No one is likely to confuse the Raiders’ practices with the Baltimore Ravens, but Tom Cable insists some offensive players will be hitting the deck some day soon.
For the most part, Raiders practices for the last several years have been with the safety of the players in mind. Be aggressive, be explosive, but back off at the point where the ballcarrier is supposed to go to the ground.
There have been only a few exceptions. A few sessions under Bill Callahan here, a goal line sequence under Lane Kiffin there.
But for the most part, it’s been the stressing of technique, footwork and positioning, with the thought being football players ought to know how to tackle if they’re in the NFL.
I caught part of the NFL Network’s Total Access Tuesday night and saw several plays of a Ravens scrimmage that looked like a regular-season game. There was Ray Rice, their valuable tailback, reversing field, sidestepping defenders flying at him and going down awkwardly in a heap.
The Ravens are one of the best tackling teams in the NFL but also the exception in terms of practice. Perhaps they tackle better because they tackle in practice, but too many teams have played it safe and tackled just fine _ and also lessened the chance for injury to investments that become more valuable every year.
When asked about not tackling in practice, Cable said, “I wouldn’t say we’re not going to do it. I do think we’ll be smart about it. You’ll see more of it than we’ve probably done in the past.’’
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said that indeed, Cable has informed them there will be some “live’’ work in the coming days.
Exactly how ‘`live’’ remains to be seen, because the no-tackling edict is an organizational philosophy from the man who signs the checks. Al Davis doesn’t want to lose talent to injuries, especially when it can be avoided.
The fact is, live tackling is done on a much smaller scale in college as well. Defensive end Lamarr Houston said it is done only occasionally at Texas and that defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, for all his game-day histrionics, makes a point of keeping players fresh and healthy during practice.
Coach Mack Brown told his players to stay on their feet because that’s how it would be in an NFL practice.
“They were full speed, but stay up, work your technique and don’t be sloppy,’’ Houston said. “I think at this level of football, if you can’t tackle right now, I don’t think you’ll make it.’’
The 49ers have gained a lot of publicity of late for their physical practices, but that has more to do with the use of a “nutcracker drill’’ as well as long practice sessions. Singletary is adamant about not bringing players to the ground and players who violate the rule are scolded.
(Even in the 49ers nutcracker, players are urged to keep their feet. It’s strictly a leverage drill).
Considering the quality of offensive players, one-on-one tackling is one of the most difficult skills in the sport.
The same one espoused by former coordinator Willie Shaw when the Raiders improved from the NFL’s worst defense to No. 8 in a single season _ get more defenders to the ball so that if someone misses a tackle, another players follows up.
A defense that puts its players in one-one-one situations too often is in trouble to begin with.
News, notes and quotes from Wednesday’s lone session:
— Louis Murphy returned to practice after missing four days with a concussion and immediately made a contribution, making a few nice catches.
“I’m feeling good today, glad to be out there, no headaches,’’ Murphy said. “It’s great to be able to come out and makes some plays.’’
— Cable said Darrius Heyward-Bey, who did not practice Wednesday, was simply being rested and there were no health issues. Heyward-Bey took an awkward fall Tuesday in a collision with Michael Huff.
— Anyone who had Houston in their first-fight-of-camp pool can cash in. He body slammed tight end Brandon Myers in a team session with the offensive backed up to the goal line, with Myers, sans helmet, going after Houston.
It was quickly broken up by teammates.
Houston is a live wire, but Myers hasn’t been in anything close to a scuffle, at least when the media was at practice.
“The last thing person you’d expect would be me. It all happened so fast I don’t know what happened,’’ Myers said. “I’ll stick with that story.’’
Said Houston: “It’s just football. It happens. We’re in practice and things get a little fiery.’’
The two players patched things up shortly afterward.
“You want to become as a team, but it’s going to get hot, you’re going to get sore and tired and that’s starting to kick in a little bit, so tempers are going to flare,’’ Cable said. “But at the end of the day, they’re teammates and they took care of that right afterward so that was good.’’
— Alex Daniels, wearing a black jersey and No. 71, was impossible not to notice as he ran through drills with the running backs. He practiced blocking technique, even caught a pass with the fullback position affected by injury.
Cable called it an experiment, and Daniels, a defensive end by trade but a former running back as a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, was only to happy to oblige.
“I played running back before, but now I’m going to be a blocking back, and if I’ve got to block for McFadden I’m going to block for McFadden,’’ Daniels said. “If I’ve got to block for Bush, I’ve got block for Bush. If I’ve got to block for President Obama, if it’s going to help the Raiders win, then that’s what I’ve got to do.’’
Daniels was Minnesota’s second leading rusher in 2006 with 309 yards and five touchdowns, including a 155-yard, three-touchdown game on 24 carries against Kent State.
Daniels said he weighs 275 pounds and played running back in college at 265.
Fullback Luke Lawton had a headache and will go through the concussion protocol, meaning he could be out a few days. Fullback Marcel Reece also has a sore foot, and Manese Tonga a knee strain or bruise, Cable said.
—Cable was looking at the bright side of protection issues by the offensive line during the Raiders third-and-long sessions.
He believes the Raiders pass rush has improved to such a degree that it will be a good thing for the offense in the long run.
“We definitely upgraded in that department, in terms of the pass rush on third down,’’ Cable said. “It’s a great battle for those guys and it’s going to make us a lot better.’’