News, notes and quotes from Thursday’s media availability sessions:
– Richard Seymour made it back on the field Friday and was limited during practice, and while John Henderson was out again, coach Tom Cable was extremely optimistic about his return.
Henderson missed practices all last week before being inactive against Arizona and hasn’t practiced this week either. Given he is listed at 335 pounds and has a foot injury, Cable was asked if the recovery process could take awhile.
“No, it’s sore. He’ll play this week. I expect him to work
tomorrow,’’ Cable said. Today is more (precautionary). Let’s not overdo it here.’’
– Players listed as limited included WR Louis Murphy (clavicle), G Cooper Carlisle (knee), G Langston Walker (elbow), Seymour (hamstring), G Daniel Loper (knee) and CB Chris Johnson (ankle).
Players who didn’t practice were LG Robert Gallery (hamstring), WR Chaz Schilens (knee), LB Ricky Brown (hamstring), Henderson (foot), S Hiram Eugene (hamstring), LB Travis Goethel (lower back) and CB Jeremy Ware (ankle).
RB Michael Bush (thumb), FB Marcel Reece (neck) and LB Quentin Groves (ribs) were listed as being injured but having participated fully.
Cable said that Murphy was “dramatically’’ better than he was Wednesday, but conceded upper body issues in terms of pain are more of an issue for wide receivers than for some other positions.
– Given the number of weapons the Texans have at their disposal, and the fact that Andre Johnson hasn’t practiced this week with a high ankle sprain, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t likely to shadow Houston’s top receiver the way he did Larry Fitzgerald.
“Nnamdi’s not the focal point of this game,’’ defensive coordinator John Marshall said. “If we don’t give an outstanding team effort, so what if 80 catches one ball and you lose the game. That’s not the focus.’’
Johnson was listed as not having practiced, although Cable said he went through individual drills. Houston coach Gary Kubiak said Johnson is a game-time decision, Cable declared him ready to play _ which is the only sensible way to look at it.
“He very much will play. There’s no doubt in our minds,’’ Cable said. “ We don’t even look at it that way. If we did, it really wouldn’t change anything. It may free up a couple of guys to maybe get more involved in some things. He’s going to play so there’s no thought of that.’’
Asked what makes Johnson special, Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt said, “ I think it’s just the animal in him. He’s fast. He’s strong. He’s big. He’s physical. He’s not afraid to go across the middle. He has everything you’d want in a receiver. Everything.
– Marshall sees the Raiders No. 2 defensive ranking for what it is _ an indication that the Raiders may not be giving up a ton of yardage while at the same time realizing there are improvements that need to be made in other statistical benchmarks that carry more weight.
“Scoring defense is most important, red zone defense is critical, which carries over into scoring defense,’’ Marshall said. “Third down is important, getting off the field . . . turnovers . . . but number one is scoring.’’
The Raiders are ranked 24th in scoring defense (25.3 points per game) are 21st on third down (15-for-38, 39.5 percent) and are 32nd in red zone defense (7-for-8).
– Touchdowns may be eluding the Oakland offense, but it’s been raining first downs.
The Raiders have 21, 25 and 20 first downs, through three games, their longest in-season run of 20-plus games since 2002.
The only other time in the last seven years the Raiders even went back-to-back was 2005, getting 21 against Kansas City and 20 against Denver.
When the Raiders won the AFC title in 2002, they opened the season with seven straight games of 20 or more first downs, and later had a streak of five.
Running back Darren McFadden is tied with Adrian Peterson of Minnesota for second in the NFL with 21 first downs, six behind Houston running back Arian Foster.
—Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski had two tryouts for the Texans in 2008 but wasn’t offered a job either time.
“The first time, they had two quarterbacks on the roster but never made a move,’’ Gradkowski said. “Then they brought me back awhile later and it was unfortunate _ I got a tweak running the 40-yard dash. That’s when Schaub was hurt, so they signed someone else.’’
The Texans instead went with Craig Nall, who was on the for about a month.
Recalled Kubiak: “Since he’s taken over, you could look at it and say he’s 2-0, given the situation (against Arizona). We worked him out a couple of years ago when Matt was hurt. Every time he’s gotten a chance, whether it was with (Jon) Gruden or the Raiders, he’s done some good things.’’
—Stripped of his playcalling duties in Oakland and ousted as offensive coordinator in the Jim Mora regime after a single season, Greg Knapp has resurfaced as the quarterbacks coach for the Texans.
Kubiak brought in Rick Dennison from Denver to be the coordinator. Knapp was hired in part because he has a history with quarterback Matt Schaub, who was with the Falcons as backup to Michael Vick when Knapp was offensive coordinator.
“I was trying to do what was best for our quarterback and the relationship was excellent,’’ Kubiak said. “Greg does an excellent job coaching quarterbacks. He helps me a great deal from a scheme standpoint in game planning and preparation in the passing game.’’
– Can’t watch the Raiders Sunday, but it will be possible to chart Kirk Morrison’s progress locally. KPIX 5, the local CBS affiliate, will air Indianapolis at Jacksonville with the Raiders blacked out.
– Some observations from former Raiders coach John Madden during his Sirius radio show “Madden Football’’ on George Blanda, who died Monday at age 83:
On Blanda’s legacy as a football player, not a specialist
“He hated to be called a ‘kicker.’ If anyone says ‘kicker George Blanda’ or ‘George Blanda comma kicker,’ he hated that. He wanted to be known as a football player. And he was a football player, who played quarterback and also kicked. That’s what he wanted to be known as. There was a time when he was with the Chicago Bears and he wasn’t playing much quarterback so he told George Halas that he just wanted to play, so he played linebacker. That was the type of guy he was. He was a quarterback that could play NFL football as a linebacker.’’
How Blanda operated in a crucial situation
We’re playing Cleveland, and we’re behind and on the goal line. He comes over, we take a timeout, and I’m going through [play calls], ‘Let’s do this. Let’s go far right 16. No no no, I don’t want to do that. Let’s go far left 7. No no, let’s go near left 65…’ So I’m just bumbling, stumbling trying to find a run down there on the goal line and George said to me, ‘I’ll tell you what, coach, if you let me throw three slants in a row to Warren Wells, I’ll guarantee you a touchdown.’
“I said ‘You’ll guarantee it?’ He said ‘Yeah, I’ll guarantee it.’ I said ‘Well, that’s a hell of a lot better than anything that I have.’ So first down, he throws a dirt ball on a slant to Warren Wells. Second down, he throws a touchdown. That was George Blanda. I’m the coach and I’m thinking goal line run, this is what I want. He’s thinking, ‘What the heck are you talking about? Just put the ball in my hands and I’ll win the doggone game for you.’”