By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Thursday, December 31st, 2009 at 3:21 pm in Oakland Raiders.
News, notes and quotes Thursday as the Raiders prepare to face the Baltimore Ravens Sunday:
– The Raiders could be stretched ultra-thin in the secondary for the season finale.
Starting cornerback Chris Johnson was unable to practice after straining a hamstring in practice Wednesday, and safety Tyvon Branch was limited in practice with a hip flexor issue.
If Johnson can’t play, Stanford Routt can count on a full day of activity opposite of Nnamdi Asomugha. Rookie Mike Mitchell, whose role has increased in recent weeks, would step in for Branch. Branch’s condition will be re-evaluated Friday.
Those who could see increased role in nickel and dime packages depending on who is available would be Hiram Eugene, practice squad promotion Jerome Boyd and converted wideout Jonathan Holland.
– Upon further review, coach Tom Cable is getting in the Raiders spirit of the longstanding organizational belief that officials aren’t exactly evening things out when it comes to all things silver and black.
When asked about the flood of penalties late in the season, Cable said there really wasn’t much he could say to his team about it to try and make it better.
“It’s hard for me to say much about that because of the league rules but when it comes back that a number of them shouldn’t have been called by the head officials, it is what it is,” Cable said. “We coach it to not have those kind of things happen but when the report came back and said ‘No, no, no’ that’s a big deal.”
Asked if this was a relatively recent trend _ the Raiders had 13 penalties against Cleveland and 14 against Washington _ Cable said, “It’s been typical.”
What Cable has done is lecture his team about dealing with the calls, such as they are.
“We did talk about that, staying composed, staying in the game, don’t worry about those things, making plays, getting a lead, playing with a lead, it all seems to take care of itself when you’re doing those things,” Cable said.
– Left guard Langston Walker’s ankle wasn’t stable enough for him to go through practice, making it likely Chris Morris would be the starter.
On its face, with Morris being some 60 pounds lighter than Walker, it would appear to be big matchup advantage for the Ravens with Kelly Gragg at center and Haloti Ngata at right tackle in the 3-4 defense.
– As the Raiders went through warmups before their last practice, a few players amused themselves by trying to hit teammates in the head with footballs.
“Last day of school,” said one as he looked to the sideline.
Cable’s assessment of J.P. Losman, who will finish his three game trial by throwing exactly one emergency pass in his first game against Denver: “He’s in here like the other guys studying, puts a lot of time into it so you see that part of it. He certainly makes sure he’s prepared to go. Unlike the first week when he had to get thrown in there, I think you can do some things with him.”
– It’s official. There will be no local television of the Ravens-Raiders game, the seventh consecutive blackout after a season-opening sellout against San Diego.
The last time the Raiders were blacked out seven times in a season was 1997, when they lost a televised Monday night opener against Kansas City and were blacked out the rest of the season.
Passing game coordinator Ted Tollner’s assessment of Cable’s job performance: “The main thing is, he’s consistent, he’s solid and you know what to expect every day, no matter when we’ve had a good ball game or when we’ve had one that’s been not so good, there’s been a consistency, especially with how he treats the players and how he demands of his staff. ‘Hey, we’re going to keep on pushing and we’re going to get this thing turned right.’ We believe it. Now, we haven’t done it yet, but we believe that we have made some progress.”
– Besides the $25,000 fined tight end Tony Stewart for “physical contact with an official,” defensive lineman Richard Seymour was docked $10,000 for hitting an opponent late after a play and Stanford Routt $5,000 for a head butt following a play.
– Incurable optimists, Bruce Gradkowski is your guy: “By this time next year, we’ll be practicing for the playoffs.”
– The Raiders have passed the Detroit Lions no longer have the NFL’s worst record since the start of the 2003 season. The Raiders are 29-82 during that span, the Lions 28-83. Detroit has won only two of its last 31 games.
Maybe they can put it on the front of their media guide next to “Team of the Decades.”