News, notes and quotes Wednesday as the Raiders prepare to face the Broncos in Denver:
— Here’s the way the question was phrased regarding the Raiders quarterback situation with Bruce Gradkowski, Jason Campbell and Kyle Boller:
Q: If Bruce could not go and Jason was healthy enough play, would he start over Kyle?
That would seemingly put to rest speculation Boller would start if Gradkowski can’t play _regardless of how healthy Campbell is. Campbell is coming off an 8-for-21, 83-yard game with no touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.
If it’s any consolation, his 10.7 quarterback rating would have been 36.4 had Jacoby Ford held on for a 10-yard gain on Campbell’s final pass instead of having it explode off Ford’s body as if it were a cement wall and into the hands of linebacker Takeo Spikes.
Here’s how Cable described what Gradkowski and Campbell did Wednesday:
“Bruce did some stuff, which was good, and some real easy stuff, in terms of throwing (but didn’t) cut it loose or throw the ball down the field or anything like that. Moved around fine. Jason is a little bit sore. You saw Kyle practicing. So we’ll just continue on that path and it may have to be a game tim decision.”
— Cable on running back Darren McFadden:
“There was a couple times when he did cut it loose and it was good. He felt good afterward. If we get out here tomorrow and no setback or anything like that, hopefully we’re through it.’’
Running back Michael Bennett also practiced and ran hard a couple of times, meaning it’s possible both running backs will be available to rejoin the active roster after missing the 49ers game.
— With Campbell and Gradkowski healthy enough to at least do some things on the field, Cable doesn’t believe it’s necessary to bring in another quarterback for the practice squad.
Punter Shane Lechler assumed that role Wednesday.
“There’s a set of plays he would run,’’ Cable said in reference to having to use Lechler in a game. “A `what if’ thing.’’
— When Quentin Groves recovers sufficiently from a hamstring pull, Cable said he would return to weak side linebacker and Trevor Scott would go back to the three-man rotation at end along with Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston.
— Mario Henderson will continue to alternate with Jared Veldheer at left tackle, Cable said, but it appears Veldheer may be getting closer to winning the job outright.
Henderson had some particularly bad snaps against the 49ers, getting manhandled by Justin Smith on a failed Bush third-and-goal run out of the shotgun.
— With Brandon Myers missing practice because of a concussion and possibly not being able to play, Cable said the Raiders are considering a number of options, including using an offensive lineman during power formations, using Marcel Reece there during no fullback sets and possibly elevating practice squad tight end Kevin Brock.
— Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha thinks the Broncos passing game may have been easier to defend when the focal point was Brandon Marshall (with apologies to former Raider DeAngelo Hall and his forgettable 2008 opener against Eddie Royal).
Quarterback Kyle Orton is on pace to pass for an NFL record 5,179 yards. Three wide receivers _ Jabar Gaffney (37-408), Brandon Lloyd (34-663) and Royal (32-367) have 30 catches or more.
The Raiders leading wide receiver, by contrast, is Louis Murphy, with 19 receptions for 308 yards.
“Now there is not a focus,’’ Asomugha said. “They have so many weapons that Kyle is throwing the ball to everybody. They spread it around much more than they did in the past.’’
— Denver coach Josh McDaniels insists the Broncos haven’t abandoned the run, even if it looks that way.
The Broncos are averaging 2.7 yards per carry, far and away the worst in the NFL, but are running the ball 25.2 times, a middle-of-the-pack figure.
McDaniels told Bay Area reporters by conference call the Broncos have simply been more effective throwing the ball so far and that a few times game circumstances took the run out of the game.
Denver rushed for 149 yards against the New York Jets, a team with one of the top rushing defenses in the league. They got 49 of those yards on runs from quarterbacks, Orton on scrambles and Tim Tebow on designed runs.
“We’re focused on getting better in that area of the game and not abandon it certainly at all,’’ McDaniels said. “Our goal will always be to maintain balance.’’
— Mike Mitchell, coming off his second solid game with an increasing role in the secondary and a bit of a youtube sensation in college some college knockout hits at Ohio, had mixed emotions about the NFL stepping up enforcement for helmet-to-helmet contact.
“They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do to keep it safe,’’ Mitchell said. “We’re not out here to hurt each other and get hurt. Obviously, there has to be rules to protect us.
“I think we’ve got to make sure we don’t take from other players’ aggressiveness, but I definitely agree that we have to have these steps taken to crack down a little bit and make it safer. I just hope that one day, we’re not playing flag football.’’
Cable on the rules crackdown: “Certainly we want to protect the players, but some of these plays are so bang-bang, I don’t know how you tell a player to do that. A lot of injuries happen when guys get pulled up at the last second. Someone gets rolled up on or a guy gets hit at a bad angle or something that you don’t teach fundamentally, so we’re kind of teetering on having telling them something negative here that may in fact hurt ‘even more.’’
Cable said he agrees with the present rule and wants helmet-to-helmet contact legislated, but noted, “In this game, with the caliber of athlete and the training they do, athletes get better and better with all the great training we have every year. To ask those guys, `OK, stop.’ It’s impossible.’’
— Raiders safeties have zero interceptions this season and have incurred the wrath of the fan base (and justifiably so) in some instances, but that opinion is not shared by Cable who said “collectively, that group is playing at a high level.’’
Cable noted the improved play of Mike Mitchell of late and was asked about the possibility of him competing for a job as a starter, displacing Michael Huff, or, more likely strong safety Tyvon Branch.
“No, I think we’re pretty set at those two spots. We’re pretty set there.’’
— Linebacker Travis Goethel was on the practice field for the first time since the third preseason game. He’s been out for reasons never disclosed but believed to be minor surgery on his lower back.
“He did some drills, did some conditioning, kind of followed his rehab format and really, just the first time getting him back out there,’’ Cable said. “So, hopefully he’ll feel good tomorrow (and) we can just continue to add to that. I wouldn’t expect him, in terms of playing, until next week at the earliest.”
— A few players had heard about Pittsburgh’s James Harrison’s threat to retire over what he believed to be excessive enforcement of helmet-to-helmet rules, although one player who knows him figures he’ll back down once he learns how much bonus money he’ll have to return from his recent contract.
— Interesting observation from former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon during the telecast of the Raiders-49ers game Sunday regarding Campbell.
“He was struggling a little bit,’’ Gannon said on the air with information gleaned during a production meeting with the quarterback. “ He’s really trying to memorize the formations this week. He felt if he could memorize all the formations, it would help him play quicker, particularly early against the 49ers.’’
One question _ after arriving the day after he was acquired by trade and being with the Raiders ever since, shouldn’t Campbell have the formations memorized by now?
–Wednesday is typically the heaviest media day for an NFL team during the week, but the Raiders took the minimalist approach. No prior notification of opposing team conference calls (had to call the Broncos to find that out), no quarterback or coordinator to the podium and very few players with major roles in the locker room during the open session.
— Other injury related issues: DT John Henderson (stress fracture) did not practice. SS Tyvon Branch was limited with a sore lower back. LB Thomas Howard (knee) did not practice.