News, notes and quotes Thursday following the Raiders open locker room, practice session and press briefing with coach Tom Cable:
— Aside from left guard Robert Gallery, Raiders who didn’t practice were wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and defensive end Greg Ellis.
Cable said Heyward-Bey was improving but allowed he would probably have to practice Friday to be considered ready to face Washington Sunday. Given his experience level, it’s less important for Ellis to actually practice.
Both are questionable to play.
Center Samson Satele was limited and expected to start at center, with Chris Morris moving to left guard.
— The Raiders running game averaged 126.8 yards in the four games since the return of Gallery, out for the season and awaiting back surgery the nature of which was not disclosed.
Gallery was hurt in the third quarter of the win over Pittsburgh on an attempted trick play when Bruce Gradkowski threw to Darren McFadden, who threw it back to Gradkowski, who was sacked before he could get a pass off.
“It was a clean block, it didn’t look like anything abnormal,” Cable said.
— Schuening, expected to be activated from the practice squad when Gallery is played on injured reserve, was a fifth-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams in the 2008 draft. He played in one game with the Rams last season and was cut Sept. 5 at the close of training camp this year. He was later signed to the Raiders practice squad.
— Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell was his usual cordial, low-key self while talking with reporters for the first time since Nov. 15, giving a trademark wink at the close of the eight-minute interview session.
On one hand, Russell seemed humbled by the demotion and determined to be the starting quarterback in the future, while at the same time seeming to either disagree or be in denial about his weight, work ethic and dedication issues which have plagued him since the start of training camp.
It was as if receivers and the players surrounding him magically began playing better when Gradkowski took over and it was simply bad luck they hadn’t done it for him.
— Cable said he is confident that if Russell was pushed into action because of an injury to Gradkowski that his performance would be much improved.
“I think he’ll go in and do what we ask him to do,” Cable said. “That bar has been raised to a level that the expectation, anything below that would be unacceptable. So you’ve got to be able to move the team.”
In Russell’s absence, wide receivers have been introduced as a more consistent weapon, something Cable believes would carry over if Russell took the field.
“I see no reason why not. It’s just decision making in terms of throwing the ball to them and all that,” Cable said. “They certainly are improving so I would expect him to go out there and be similar.”
While Russell maintains outside criticism has no impact on him, Cable assumes the words carry some sting.
“He’s human. Regardless of what a person says, human beings, they want to have people to respect them and see who they are as a person,” Cable said. “That’s just natural.”
— Gradkowskimania wasn’t enough to prevent the Raiders sixth consecutive blackout, as they failed to sell enough tickets before the 1 p.m. deadline and will not be televised locally.
The Raiders have averaged just over 38,000 vans over their last three games _ some 22,000 short TV territory. Their crowd count of 34,112 on Nov. 22 in a 20-17 win over Cincinnati was their lowest home game attendance in more than 30 years.
— Rich Gannon may not be welcome at the club facility, but Gradkowski was flattered by comparisons with the last Raiders quarterback of a winning team.
(Or, if you prefer the company line, the man who played the worst Super Bowl in NFL history).
“I could look at our games being similar, but you know, he’s on a different level,” Gradkowski said. “He’s proven himself. He’s been a consistent leader, a consistent winner in the NFL, and I’m trying to get there. He’s one of the guys that I look up to and I want to kind of copy his game.”
— It should be no surprise that Gannon is a fan of Gradkowski, telling AOL Fanhouse the quarterback switch has given the Raiders hope.
— For a guy who bristles at quesitons regarding his former team, defensive end Richard Seymour had no problem telling the Boston Herald about the problems with the Patriots now that they’re struggling at 7-5.
The good news for the Raiders is Seymour puts a positive spin on his new situation and the potential of the team rather than be embittered by the losing.