News, notes and observations from Monday’s open locker room session and Tom Cable’s season-ending press briefing:
— Can’t say I’ve ever seen a coach who can shake off a crisis quite like Cable.
As he stood before the local media and answered questions about his job performance and job security, Cable was every bit as cool and confident as he was through a turbulent season.
Included was Randy Hanson and Jawgate, an ESPN story alleging he had a history of violence toward women, an underperforming multi-million-dollar quarterback and so many one-sided losses the Raiders finished with the second biggest negative point differential in franchise history.
The Raiders were outscored by 182 points in 16 games, meaning they on average were outscored by 11.4 points per game. The 1961 pre-Al Davis Raiders were outscored by 15.8 points per game, finishing 2-12.
The Raiders were 31st in scoring (scoring less than 200 points for the second time in franchise history), 31st in offense, 23rd in scoring defense, 26th in total defense and 29th in run defense.
None of which matters a whit to Cable, who looks at the last seven games of the season and sees something special in the offing.
“The next step is not only to compete and be in (the games), but to win them and get over the hump,” Cable said.
Cable said he is not troubled by speculation regarding his job and hasn’t given it a second thought.
“All I know is I have a contract right now,” Cable said. “Whether or not it’s honored is not up to me. I’m a ball coach. I’m a damn god football coach so things will work out. They always do.”
He laughed when asked if all the controversy had taught him to ride through a storm.
“I’m the master. Any of you got problems, call me,” Cable said.
— Count quarterback Bruce Gradkowski in the Cable camp.
“To be a head coach and come in this league and only get one year, one shot, it’s tough,” Gradkowski said. “The good teams in this league, their coaches have been there for awhile with the same players and got to work together. It’s not only hard on the coaching staff but it’s hard on the players to continually learn new systems, new coaches.
“It’s all about consistency.”
Said tight end Zach Miller: “Guys play hard for him. All year I think guys kind of rallied around him and played had for him and put all our good effort on the field for him. I think that’s something that’s good.”
Left guard Robert Gallery, making his first appearance in an open locker room since back surgery, is an unabashed Cable supporter. Cable was the position coach who switched Gallery to guard and helped transform the perception of him from draft day disappointment a top-tier player. He believes all the Cable support goes far beyond just talk.
“I think you know when people are giving you the company line and I think you know when people are serious and say it from the heart, and I think guys truly believe in him,” Gallery said. “I know the majority of the guys in here _ the guys that matter _ want him back and know he’s trying to do the right thing.”
— Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, with nine catches for 124 yards and a touchdown in 11 starts, said he came up short of expectations.
“I was inconsistent. I didn’t play the way I wanted to play,” Heyward-Bey said. “I graded out the way I wanted to, didn’t mess up on assignments and stuff like that, so from that standpoint it was solid. But definitely I was here to make plays and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Cable, who likes Heyward-Bey’s work ethic and attitude, stressed patience.
“We’ll get Darrius back and get him through the first-year blues if you will, and get him relaxed and calm down and continue to develop the group (of wide receivers),” Cable said.
— Reading between the lines, it sounds as if Cable realizes his insistence on being the offensive coordinator, calling the plays and essentially taking over for line coach Jim Michalczik when the line was struggling only served to spread himself too thin for his main job as head coach.
If Davis hasn’t already made up his mind and wants Cable to give up play-calling duties, the coach will be receptive.
— Turns out Gallery had surgery to widen a narrow portion of his spine, had three vertebra fused, and calcium deposits removed from his back. He said doctors anticipate a three or four month recovery period. The initial injury left both legs numb.
“It’s something that was a big deal, obviously, if it was hitting my spinal cord, but it was easily fixed and taken care of and I should be fine,” Gallery said.
It concluded a season in which Gallery missed much of training camp with an emergency appendectomy and then sustained a broken fibula in week 2 before returning to play in six games.
“It’s funny because I never thought I’d be able to handle something like this very well and it’s kind of out of my control,” Gallery said. “I was doing everything right, there were kind of some freak things _ that kind of year. Could have been worse. I’ll be ready to go.”
— Quarterback Charlie Frye was having an MRI for the lower back strain sustained against the Ravens. Linebacker Ricky Brown said he was going to Los Angeles to rehab and train at Athletics Performance Institute in Los Angeles and plans to be ready for organized team activities should he be re-signed. Brown was tendered a $1.7 million tender to stay with the Raiders last year.
— Gradkowski was staking his claim to be the No. 1 quarterback come training camp.
“Worst-case scenario, it should be a competition for the starting job,” Gradkowski said. “My play showed itself up on film. I’m always for open competition. I know coaches will do the right thing.”
Gradkowski said he’s about two weeks from being healthy after two MCL tears which did not require surgery. He’ll go home to Dormont, near Pittsburgh, and relax, then begin intensive study.
“I always like to watch Drew Brees. I’ll probably go back and watch his game film and Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and the consistent quarterbacks in the league,” Gradkowski said. “You like to go watch them and wee what they’re doing and see why they’re so successful and try and learn from that to continually get better.”
— Cable continued to evade questions regarding the starting job and Russell in particular. When asked if everyone was at the team meeting that was expected to be there, Cable said yes. When asked if Russell was there, Cable said no, but his absence was excused _ just as was an absence by defensive end Richard Seymour _ for personal matters.
It’s fair to say Russell’s absence did not go unnoticed in the locker room.