Note: Updates from the afternoon session can be found on my Twitter page. The Raiders will have a single practice session Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
Johnnie Lee Higgins served as the illustration, but the first person who sprung to mind in the “launching’’ portion of the NFL video on rule changes and points of emphasis was Mike Mitchell.
“Launching,’’ defined as a defender leaving his feet to strike an offensive player anywhere near the head or neck, is now a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, as well as FedEx notice of a fine for the offender.
One of the first images of the video showed to players and media was that of Higgins getting decked by Pittsburgh’s Ryan Mundy last Dec. 6.
“You mean the one where he knocked my head off?,’’ Higgins said of his starring role. “That’s not the way you want to make a highlight film.’’
Players are now being coached to keep their feet and run through a hit, rather than leave their feet with a Jack Tatum-style kill shot.
That’s an issue for Mitchell, who became a bit of a Youtube sensation following his selection for the Raiders for exactly those kinds of hits.
“He’s going to have a lot of fines,’’ free safety Michael Huff said. “I feel bad for him. It’s going to hurt his wallet. I’m not going to help him, either.’’
Huff was talking in jest, but Mitchell, while promising to do his best to adhere to the rule, seemed resigned to being an offender at some point.
“You’ve got to adjust. It’s tough. Do they want us to play flag football or tackle football?,’’ Mitchell said. “They’re trying to protect the players and I understand that. We’re not trying to hurt anybody, but some guys are explosive, and how we tackle is to leave our feet. We’ll have to change and bide by the rules.’’
The Raiders coaching staff is selling the idea that by running through plays instead of leaving their feet, it will actually improve the tackling skills.
“Don’t leave your feet going for the big (hit), just get ‘em on the ground,’’ Mitchell said.
“Launching’’ remains legal so long as players stray from the head and neck area, but the game often happens too fast to make a distinction.
“I mean, if a guy’s going up for the ball and you’re going to try and split him, you can’t stop and think, `Oh, I can’t hit him in the head or neck,’ ‘’ Mitchell said. “If I get fined, I get fined. That’s just the way it’s going to have to be.’’
Mitchell had one other thought.
“Maybe the Raider fans can get a fine fund set up for me to help pay that thing,’’ Mitchell said.
More news and notes from Saturday’s morning practice:
—A morning session that began in silence ended with a spirited goal line session that included brief but wild scuffle between linebacker Quinton Groves and defensive end-turned-occasoinal fullback Alex Daniels.
It included Groves going UFC on Daniels with a leg kick. Daniels also got under the skin of Trevor Scott during a full contact period the previous day.
“He chopped me a few times. It’s cool. It doesn’t matter. I’m a big boy,’’ Daniels said. “It was a scuffle and that was it and then that was it,’’ Daniels said. “We shook hands, hugged, talked in the locker room.’’
Said Groves: “I’m not going be a pushover. He’s an undrafted free agent trying to make the team, I’m a traded guy trying to make the roster. Either I’m going to eat or you’re going to eat. One of us has to win.’’
Cable wasn’t happy with Groves’ kicking, citing it as an example of behavior which would be cause for ejection in a game.
“Growing up in the streets of Mississippi, that’s what you do,’’ Groves said. “By any means necessary, you get the job done.’’
— If the Raiders proceed as Groves thinks they will, it will be the most multiple defense since the team returned to Oakland.
“If you look at our backers and our corps, we have three guys over 265, the rest are like 245, 250, that’s kind of big for a linebacker in the NFL,’’ Groves said. “So, one moment you might see us in a 3-4, the next you could see us in a 4-3, the next one you could see us in the 5-2, maybe even the 4-6. We just have to tune in the game plan and that keeps teams on edge.’’
— Marcel Reece returned to practice after being out with a sore foot and on one play with the offense backed up near the goal line caught a swing pass to the left, got around Groves and sprinted down the sideline against a slow-to-pursue defense.
“That’s going for six,’’ Reece said. “We’re dancing in the end zone on that one, everybody’s jumping in the black hole, the whole nine (yards).’’
— Stevie Brown, the second of two seventh-round picks, made his second interception in two days and has shown a knack for being around the ball as a safety.
Brown made his Saturday interception with a diving grab of a pass deflected by Walter McFadden while defending Yamon Figurs.
“I looked at (Kyle) Boller, he was looking at the one receiver side and I just turned and ran and as I was running I knew I wouldn’t be able to make an actual play on the ball,so I was just hoping that Walt would make a tip and break it up,’’ Brown said.
— Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was out with a groin strain and Charlie Frye missed his second straight practice with a right wrist injury, leaving all the snaps to Jason Campbell and Boller.
Cable said he didn’t think either of the injuries was serious. If either looks to be more longterm, he said the Raiders would look in to adding another quarterback.
— Aside from the quarterbacks, those who didn’t practice Saturday included DT Richard Seymour (back spasms), LG Robert Gallery (ankle), WR Jacoby Ford (quad), WR Jonathan Holland (ankle) and FB Luke Lawton (concussion). Darren McFadden didn’t complete practice because of a tight hamstring. Hiram Eugene missed practice because of a dental emergency.
Cable said he expected Gallery back at the afternoon session.