News and notes following Raiders practice and a press briefing from coach Tom Cable:
— Free safety Hiram Eugene didn’t practice and won’t play against Denver, meaning Michael Huff will go back to being the fulltime player at that position after intercepting three passes as the deep safety in the nickel defense.
“He’ll just play more. But we’ll have a plan in terms of backing it up in with Tyvon (Branch) and Mike Mitchell, perhaps John Bowie,” Cable said.
— Johnnie Lee Higgins is on schedule to face the Broncos Sunday after doing more in practice Thursday than the day before.
Higgins would return punts, serve as a wide receiver and Cable didn’t rule out using him on kickoff returns. Louis Rankin has averaged 18.0 yards on six kick returns, getting the job when Nick Miller was diagnosed with a shin fracture before the opener.
“I’m not a person who likes to sit on the sidelines and watch,” Higgins said. “ In Kansas City, when we came out of the locker room I still had the shakes and everything and was ready to go and I looked down and was like, ‘I ain’t even suited up.’ Just sitting on the sidelines, that’s really not me.”
— Justin Fargas will be active against Denver, will see some times on special teams, perhaps even in coverage, and don’t be surprised if he gets a carry or three. Cable said Michael Bush will continue to back up Darren McFadden, but likes what Fargas adds to the running game.
“He runs so violently, he changes tempo,” Cable said. “He as a starter kind of sets tempo for you. My opinion is, you need his energy and you need his intensity that he brings to the game.”
When asked if Fargas could have helped against Kansas City, when the Raiders managed 67 yards on 25 carries, Cable said, “There is no question.”
Fargas’ lone 100-yard game in 2008 came against Denver with 24 carries for 107 yards in a 31-10 by the Raiders at Invesco Field. He gained 214 yards on 42 carries against the Broncos in all, and in 2007 rushed for 146 yards on a career-high 33 carries in a 34-20 win over the Broncos.
— McFadden has 47 yards on 20 carries since halftime of the San Diego game and has gone down with minimal contact on a few carries. Cable said McFadden has trouble when he “runs too tall.”
“When he gets his hips down, that’s when he’s at his best,” Cable said.
— At 6-foot-7, Robert Gallery is one of the NFL’s tallest guards. When he went out for for to six weeks with a broken left fibula, Cable replaced him with one even taller. Converted tackle Erik Pears is 6-8, 308 pounds. Most guards are shorter for leverage purposes, with taller linemen usually playing outside.
“We went through that same thing with Robert,” Cable said. “But I think having those same kind of talks with Erik, he’s a very bright guy and he’s figured it out pretty quick.”
The biggest difference between guard and tackle, Cable said, is that things happen more suddenly inside.
“Things are quicker in there. Outside it takes a little more patience,” Cable said. “Inside it just happens right now. It’s like a street fight. You start throwing and you start fighting. Outside you kind of… you’re like in the ring. You move around, you got more room.”
— As the Raiders work with JaMarcus Russell on the field to rediscover the passing touch he had at the end of last season and at the end of training camp this year, the offensive coaches are also working to make sure he isn’t paralyzed by the analysis of his problems from those outside the team.
“I won’t let that happen. As I have said to him and I have even heard him repeat it, there’s two people who are going to take the heat and take too much glory when you win and that’s the quarterback and the head coach,” Cable said. “It is what it is, and he’s had some struggles but offensively as a team we’ve had our struggles. As that gets fixed and he gets better he can take us where we want to go.
“It’s a process, but I still believe with all the improvement we made coming out of camp that we’re going to get there soon.”
— Cable, after learning Sunday’s game would be blacked out locally: “This is a team that’s going to get better and better, and that’ll take care of itself. People will be wanting to get in that stadium probably this Sunday. And as we get better and improve, they’ll be there. They’ll be there.”
— Cable ruled four players out for Sunday’s game _ Gallery (broken fibula), WR Chaz Schilens (broken foot), WR Nick Miller (broken shin) and Eugene (lower leg strain).