Morrison (elbow), LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (shoulder), S Hiram Eugene, S Mike Mitchell (hamstring) and P Shane Lechler (groin).
Cable said those who could possibly play against New Orleans included Shaughnessy, Ekejiuba, Eugene and Lechler.
Cable said Eugene has missed the last two sessions with the stomach flu. Eugene told reporters he was out with a pectoral strain.
— Two new players, cornerback Michael Hawkins and defensive tackle Joe Cohen, got in their first work as Raiders. Hawkins was released recently by Tampa Bay after being released by Dallas. Cohen was cut loose by Miami.
Jason Horton was waived/injured and received a settlement, and wide receiver Samie Parker was waived to bring in Hawkins.
“We wanted to add a little depth along the D-line and get some more speed at corner,” Cable said.
— Cable said he still considered cornerback spot opposite Nnamdi Asomugha an open competition between Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt. Johnson at times was running second teams, with Routt moving inside as the slot corner when the Raiders went to nickel.
— Tight end end Brandon Myers needed an I.V. for cramps following practice.
— Advertisers for KSFO (560-AM) made for one of the biggest practice crowds of the season. Following practice, quarterback Jeff Garcia walked alongside a fence and signed an autograph for every fan who wanted one.
Russell, meanwhile has discovered a backdoor route out of the field house and was later spotted in the hotel lobby, where there were fewer autograph demands and no media requests.
— Barnes orchestrated a portion of the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to Cornell Green. When Green attempted to exit through the gate to avoid the serenade, CEO Amy Trask brought him back.
— According to an ESPN report, Napa police will talk to Tom Cable about his alleged involvement in an incident that left defensive assistant Randy Hanson with a broken jaw.
The Napa police have not updated their statement after announcing they were reopening the invesitgation of one Raiders coach being injured after an altercation with another Raiders coach.
— Al Davis has a Napoleon complex. A search of Profootballreference.com reveals only four players in pro football history named Napoleon. Three of them have signed with the Raiders _ Napoleon McCallum, Napoleon Kaufman and Napoleon Harris (twice).
The other Napoleon was Napoleon Barrell, a 5-foot-8, 200-pound center who played for the Oorang Indians in 1923. No way Davis could tell if Barrell had “Raider speed.” He wasn’t born for another six years and was probably 15 years away from dominating stickball games in the streets of Brooklyn.