News and notes from the Raiders open locker room session Thursday and post-practice press briefing from coach Tom Cable:
— Not sure it’s anything that could threaten their status for the game yet, but starting wide receiver Louis Murphy (hip) and cornerback Chris Johnson (groin) could not finish practice because of injuries and their status will be re-evaluated Friday.
If Murphy’s condition is a factor for Sunday, it would mean an increased role for Todd Watkins and perhaps even Javon Walker, because Chaz Schilens still isn’t practicing likely won’t play, either.
— Cable said Russell outwardly appears the same as always, but that he can see a difference in the way he is going about business.
“I actually see the same demeanor in terms of not letting things get to him but I’ve seen a little more attention to some things, which is good,” Cable said. “He’s in here early, he’s working at it. The fact that he’s had a chance to look at it after Sunday and take some responsibility for those kinds of things. It just adds to his motivation. He’s got to get better.”
— Cable said his starting offensive line would be Mario Henderson at left tackle, Chris Morris at left guard, Samson Satele at center, Cooper Carlisle at right guard and Khalif Barnes at right tackle.
Which means that Robert Gallery, limited in practice for the second straight day, is looking at a post-bye return against Kansas City Nov. 15 unless Cable pulls a surprise as he did the previous week with Barnes starting over Erik Pears.
— Cable is hopeful to see running back Darren McFadden (knee) and wide receiver/return specialist Nick Miller in action after the bye, but the fact is neither player is doing any hard running or cutting, doing most of their cardio work treadmills and stationary bikes.
“It’s where they’re at this coming Monday, as we start the bye,” Cable said. “Cause you really look at it as a two-week process for them to play. If it goes through the bye and we’re on that Monday of Kansas City, then I think that’s a real question. I’m not sure they would be ready at that point. But if they’ve got the full two weeks to do it, I think they can get that done.”
Miller, who made the team as an undrafted free agent out of Southern Utah, will have waited at least half a season to make his debut.
It’s rare a team would hold a roster spot for that long without putting the player on injured reserve _ even more rare when you consider the trouble the Raiders have had with their kickoff returns and punt returns.
“They put a lot of faith in me and I have faith in myself,” Miller said. “I know I can do it, so I’m just itching to get out there. If it was just play through the pain, I would. It’s not like that. If I feel pain I have to lay off, because that means (the injury is) still there. I want to prove to everybody I can play in this league.”
— Astute observation by defensive end Greg Ellis on regarding concussions in the wake of Roger Goodell’s testifying before the House Judiciary Committee about head injuries in the NFL:
“Yeah, it’s something that has to be taken seriously. And in most cases, it needs to get to the level where they are protecting us, the players, against our own selves. Since we started playing football as a little kid, you’re taught toughness, toughness, toughness.
“Some of us, if we can walk, we say, ‘OK, I’m good, I’m fine.’ My wife is getting on me all the time, ‘How you feeling, Greg?’ Well, I’m fine. ‘No, you’re not fine. Why are you doing this? There’s something wrong.’ But it’s just a conditioned thing. So, unfortunately, when it’s something that’s not going to be long-term, OK, it’s fine. But if it’s something where you’re talking about a head problem, then it needs to be supervised by somebody better than the players.”
— Free safety Michael Huff thinks the inability to stop the run has also effected the ability to get interceptions.
Huff had three interceptions in the first two games and none since.
“I think back then, we were stopping the run decently, so we made them throw the ball,” Huff said. “The main thing is us stopping the run and getting them in obvious passing situations to get the picks.”
Cable said Huff’s ability to be a more relaible last line of defense has been the reason for his return to the starting lineup.
“I remember when I first got here in ’07, (I saw) a good athlete, can run, can cover and all that, but he really just didn’t have that real `get after it’ in terms of a tackler,” Cable said. “When he got sat down last year and went to being a predominant special teams player, he really developed himself as a tackler. It has showed since that point, and he’s been very, very good for us this year.”
— LB Isaiah Ekejiuba was back at practice without limitations after being ill for two days with a stomach virus. Backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski missed practice for the second straight day with the same ailment.