By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 at 6:23 pm in Oakland Raiders.
It was hard not to think of the possibility of Randy Hanson sitting at home watching the Tom Cable press conference on Comcast Sports Net Bay Area when the head coach was asked about the pregame ritual of defensive tackle John Henderson.
Henderson, signed as a free agent after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars, likes to have a member of the training staff smack him in the face to get him ready.
“I love it. I think it’s awesome,’’ Cable said Wednesday. “I hope I’m the guy that gets to slap him. I think it will be great. I just don’t want him to hit me back. That’s a big dude.’’
The guess here is Cable never made the connection, so far in his rear-view mirror are Hansongate and the allegations of domestic violence as reported by ESPN. He was relaxed and resolute, with neither issue amounting to anything other than a spate of bad publicity.
After all that, being docked two days of OTA practices by the NFL was small potatoes. If Cable truly grew stronger from events that didn’t kill him last year, the coach is a veritable King Kong.
“Like everything in life, things happen to all of us,’’ Cable said. “You work through it, you get by it and you learn what you’re supposed to learn from it.
“I’m looking for a great camp for all of us here and for us to be where we’re at today and be somewhere better next week and the week after that even better. And when we leave here, to be the kind of football team I think we can be.”
“We’re going to go after the AFC West. I’m not afraid to say that,’’ Cable said. “If they picked someone else for it already, that’s too bad. It doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to play the games. This team will be ready to do that.’’
Cable said his “culture change,’’ something he has been talking about since taking 28 games ago for Lane Kiffin, is complete. Mission accomplished.
“The next step is to not listen to all the negative. People are going to have an opinion,’’ Cable said. “That’s just what it is. But they’re not going to dictate who we are or what we are. All that is back there. What’s in front of us is winning a championship. That’s the goal now. Let’s go for it.’’
Asked if he felt like it was “his’’ team, Cable said flatly, “Yes. Absolutely. There’s no question in my mind.’’
Cable presented the aura of a coach who isn’t looking over his shoulder and had a plan of action he fully intends to execute.
There were no meandering quotes like Norv Turner, no veiled jabs at the limitations of the organization like Kiffin.
Cable talked a good game, and presented a more coach-like figure in terms of authority than anyone since Jon Gruden.
Which means in fact he has proved nothing other than he can talk. The next month we’ll start the process of backing it up.
Some more observations following Cable’s media session with players off-limits until Thursday afternoon:
– The coach is sold on the “learning intensive’’ practices and their value, and that’s fine, but of course the players are going to be on board with it.
Guys, would you rather have four days of walk-throughs or start knocking heads right away?
Surprise! He got positive feedback.
– Cable promises it won’t be a “soft’’ camp.
“We’re going to hit. We’ll have a pretty lively camp here before we’re all done.
“We got a long road to go. The important thing is is hopefully we get through this thing healthy and this team that showed up last night gets a chance to go out together at Tennessee and play together and everybody is healthy. We’ll certainly get the physical work in.’’
– Naming Jason Campbell was the common sense call considering Gradkowski’s inactivity following a torn pectoral muscle.
“I just think, how can you do it any different?,’’ Cable said. “He just hasn’t done anything for three months.”
– Cable manages to work in just the right touch of tradition without beating you over the head with the “Greatness of the Raiders’’ and the “Team of the Decades.’’
He did it when discussing the death of Jack Tatum, as bringing aboard former linebacker Greg Biekert.
All Raiders coaches say they were Raiders fans as kids. Cable, it’s clear, is telling the truth.
“I know what he was, and what he meant, and I think his teammates and people in the Raider Nation have recognized that, too. (He) did a lot of great things, and really was a great man on top of being a great football player.’’
Cable did manage to gloss over one of the more uncomfortable business moves regarding a popular player when noting that Biekert was part of one of the last good Raiders teams “for a two-year span there.’’
The Raiders won three straight division titles, but in Year 3, Biekert was given the option to either take a pay cut or accept his release, with rookie Napoleon Harris moving in as the starting middle linebacker.
Biekert chose the latter, moved on to Minnesota and never burned his bridges with the Raiders.
– Cable isn’t getting too slap-happy regarding Henderson, who will need to prove over the next month he can still be a top-quality run-stuffer.
“I think John Henderson will come here and we’ll see what he’s got,” Cable said. “I expect a lot of big things out of him. Whether that makes him the starter or not or he gets to that point, he’ll determine that.’’