News, notes and observations Thursday from player availability and press briefings with coach Tom Cable and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson:
– Were the Raiders somehow tipping off the snap count in Week 1, enabling Tennessee to overwhelm the offensive line and get to quarterback Jason Campbell?
Some Titans players said as much following the game, and there was speculation that rookie center Jared Veldheer was somehow putting the Titans in the starting blocks.
“We’ve looked extensively at every area of that, and I think I can tell you I don’t think that’s the case,’’ Jackson said.
Although both Jackson and left tackle Mario Henderson acknowledged the need to be much better up front, both men believed the Titans got away with being offsides on a few occasions.
“Playing left tackle, if a guy jumps offsides, I have no chance. None,’’ Henderson said. “And it always looks worse coming from the back side, the blind side.’’
– Following practice, Henderson was in a group of about a dozen players in starting roles huddled around Cable, and then he was pulled aside for a few words and some additional work from line coach Jim Michalczik.
In the locker room, Henderson talked candidly about his struggles and conceded he probably shouldn’t listen to all the criticism and take it to heart.
He said it causes him to lose confidence but realizes “you’ve got to keep playing. I’ve still got to work. Move forward. I’ve just got to block out that negativity. It’s tough, though. I ain’t going to lie. It’s tough, man.’’
Cable said he thinks Henderson has a more “ornery’’ side to him, but admitted Henderson’s sensitivity to outside criticism has been a regular topic of conversation.
“You’re hitting on a real issue there and we do talk about that,’’ Cable said. “You know, what’s done, you’ve got to put it behind you. You learn from it and take what you can, but whether you’re a player or coach, you can get caught up in this stuff to the point where it will control you emotionally.
“He and I have spent a lot of time talking about staying away from that.’’
– The Raiders essentially threw rookie center Jared Veldheer off the high dive to see if he could swim, watched as he tried to catch his breath, and now there’s no guarantee he’ll get a chance to jump off the edge of the pool into the shallow end.
St. Louis comes to town with some confusing zone blitz packages from coach Steve Spagnuolo, but the Rams have lost 26 of their last 27 games, definitely are not the Titans, and will be playing in Oakland.
“I’m not ready to say that yet,’’ Cable said when asked if Veldheer would start at center.
Cable said he didn’t blame Veldheer for quarterback-exchange problems but noted “I think timing and rhythm is more of an issue.’’
Veldheer was given the starting job after not playing in the preseason finale against Seattle, with Samson Satele starting that game. Veldheer started at center for the first time against San Francisco after working there and at left tackle through training camp.
At Division II Hillsdale, Veldheer was exclusively a tackle. He played center in high school.
– Rookie fourth-round pick Jacoby Ford watched in amazement as teammate Yamon Figurs was the starting return specialist one week, only to be cut a week later in part because of a fumble on the game-opening kickoff return.
Ford will return kickoffs against the Rams, with Johnnie Lee Higgins returning punts.
“It definitely opens your eyes, especially when you’re new to the league,’’ Ford said. “It just goes to show you this is really a business and sometimes it goes like that. You can’t ever get complacent about anything. You’ve always got to be thinking today could be your last day, because tomorrow you could be gone.’’
– As difficult as it was for a former Texas All-America player to give credit to someone from Oklahoma, Michael Huff was impressed with what he’s seen from Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford.
“He’s real accurate and he’s more mobile than I thought he was,’’ Huff said. “We’ve definitely got to contain him and make sure we get in his face.’’
– Running back Michael Bush, listed as having practiced without limitations the previous day, was limited Thursday. Wearing a glove over his left hand which protected a fractured thumb, he politely declined to answer any questions about the injury.
It’s worth noting the Raiders were in full pads Thursday, meaning Bush may not be ready for full-on contact with the thumb. Sunday will be the 20th day since he had surgery for an injury which normally takes four to six weeks to heal in a best-case scenario.
– Jackson on fan support: “I would say to our fans: Come hang with us. Come here on Sunday and scream and go crazy and get behind this football team and watch us grow and get better. That’s what this is all about. It’s not a one-game season.’’
– Players who didn’t practice Thursday were WR Chaz Schilens (knee), Gallery, DT Richard Seymour, CB Walter McFadden (hamstring) and LB Travis Goethel (lower back).
Those were limited included Bush, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, S Hiram Eugene (hamstring) and CB Chris Johnson (stinger). DT Desmond Bryant (elbow) practiced fully for the second consecutive day.
Schilens, Goethel and McFadden can be expected to be inactive, with Gallery the least likely of the rest of the group to play. Cable said early in the week they were hoping to see him practice by Friday.