More news, notes and quotes from the Raiders open locker room session and press briefing from coach Tom Cable:
— Sad but true.
Since Oct. 24, the Raiders Zach Miller has eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the “other” Zach Miller, of the Jaguars, has 13 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown over the same span.
The Raiders’ Zach Miller was a Pro Bowl alternate last season and his team’s go-to receiver since he was drafted in 2007. The Jaguars’ Zach Miller was a sixth-round pick out of Nebraska-Omaha, a former college quarteback who switched to tight end as a rookie and is less of an in-line blocker than veteran starter Marcedes Lewis.
The Raiders Zach Miller said he has never met the Jaguars’ Zach Miller, although he did say he received his insurance card in the mail once, with both of them having the same first name “Zachary.”
“I knew who he was when he got drafted. I thought it was kind of funny there was another Zach Miller playing tight end, too,” Miller said.
The Raiders say their Zach Miller continues to improve from a leg contusion and plantar fasciiitis. The last five weeks has been the most significant dropoff in terms of receiving production in his career, which indicates he’s playing hurt. If the Raiders hope to challenge for the division title in the last four games, Miller needs to be spry enough to be involved because they simply don’t have enough threats at wide receiver in games where they’re struggling with the run.
— Jason Campbell sees the Raiders at the final quarter-turn and is hoping to finish on a dead sprint.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride, not just for me but for a lot of guys on this team,” Campbell said. “To be in the position we’re in now, still in the fight and still in the hunt to do something special, it means a lot because of all the things we had to try to overcome.”
Campbell said his more relaxed play has been a gradual thing shaped by circumstance.
“It’s just feeling a little bit more comfortable with the guys, the team, understanding the personnel that we have, where I fit in,” Campbell said. “I think a lot of that comes with time and a lot of that is learned with time. A lot of times people want things to happen in an instant. Things in the NFL don’t happen instantly . . . I just feel like over the weeks we have grown together.”
— Running back Darren McFadden thinks he knows why the Raiders weren’t the same team after their three-game win streak.
“I feel like the bye week killed us,” McFadden said. “Coming out of the bye we had two bad games. But I feel like that now everybody has their focus back and we should be all right.”
— Safety Michael Huff, who has forced a career-high three fumbles, has four sacks and is playing the most diverse football of his Raiders career, acknowledges he is in the void year of his contract, meaning he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season unless he is signed before then.
“Yeah, this is it,” Huff said.
A cynic would suggest Huff is showing more varied skills that at any other time just as he could hit the open market. Classic case of a player excelling in a contract year.
“Not really, man,” Huff said. “I am just playing football. Every year I want to have my best year, so I don’t play attention to the contract year, stuff like that.”
The real reason Huff is showing more is he’s been allowed to do more. Being a single deep free safety with with the Raiders is a lonely and sometimes frustrating existence. You’re far away from the action a lot of the time, the last line of defense between an offensive player and a breakaway touchdown.
But something has happened especially in recent weeks that’s allowed Huff to be more versatile. When seventh-round pick Jeremy Ware struggled against Pittsburgh and fifth-rounder Walter McFadden the following week against Miami, the Raiders opted to slide Huff in as a corner and put Stevie Brown, another seventh-round pick, at free safety.
Brown has shown a knack for the position since training camp and had a key breakup against San Diego.
“He’s made plays ever since he’s been here,” Huff said. “I think that helps, having him step up there and letting me slide to corner or to nickel if I need to. I definitely think having him helps me.”
Hopefully the Raiders will remain creative enough to keep Huff in position to do things other than play single deep when Chris Johnson returns.
— Wide receiver Chaz Schilens keeps practicing, and that means his role will continue to expand as the Raiders look to find a reliable outside receiver.
Schilens (knee, foot) was limited Wednesday in the rain, as was Miller (plantar fasciitis, leg), defensive tackle John Henderson (soreness), strong safety Tyvon Branch (shoulder) and Johnson (groin). Johnson’s appearance is notable given he’s missed the last two games.
Those who didn’t practice were cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle) and linebacker Rolando McClain (foot).
Said Cable of McClain, whose injury was called “arthritis” last week and later amended to tendinitis on CBS: “I think the correct term is tendinitis and I’m not a doctor.”
— Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly is a soldier in Tom Cable’s army, so if he has to get up earlier to prepare for an East Coast game, so be it.
“I’m a lieutenant. I’m gonna’ go wherever the head man say,’’ Kelly said. “ So, you know what I’m saying? It ain’t my choice. I just don’t like getting up at six o’clock in the morning, but hey if Cable say we gotta’ get up, we gotta’ get up.’’
— Getting some e-mails and Twitter questions about Chiefs’ quarterback Matt Cassel’s appendectomy and what it means in terms of when he can play. The Robert Gallery comparison doesn’t work, because Gallery had his before training camp and there was no rush to get him back into an actual lineup. He had surgery in mid- to late July and was back on the field on Aug. 11, although not doing any real hittting.
San Francisco Giants outfielder Andres Torres came back after two weeks to contribute to his team’s postseason run. True, he plays baseball, but a full swing of a baseball bat after any surgical procedure to the midsection is impressive.
My wife had an appendectomy in late August and could not have played in the NFL in two weeks.
Her procedure, as was that of Gallery and Torres, was laproscopic, meaning there isn’t a big incision and the appendix is essnetially pulled out through the belly button.
In my expert opinion, no way Cassel plays against the Chargers Sunday, a game that affords the Raiders a chance to move within a game of first place should they beat the Jaguars. You’ve got to think the Dec. 19 date in St. Louis is up in the air as well.
Trust me, I’m (not) a doctor.