When the Raiders decided to spend a guaranteed $18.125 million on defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, no one was more surprised than Kelly himself.
When the Raiders dropped a first- and third-round tender on cornerback Stanford Routt, probably the only person who didn’t think it was out of line was Routt himself.
Kelly still has a penchant for jumping offsides at his new position at nose tackle and hasn’t been conspicuous in terms of blowing up running plays or rushing the passer.
Routt still has the classic look and speed of a Raiders corner, and breaks up the occasional pass as he did Monday during a 7-on-7 session defending Yamon Figurs. But entering his sixth season, Routt hasn’t established himself in the way his tender would suggest.
Unless the Raiders are simply sending out disinformation, get ready for a lot more of Kelly and Routt. Coach Tom Cable referred to Kelly’s work against the middle of the Raiders defense as “iron sharpening iron,’’ with the quality of play improving both sides.
Cable proclaimed Routt a contender to start with Chris Johnson opposite Nnamdi Asomugha, and talked of his improved professionalism Monday.
“I think there’s been a change in Stan in terms of how he works at it and the intensity that he’s working at it with,’’ Cable said. “It’s just like everybody, you want to see it carry over to the game, but I’ve been very pleased with him thus far.”
If you want to fall into the old Raiders cliché of players looking good coming off the bus, Kelly and Routt are Exhibit A and Exhibit B.
Kelly was discovered as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State, Routt a second-round draft pick out of Houston, where he was a sprinter as well as a cornerback.
Kelly is fine with moving to nose tackle, making room at the three-technique spot for Richard Seymour, saying, `We’re both going to get doubled, we’re both going to get chipped.’’
In a lively interview with a few reporters, Kelly was equal parts amusing and candid, allowing he was overweight last season _ “I was carrying a baby in my stomach’’ and embarrassed by having only one sack in 16 games.
(The baby, in this case would have well exceeded the largest human birth on record, because Kelly lost 35 pounds).
The sacks total tied Kelly’s career low in 2007 _ when he missed nine games after a torn ACL ended his season.
“I had to look in the mirror at the end of the season and ask, `Is it them, or is it you?,’ ‘’ Kelly said. “I can’t point my finger on them . . . I just gotta handle me. In the offseason, I’m going to try and get myself back in the best shape I can so they won’t have nothing to say.’’
Kelly came to the Raiders as a 295 pound end and said he got as high as 340 following ACL surgery. He hovered in that range last year.
It was a topic of conversation among offensive linemen, who wondered within their position group what Kelly’s weight would be when he got to camp as far back as OTAs.
“Some guys were like, `He might be 345 or 350, somewhere around there,’’ guard Khalif Barnes said. “But when he came in, the guy looked great . . . he’s looking slimmer, still strong and has that get-off.’’
Kelly said he arrived at OTAs at 315 pounds as opposed to 350 a year ago.
After practice Monday, he was doing squats with weights that looked like bowling balls with oversized handles, and later was seen working his arms with two heavy ropes that looked to have a circumference of eight inches each. He’s also doing boxing drills, the better to slap offensive linemen attempting to get a hand on him.
So instead of getting bigger to play nose tackle _ the position is traditionally occupied by players who look like fire hydrants _ Kelly slimmed down.
“You got to know your own skill-set,’’ Kelly said. “It’s kind of obvious after last year that I can’t play with that much weight and be the best kind of player I can be. You got to do what’s best and what fits you. I’m strong enough and tough enough to play the nose, so I’m not even worried about it.’’
At the time Kelly signed his contract, which topped out at $50.5 million over seven years, he it was the biggest deal ever for a defensive tackle. Considering he was coming off an ACL tear and not coming off a Pro Bowl or anything close to it, it came as a shock.
It came as part of the spending spree which also brought in Javon Walker, Gibril Wilson and a trade and new contract for DeAngelo Hall.
“The night my agent called me, I was like, `What the (bleep)!,’’ Kelly said. “It was a surprise to me, but you’ve just got to take the challenge.’’
Routt, on the other hand, said he expected the first- and third-round tender which will pay him $3.268 million _ a hefty figure for a player who has just four starts in the last two years and 31 overall in 95 games.
“I really wasn’t surprised, based on the longterm deal we were negotiating at the time,’’ Routt said.
Routt didn’t know exactly what to make of Cable’s suggestion that he has an improved attitude.
“I appreciate the kind words, but in my opinion, my approach hasn’t changed,’’ Routt said. “I just go out every day to get better, and whatever happens, happens.’’
More news and notes:
—Updates for the second session can be found on my Twitter page, but won’t be available Tuesday or Wednesday. I’ve been farmed out for two days as a sub to cover the 49ers.
Steve Corkran will handle blog items in my absence.
-– RB Darren McFadden (hamstring) did not practice, nor did WR Paul Hubbard (hamstring), TE Tony Stewart (undisclosed), QB Charlie Frye (wrist), LB Sam Williams (concussion), and DE Jay Richardson (knee).
WR Jacoby Ford (quad) and WR Chaz Schilens (foot) did not practice in the padded session but Cable said they would work in the afternoon session.
Frye and Richardson are scheduled to see specialists.
– Practice began with a live goal line session with the offense at the 2-yard line. Jason Campbell fumbled the snap back to the 4, but the offense scored in two plays with Alex Daniels carrying 3 yards to the 1 and Michael Bush scoring the touchdown, breaking the tackle of Rolando McClain at the goal line.
– McClain and Sebastian Janikowski returned to practice after missing two sessions each for personal issues. McClain declined comment following practice.
– Bush left the field house carrying a box with a brand new bowling ball. A grudge match with fellow pinmeister Mario Henderson, perhaps?
“I don’t know, but if it happens, I’m ready,’’ Bush said.
– Center Samson Satele victimized for a sack of Campbell by Junior Siavii against the Cowboys, was willing to fall on the sword.
“Just go off of what you saw,’’ Satele said. “If it’s me it’s me. It is what it is. It’s preseason.’’
– Judging from the way reps were distributed, Bruce Gradkowski stepped back into his backup role ahead of Kyle Boller.