A transcription of Tom Cable’s press briefing with the media Wednesday at Raiders training camp in Napa:
Cable: OK, first thing, I’d like to start off by offering my condolences to Jack Tatum’s family, his children, his wife. It’s a tragic loss, for the Raider family, just being a historian of it and a fan of this thing my whole childhood, all the way up to today. I know what he was, and what he meant, and I think his teammates and people in the Raider Nation have recognized that, too. Did a lot of great things, and really was a great man on top of being a great football player. So would like to start with that.
We’ll start camp tomorrow with the same format that we started last year. We’ll spend four days of intensive learning. We’ll do a little bit more than we did last year in terms of some of the drill work, the speed of it and those sort of things. But for the most part, it’ll be a very intense teaching session that is all about trying to get this team up to speed. And the young guys, and guys who maybe didn’t get that much work in OTAs and all that, get ‘em all up to speed and ready to go for Monday when we put pads on for the first time.
Q: What’s the focus in this “intense” teaching?
Cable: Well, last year I kind of described it as, if you’re looking at ‘em all as rookies or guys new to it, it’s just to start over. It’s just to kind of wipe the slate clean. We had a good offseason, obviously, put some good things in our football team in terms of personnel and all that. We’ve got a new offensive coordinator and some new things on defense, special teams. They’ve had it once already. We just want to start over teaching again from A, and work through to Z, and I think once we get through the situation, everything that’s planned over the next four days, it’ll allow us to hit it running Monday when we put pads on and go to work.
Q: What was the benefit you saw last year?
Cable: There’s a ton of benefits. I think the first thing probably is just how our team got into camp and stayed healthy through camp. I mean, other than probably the loss of Chaz Schilens. You know, you look at the soft-tissue injuries and things like that we didn’t have, that teams typically get in those first week, 10 days, we just didn’t have those issues. And I think, as I said to ‘em, the routine of it will really get their bodies kind of into the cycle of getting up at a certain time and having to eat and go to practice, and then rest and meet and go to practice again, and then meetings at night and then it’s time to hit the hay, and kind of get into that routine.
But the biggest issue is really stressing the brain, and bring us up to speed in terms of how we want to play things, and what we’re trying to do communication-wise in certain situations offensively, and I think really expose our whole team to getting a lot of walk-through reps, learning reps. So that was a big benefit. The players, how they felt about it. Cause we talk about these things: How was it? What’d you get out of it? What was good, what was bad? Try to fix it and make it better this year. So there was a lot of positive feedback. Physically No. 1, mentally No. 2, and then I think once we got into that phase last year, which will be Monday this year, we really were ready to go and got going.”
Q: Do you feel this is your team?
Q: More so than ever before?
Cable: Absolutely. There’s no question in my mind. And we’re gonna move forward together, the players and the coaches, and we’re gonna put a good football team together.
Q: After the controversy of last year’s camp, with you in the middle of it, how much are you looking forward to a more traditional training camp?
Cable: Well, sure I am. Like everything in life, things happen to all of us. 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.
Q: How much did having to answer all the questions about JaMarcus Russell last year weigh on you?
Cable: I think that’s just part of being a coach. You always have issues and things going on with your football team. Again, that’s one of those things that’s behind us. We’re just moving forward.
Q: How different is the vibe, the positive feelings, this year as opposed to previous years?
Cable: I think you’ll find that out as you talk to the players yourself. That’s what today will be about for a good number of them. For me personally, there’s a lot of excitement but there’s also a lot of caution in that there’s a lot of work to do. I know we’re going to be a good team, and I’m not afraid to say that, and we’re going to go after the AFC West. I’m not afraid to say that. I believe that that’s what we’re going to do. It’s not anybody’s. If they picked someone 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.”
Q: Do you expect Rolando McClain to be on the field tomorrow?
Cable: hope. I know that’s an ongoing process right now. I hope it is. There’s really nothing more to say until it gets all done. We’ll just hope and see what happens.
Q: Your impressions of Jason Campbell?
Cable: I’m excited about Jason, and while we’re at it, right now Jason is the starter. He’s come here today, or yesterday, like everybody else, and he’s going to go out in the first huddle and he’s going to do that. The first thing people are going to want to ask is, ‘Where is Bruce and the other guys fit in terms of competition and all that?’ Bruce hasn’t done anything for the last three months. He’ll catch up and he’ll get himself up to speed and he’ll go out and battle and all that. But as we move forward tomorrow morning and go to practice the first time, Jason will be in that first huddle.
Q: What does Jason bring to the table?
Cable: I think there’s a lot of things. To me, I think his professionalism, first of all. I think his leadership. You don’t have to be a boisterous, outgoing, run-your-mouth kind of guy to be a great leader, and I think he’s even showed some of that already, just this morning in some earlier things that went on, what he’s capable that way. So actually those two
things, a guy guy’s are going to look up to and a guy who brings great professionalism to it. He loves it. It’s important to him. It was interesting talking to those guys last night after they got checked in, just how that whole group of quarterbacks — Paul (Hackett has) done such a great job with them – they’re so much further ahead and prepared right now than we’ve been. It’s a tribute to all those guys, and it starts with Jason.
Q: Is the running back position seems to be up for grabs?
Cable: That will be a heck of a battle. We’ve got some good players. Sure do.
Q: Will anyone start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list?
Cable: Not at this point, no. We have no one on PUP.
Q: Will anyone be limited?
Cable: We’ll go through that a little bit as we get going, but these first four days, really everybody will work .
Q: Chaz said he was catching passes the past few weeks with Gradkowski. What has Bruce been able to do?
Cable: I don’t know. They can’t work around us. We can’t ever be there. And we’ve been out on vacation and all that kind of stuff, too. I do know they were throwing, probably both of them doing their rehab work.
Q: What is the tangible evidence that this is your team?
Cable: We all speak the same language. That’s first and foremost. Our goals to where we’re going (are) all the same. They know how I am with them, I know how they are with me. The fact that we really care about each other, the direction that we’re moving. Look, they play their butts off for myself, this coaching staff, they have proved that. Now we got to play good, and win.
Q: Was Bruce’s injury the main reason Campbell is the starter?
Cable: “I just think, how can you do it any different? He just hasn’t done anything for three months.
Q: How different will this offense look this year?
Cable: There will be some different things. It will all sort itself out when we get into regular season, and you really get to see us. I hope that we continue to run the football. That’s something that we brought here and has been developed here in the past few years. What we have to do is have a better, more productive passing game. And that’s where you’ll see the greatest difference.
Q: What can some of the new, experienced players bring to this team?
Cable: It transfers big. And it translates into this. The football character of this team has grown immensely. And it’s not from just that draft class. It’s the free agents you brought in, it has something to do with guys like Richard Seymour from a year ago, the trades we made, with Kamerion Wimbley, Quentin Groves. You just start looking down the line here, Jason Campbell, all of a sudden you start looking and say, ‘Wow, there’s 28 new faces’ and everyone of them bring a football character quality to the team. And understand that’s different than normal
character. And that’s guys that love the damn game. They’re passionate about it, they want to be good at it and they demand others around them to be that way. That, and our football I.Q. We’re a much smarter team than we were a year ago. We should be able to display that.
Q: How vital was it for Seymour to arrive on the bus with rookies and free agents?
Cable: Just the way you said it and the way it was reported, him getting off the bus first and all those things, it says exactly what it is. You’re talking about not only a guy who has had a tremendous professional football career but you’re talking about a great person, a guy that has some priorities that are important to him. One of them is being a good teammate. One of them is leading the young men that were just drafted. His choice to come on that particular bus with that particular group of guys speaks volumes. You mention that person getting that franchise tag, you work to try and get a deal, or not get a deal, if it’s going to be possible, he never once blinked. He never said, ‘You know, Tom, this is really bugging me, I don’t think I want to do it, I’m not going to be there.’ Never once. When I talked to him the whole time ‘However this works out, I’ll be there Day 1 ready to go.’ ”
Q: How did the Biekert hire transpire?
Cable: “We just felt like … some of this is … you all know I have a passion for the history of the Raiders and for trying to keep connecting to them. One of the last really good teams that was here, obviously Greg was a part of that two-year span there. Just bringing him here, he’s a guy that I’ve gotten to know a little bit. His coming here helps us a couple of ways. It connects us back to what the Raiders have been, and it’s a guy who’s passionate, loves football and loves the Raiders. I just felt like we needed to get another coach on defense and that’s what we’ve done.
Q: How much can Biekert help McClain, is that the real benefit?
Cable: “When you break it down, that is the true benefit. Not just Rolando, think about the mentality of where we’re trying to go defensively. You got to stop the damn run. So, you think about Greg Biekert, he plays at the University of Colorado, plays under Bill McCartney. I was a part of that program after he played, so I know what that legacy is and what that’s about, the toughness that you get coming out of that program. Then he comes here, he’s a seventh-round draft pick and really enjoys a tremendous career. But he was known for one thing: he played middle linebacker and, by God, he’s going to smash your face. That’s what he did. That mentality and his experience at doing that will bode well for our defense.
Q: How much more comfortable do you feel in your second full year?
Cable: Probably can tell. I’m happy, relaxed, ready to go and I just know that we’re going to be pretty good and I can’t wait.
Q: How do you feel about new coaching staff members?
Cable: We have a good staff. I think that’s one thing that I think, being able to put this group of coaches together has really been important. We’ve talked about this in the past, how a staff gets put together, who decides it, we’re all in it together on the same page, pulling in the same direction, and it’s cool to come to work. So I’m excited about and I know these guys are too.
Q: Did you make another change for Aaron Pelch with a new assistant special teams coach?
Cable: We hired a guy, Craig Dickinson, quite awhile ago, that will assistant John Fassel with special teams.
Q: Everybody reported that’s signed?
Q: What do you see as the big position battles?
Cable: There’s a lot of them, too many of them for us to sit around and debate over right now. We just got to get better as a football team. I think there will be battles come up. You all will report on them because you’ll see them every day and talk about ‘em. But we’ve just got to get better at every position on this football team.
Q: Have you determined whether Hue Jackson will be in booth, on the field?
Cable: We’ve talked about those things. Hue will be on the field. Absolutely.
Q: Was the missed OTA days a setback?
Cable: No, no. Again, look. Negatives that happened aren’t going to set this football team or this coaching staff back. Not making it to be a little thing or anything like that. We’re disappointed in not having two more days to work, but that will not define us. We’ll move forward. The sun came up today. That’s the way we’ll go at it.
Q: Did you study what worked best for Campbell in all his systems?
Cable: Well, no I don’t think you can do that. You want to find out what his strengths are, there’s no question about that, but in making the trade, before we ever did that, before we talked to those guys whether this is possible, whether we can do it, we did the research. We talked about those different systems, and could he fit into what we’re thinking. And the answer was yes. I think Joe Gibbs and those guys did a nice job with him in terms of that, wanting to run it and having the play-action game and some of the vertical passing, those kinds of
things, how to use the tight end, which obviously is important to us with Zach Miller. I think the more you study and looked at him, he fit. And so, that’s why we went and did what we did.
Q: How much it change when Al Saunders started calling plays?
Cable: I don’t really know the history of all that. I know that when he got into the true West Coast system, with Zorn and those guys, it was obviously different than what he was doing before that.
Q: How strange was it to deal with a QB who had no love for the game?
Cable: That’s ridiculous. Anybody who says that’s a fool. Because he and I have talked about it. I wouldn’t have traded for him if he didn’t love it.
Q: Wasn’t talking about Campbell, talking about JaMarcus . . .
Cable: Oh, sorry. I misunderstood. Really, that’s behind us.
Q: Will you be active filling holes on the roster?
Cable: You know what, I don’t know we feel like that right now. We feel like we’ve got who we’ve got and we’re excited about it. What we need to do is find out where it’s at, what we’ve got, where it’s at. That will be the real focus here. I don’t look at it like, ‘man I wish we had this or that.’ I used to do that. I don’t feel like I need to do that now.
Q: What is Trevor Scott’s role?
Cable: I think he’ll play at the weakside linebacker spot and he may be involved in some pass rush stuff. He’s an outside backer, that’s what he is and where it evolves from there we’ll see as we start to package and get to certain things.
Q: Is John Henderson a starter?
Cable: I think John Henderson will come here and we’ll see what he’s got. 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.
Q: What is your itinerary today?
Cable: Today there’s a lot of league mandated things. You’re having with the people from the office, from the league, things that are just requirements that we have to do before we do get started. Then late afternoon or early this evening we’ll actually start with football meetings.
Q: Any thoughts on Henderson’s pregame routine?
Cable: I love it. I think it’s awesome. 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.
Q: Do guys need to run to past conditioning tests?
Cable: No. Our team is in good shape. One thing about it is we have such great turnout in the offseason those are not issues or worries for us.
Q: Why not hit on Day 1?
Cable: I think being a longtime college coach and the way the college game evolved you started to rely on freshmen more. Guys were only going to be at your school for three years if they were any good so you had to get a good portion of that freshman class ready to play right away. This gives you a chance to kind of bring them up to speed if you will and not have it be so taxing mentally. It’s really paid dividends in college and I think it was really good for us last year. Like I said it worked for us mentally as well as physically?
Q: Any Oklahoma drills?
Cable: 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.
Q: How has the change of culture gone?
Cable: Just listen to the players. Just talk to them. I think from where we were we talked about the negativity. We talked about becoming competitive and all those things and trying to eliminate some of the negative issues and stuff. We’ve done that. We are very competitive. Now it’s time to take the next step, which I’ve talked about with them all the time, from the first meeting after the last game from the first meeting in the spring to the last meeting in the spring to then again this morning. The next step is to not listen to all the negative. People are going to have an opinion. 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.
Q: Who is starter at right tackle?
Cable: Langston (Walker). But we’re not going to get through all that today.