With one game remaining, 17 teams are technically alive for 12 playoff spots and can speak of Super Bowl dreams.
Then there are the Raiders, who instead must contemplate their own futures and another housecleaning as they finish up their seventh consecutive season of 10 or more losses.
Only a handful of players make it into the locker room during the media availability period, wearing familiar looks and conceding they’re not sure what the next few weeks will bring.
Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who said his knees would probably be rehabbed well enough to play if the Raiders were in the postseason _ instead he’ll watch Charlie Frye from the sidelines Sunday against the Ravens _ cast a vote for continuity.
Which only makes sense, given that the current staff looked to Gradkowski when the plug was finally pulled on JaMarcus Russell and he responded with wins over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, plus a late drive against Kansas City off the bench that came up short when a pass bounced off the hands of Darrius Heyward-Bey.
“I’m hoping things can pick up where they left off just for consistency basis,” Gradkowski said. “I think to be consistent as a football team, you need to have the same staff, you need to have the same players most of the time.
“Get the new guys that you need but mainly it’s being consistent. You see the good teams in this league have the same coaches and they’ve been consistent at quarterback. That’s one thing we need to prove here and that’s one thing we need to show and just do it on a consistent basis.”
Whether Gradkowski returns is up to the Raiders. He is a restricted free agent _ whether there is a new CBA or not. If he is not re-signed, the Raiders can match any offer made by another team.
Cornerback Stanford Routt has played for four different head coaches _ Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin and Tom Cable _ and likes the idea of continuity but is used to change.
“Continuity is always important. You always want your mom and your dad to stay together, so to speak, but that’s a part of life,” Routt said. “I think part of being a man and part of being a professional is dealing with change, because, you know, when you stop changing they say that’s when you die. You’ve just got to roll with the punches.”
Said passing game coordinator Ted Tollner: “Whatever happens with players and coaches, who knows what the future holds there, but we’re going the right direction there that we would like to have a chance with these guys to show that we are making progress. We’re encouraged but we’ll see what happens.”
Stewart fined $25,000
The NFL notified tight end Tony Stewart of a $25,000 fine for putting his hands on official in the loss to Cleveland. Stewart said the official put his hands on him first and that he brushed them away. He said Monday he plans to appeal.
Routt, who was ejected for a headbutt, said he hadn’t been notified of a fine but “I’m pretty sure I’ll be hearing something soon.”
More to come . . .