By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Thursday, November 4th, 2010 at 4:46 pm in Oakland Raiders.
News, notes and observations Thursday as the Raiders prepare to face the Chiefs:
— It’s the midway point of the season, yet the body clocks of middle linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive end Lamarr Houston are in theory near expiration.
They’ve been through training camp, a four-game preseason and eight regular-season games. At Alabama or Texas, the next step is determing where they stand in the BCS.
In the NFL, they’re only halfway home.
McClain and Houston were instant starters. Jared Veldheer, a third-round pick, will start his third straight game at left tackle. Wide receiver Jacoby Ford is in the rotation at wide receiver.
Travis Goehtel, a sixth-round pick, will play on special teams and back up at weak side linebacker in his debut after back surgery. Seventh-rounder Jeremy Ware will serve as nickel back if Nnamdi Asomugha misses the game as expected with an ankle injury.
Seventh-round pick Stevie Brown has emerged from the practice squad as a special teams player and reserve safety.
About the only two players who haven’t made an impact are Bruce Campbell, a guard taken in the fourth round who is being brought along at a more deliberate pace, and Walter McFadden, corner taken in the fifth-round who looked terrific early in training camp only to be derailed by hamstring issues.
The Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday’s opponent at the Coliseum, are getting similar production out of their rookie class.
Cable said the whole midseason “wall’’ was addressed with the rookie class last week.
“At this point in their physical season, they’re used to talking about bowl games and where we’re going to be on New Year’s Eve and all those kinds of things. We’re just at the halfway point,’’ Cable said. “So we talk a lot to them about how to take care of your body. It’s important that when you get rest you still have to rehab, you still have to get in there and ice and stim and get in the pools and do all the things that really restore your body, and they’ll learn to do that.
“And this class I think is a great example. They bought into it, and they’re doing those things.”
Once he reaches the field, Houston feels his rookie days are over.
“We’re halfway done with the season so being a rookie is done with playing-wise,’’ Houston said. “But in the locker room I guess I’m still a rookie.’’
Houston, almost invisible in a few games after getting a sack in the opener, has picked up his play of late.
“Every game you get to play you learn something different,’’ Houston said. “I’ve been playing about eight games. It’s fun getting into rhythm and pick up things and be able to understand what’s going on out there. It makes it a lot easier once you get your feet wet.’’
— Goethel, who predominantly played as a middle linebacker during the Napa portion of training camp, will be a backup at weak side linebacker against Kansas City.
That offers at least some validation to something I heard late in camp _ that the coaches liked Goethel so much they were going to make him a rookie starter at weak side linebacker along with McClain and middle linebacker and Houston at defensive end.
The plan was scuttled when Goethel’s back began acting up. Disk surgery kept him out for the first eight games of the season.
Cable said Thomas Howard, who missed the last four games with a knee injury, would play on special teams and be in a reserve role. His time on the field on defense is likely to be limited given Mike Mitchell’s ascension during Howard’s absence.
— Those who were limited at practice were WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (shoulder), center Samson Satele (knee), Gradkowski and S Hiram Eugene (hamstring). Those who did not practice were WR Louis Murphy (bruised lung), WR Chaz Schilens (knee), TE Zach Miller (arch), DT John Henderson (stress fracture) and Asomugha (ankle).
At some point in the recent past, Schilens surgery, originally described as minor and with a six week recovery time, developed into something more substantial.
Pressed about the time Schilens has missed, Cable said, “I think the procedure that was done was not something real minor or anything like that. It was fairly extensive, so it takes time.’’
— Cable said Asomugha is “much better’’ and has put some weight on his sprained ankle, although he conceded the cornerback hasn’t done any running.
Cable was tight-lipped about Miller as well. When asked if he expected Miller to play, Cable said, “Yes. But you know, it’s questionable, but yes.’’
Has Miller improved since Wednesday?
“Much,’’ said Cable.
-— Bruce Gradkowski isn’t starting, Cable said, because “he’s got to be able to do everything we need him to do and he’s improving, getting better, all that, but still, to say he’d be 100 percent, it wouldn’t be fair
— Punter Shane Lechler is enjoying the feeling of an important game against a division rival in November.
“It’s fun to be involved in a week where a game means so much,’’ Lechler said. “ It’s been a long time since we’ve done that. Anytime you got to play a team twice in one season, when you play them the first time it’s always important because it’s probably going to reflect on how you’re going to perform against them the second time.”
Lechler holds no hard feelings toward fans who have stayed away.
“It’s like you want to (tell) them, it’s `it’s OK to believe in us this year,’ ‘’ They’re still skeptical about us. And that’s fine. I understand the price of these tickets and stuff like that, but it’s good to have them showing up now.
“This game means a lot to us. We want to go to the playoffs. We want to be good. We want to change everybody’s perspective of us. We want to be No. 1 in the AFC West. We want a lot of things, but you can only go out and get so much, You got to win each Sunday, especially when you got an in-division game. We’re going to have to play our best.”