On the Raiders unofficial depth chart in this week’s press release, the starting fullback is Oren O’Neal and the backup is Luke Lawton.
There’s about as much a chance of that being the case as JaMarcus Russell making it through Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles untouched.
In training camp, the only problem with the fullback position was that it was too crowded, Lorenzo Neal, a veteran lead blocker for 1,000-yard runners for the better part of 15 years, came aboard as a free agent.
Oren O’Neal was making a surprising recovery from reconstructive knee surgery and Luke Lawton had played more at the position the previous year than any other Raiders fullback.
As for Gary Russell, he showed up during minicamp as a short-yardage and goal line runner who was cut not long after he scored the first touchdown in the Super Bowl for the victorious Pittsburgh Steelers. Part of the appeal, coach Tom Cable said at the time, was that Russell could play either running back or fullback.
Except Russell barely played any fullback at all. He was, in fact, the Raiders leading rusher during the preseason with 155 yards on 28 carries and three touchowns, but never had a realisitc chance at breaking in to the top three spots occupied by Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas.
In the meantime, Neal partially tore a hamstring and now apparently has retired, and O’Neal was waived/injured and will probably wind up in the Raiders injured reserve unless he reaches an injury settlement.
Returning to the Raiders last week, Russell finds himself as a relatively undersized 5-foot-11, 215-pound starting fullback against the most blitz-happy team in the NFL.
The mindset of his role in Pittsburgh and his new job in Oakland doesn’t change much.
`I was a short-yardage and goal line running back. Pretty much the same thing,” Russell said Friday. “ attitude is to come in there and run you over.”
His theory on blocking?
“Get on them before they see you,” Russell said. “Once they see you, they’re coming downhill on you and it makes it more difficult.”
Russell doesn’t seem overly concerned about the Eagles and their blitzing.
“I come from Pittsburgh, and we played against Baltimore, we played against Philly,” Russell said. “I know it’s more about being mentally prepared and doing everything right.”
Cable liked Russell’s work at the position during the week and stressed the blocking will be a collective effort againts Philadelphia.
“Well for not having ever done it (until) last week, he did it very well, looked really good in practice so this will be more just getting him work at the position all week will make it an easy transition for him,” Cable said. “He’s an athlete and he’s a good football player.”
More Friday news and notes:
– Chaz Schilens was officially listed as “questionable” Saturday and looked to be a game time decision. Cable said the determing factor would be “Seeing how he feels on Sunday where we’re at in terms of whether it’s time to pull the trigger and get him out there. Again he still has some soreness after each day so it’s just a matter of how he gets through that.”
– Sounds as if Erik Pears could get a quick hook at right tackle should he falter against the Eagles, with Khalif Barnes being at the ready.
– DE Greg Ellis (knee) and Schilens were listed as questionable. Lawton was doubtful, while RB Darren McFadden (knee), LG Robert Gallery (fibula), tackle Cornell Green (calf), wide receiver/return specialist Nick Miller (shin) and LB Ricky Brown (ankle) are out.
Brown will have his ankle in a cast for three to four weeks, after which time the Raiders will determine whether he will need surgery _at which time he will go on injured reserve _ or rehab to salvage the remainder of the season.
– Cable declined comment on Randy Hanson’s offer through Yahoo! Sports.com to take a lie detector test regarding their alleged altercation on Aug. 5.