Raiders practice notes

Filling in for Steve Corkran with some practice notes . . .

— Best news about Al Saunders bringing in some of his “Greatest Show on Turf” ideas from his days with the St. Louis Rams?

It means Darren McFadden gets to play Marshall Faulk.

I say this every year at training camp, but McFadden might be the Raiders best receiver. He glided into a swing pass at full speed and made Rolando McClain look like a cardboard cut-out.

— To be fair, McClain was in the middle of a lot of plays during the padded practice, and seemed to take particular delight in hammering Rock Cartwright whenver the opportunity arose.

— After a rough couple of early practices, seventh-round draft pick David Ausberry, a converted wide receiver out of USC, has flashed some playmaking ability.

— Still no practice for Darrius Heyward-Bey. He’s missed the first five sessions with an undisclosed injury (they’re almost all undisclosed this year) and as much as Hue Jackson says he thinks things are fine, it’s hard not to look at it as a problem.

Heyward-Bey needs these practices as much if not more than anyone to gain some traction and do something with his third season. Chaz Schilens, meanwhile, hasn’t missed a session, is playing hard, catching the ball and doing enough to inspire optimism. Keep your fingers crossed . . .

— Tight end Kevin Brock couldn’t adjust under a throw by Jason Campbell in the end zone, but on the following play burned Jerome Boyd for a touchdown form Kyle Boller.

— Wide receiver Louis Murphy continues to excite and infuriate. He looks like the most polished receiver in camp right up to the moment he has the inexplicable drop. It happened today on a perfect pass from Jason Campbell on a medium deep route against rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke.

— Wide reciever Jacoby Ford was wearing a heavy cast on his left hand and probably had surgery, although the Raiders won’t say. Pressed for a time table, coach Hue Jackson would only say he thought Ford would play in the opener on Sept. 12 against Denver.

— Amazing how things can change in a day. The mood regarding tight end Zach Miller was optimistic on Sunday, with one team source saying that details were being worked out on a deal.

That all changed Monday with the news Miller was in Seattle visiting the Seahawks.

The Raiders essentially let Miller wait while giving big money contracts to Richard Seymour, Stanford Routt and now Kamerion Wimbley, with guaranteed money totaling $71.5 million.

Yet they let Miller, their best offensive player over the past four years, sit and wait.

Part of the issue is economics _ tight ends are lower on the economic totum pole than rush ends, cornerbacks and potential Hall of Fame defensive tackles.

But the feeling persists that if the Raiders had given Miller a good offer before the lockout, as they did Routt and Seymour, this wouldn’t be an issue.

If Miller leaves, it’s a body blow to a team that for better or worse, has seen most of its offseason plan of bringing back the players they wanted come to fruition.

Kevin Boss (New York Giants) is probably the best available UFA tight end.

— Safety Mike Mitchell was out today with an undisclosed injury. Rookie running back Taiwan Jones remains out with what is probably a hamstring injury. With Ford and Jones out, Nick Miller is getting plenty of work and is flashing as he has the past two camps. He’s the modern day Kenny Shedd of summer football.

Rookies Van Dyke and Denarius Moore have gotten a look returning kickoffs.

— How’s this for an economic boon?

The Raiders invoked a $3.5 million buyback to $635,000 in salary to retain Wimbley in February, meaning he was set to make $4.135 million.

Except an obscure “30 percent rule” for players in the final year of their contracts voided the deal. Wimbley made $2.1 million, meaning his salary would have almost doubled.

To avoid losing him, the Raiders made him an exclusive franchise free agent _ for a one-year salary of $11.3 million. That’s right _ it’s illegal to raise his salary to $4.135 million but perfectly legal to make it $11.3, because the latter was a new contract.

And now Wimbley is making a reported $29 million guaranteed.

Sometimes, life is kind.

— Scout.com reported Mario Henderson may be back in the picture. He is said to be in Napa, although he hasn’t been spotted by any media to my knowledge. As for Seattle middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, he’s reportedly on his way to Washington, D.C. to visit the Redskins after talking with the Raiders.

Jackson made it clear McClain is the Raiders’ middle linebacker and hinted Tatupu would have to move if he came here. Given that Tatupu has been an every down linebacker who wouldn’t take a pay cut from $4 million, it’s hard to imagine him coming here to be a player who leaves during nickel and dime defenses and a moderate salary.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer