By Steve Corkran
Sunday, September 4th, 2011 at 4:35 pm in Oakland Raiders.
About 23 hours after saying good-bye to 26 players, Raiders coach Hue Jackson got around to talking about the moves, which included bringing back eight of those 26 on the practice squad.
Nothing earth-shattering from Jackson on the roster moves. He did have some interesting things to say about his current players.
For one, Jackson said he is set with Jared Veldheer, Stefen Wisniewski, Samson Satele, Cooper Carlisle and Khalif Barnes as his starting offensive line.
“From the start of training camp, I saw a unit of men start to battle, start to take coaching and continue to get better,” Jackson said.
He said things might have been different were it not for early injuries to Bruce Campbell and Stephon Heyer. In the end, those guys just had too much making up to do.
“Those other five guys, they just kept battling, kept getting better, kept taking care of the quarterback,” Jackson said. “And that’s the name of the game. You have to keep your quarterback clean.”
Wisniewski was anointed the starting center when the Raiders selected him in the second round of the NFL draft in late April. The re-signing of Satele in late July compelled the Raiders to find another spot for Wisniewski.
“That’s been my goal since I’ve been here, to be a starter,” Wisniewski said. “Now it’s official. That’s good. But it certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to relax. It just means I’ve got to get focused and start working at left guard after initially playing a lot of center. So I’ve got a lot of work to do, getting better at left guard. I’ll be working my butt off here every day. It’s going to take time, but I’m willing to put it in and have good coaches to help me get there.”
Jackson also said that “absolutely” he expects veteran wide receiver Chaz Schilens to play against the Denver Broncos in the regular-season opener Sept. 12.
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour and cornerback Chris Johnson joined Schilens at practice with the rest of their teammates.
The only regulars still sidelined with injuries are receiver Louis Murphy, safety Mike Mitchell and tight end Kevin Boss.
“I’m excited because (almost) all of our players were there today,” Jackson said. “I’ve seen guys who haven’t been out running around for weeks out there playing and preparing and getting themselves ready. So, I feel very comfortable about where we are healthwise.”
*Saturday was a tense day for many of the Raiders who weren’t assured of roster spots. One of the surprise players who made the team is cornerback Joe Porter.
He stayed up until 5 a.m. after the return flight from Seattle, uncertain of his future. He said he didn’t find out he had made the team until he showed up to the facility Sunday morning before practice.
“I just walked in this morning and nobody said anything,” Porter said. “Yeah. I walked in and looked around the corner, there was a slip on my locker, but it was only for a drug test.”
So it was that Porter beat out 2010 draftees Walter McFadden and Jeremy Ware, as well as promising undrafted rookie Sterling Moore.
Family and friends started calling Porter after the cuts were announced Saturday night, but he still wasn’t sure what to make of things.
“They were calling me all night and all day,” Porter said. ” ‘You made it!’ No, I’m still not sure. Things can always change. But they’e blowing me up: ‘Joe, you made it! I can’t believe it! I’m so proud of you.’ My mom’s crying on the phone. But yeah, I walked in, sat in the meeting, nothing’s going on, went to practice, ok, looking over my shoulder, ok.”
*No sooner had linebacker Ricky Brown been cut by the New England Patriots did the Raiders move in.
“I got cut on Friday, and I was in Logan Airport (in Boston), and all of a sudden my agent called and said, ‘The Raiders have already called.’ And I’m, like, ‘Cool, let’s get it going.’ ”
Brown spent his first five NFL seasons with the Raiders. He signed with the Patriots this offseason after he failed to receive a contract offer from the Raiders.
Brown surfaced on their radar again once Travis Goethel suffered a season-ending knee injury and Sam Williams was waived. Brown said the Raiders were the only team he wanted to hear from.
“I was telling my agent this was the place I wanted to be afterwards,” Brown said. “We were thinking maybe I’d have to clear through waivers, and I didn’t want to have to go through that, either.”
Jackson said it was nice seeing a familiar face.
“We hugged this morning,” Jackson said. ” ‘Hey Ricky, how you doing?’ ‘Hey, coach, it’s good to see you.’ ‘Let’s go to practice.’ That’s about what it was. I’m glad Ricky’s back. Ricky’s a veteran player, knows the lay of the land here,
knows our coaches, knows me, so it was very comfortable, and I’m glad he’s back.”
Brown said he isn’t sure how he will be used, other than on special teams. He is scheduled to meet with linebackers coach Greg Biekert to find out what the Raiders expect of him moving forward.
*Strong safety Tyvon Branch received high praise for the pass he intercepted against the Seattle Seahawks on Friday night. Hearing praise for his pass coverage skills for a change is nice, he said.
“I get a lot of criticism on my coverage, so that’s’ the big thing I was focused on this offseason was attacking the ball,” Branch said. “And it’s paying off.”
As for the criticism, Branch was asked if it’s warranted.
“Oh, no, I don’t think it’s warranted,” Branch said. “I work hard. I put myself in good positions and just go out there and try and make play. I’m a good player, man, and everybody on my team will vouch for that. I give a lot of effort. I barely give up plays and I take a lot of criticism that I don’t deserve, but I just go out there and play ball.”
*Raiders rookie quarterback reportedly will appeal his five-game suspension. Jackson said that’s of little concern to him right now as he prepares his team for the regular-season opener.
“If he appeals it and it works, great,” Jackson said. “If it doesn’t, it’s no big deal. Right now, and again, I’m glad he’s a part of our football team, but right now the focus is not that, the focus is our football team getting ready to play the
Pryor passed through the locker room, but he grabbed a bag and walked back out before he could be approached for comment on word that he intends to appeal the suspension.
*Jackson said he is content entering the season with Jason Campbell and Kyle Boller as his quarterbacks. The Raiders waived Trent Edwards on Saturday.
So, what happens if Campbell and Boller get hurt in the same game?
“His name is Shane Lechler, and he’s pretty good at it,” Jackson said of his Pro Bowl punter. “I had him a year ago,
he was my No. 3 quarterback a year ago. So I trust him. He takes snaps, he’s done it all. He’s played quarterback, I know he can get it done in a pinch if we need him to.”
For the record, Lechler played quarterback in high school, and he routinely throws passes during practice. He throws a better pass than most quarterbacks, truth be told.
*The Raiders kept four tight ends on their roster. That owes more to the quality of the players, Jackson said, and isn’t an indication that Boss won’t be able to play against the Broncos, if not longer.
“What we’re doing is just making sure that if he’s not, that we’re capable of doing what we need to do,” Jackson said. “All those guys are deserving. It’s not like they didn’t earn the right to be here. We’re not giving anybody anything. I’m glad
they’re here, and we’ll go from there.”
Boss suffered a knee injury against the 49ers on Aug. 20. He said his sprained medial collateral ligament is getting better and that there’s a good chance he will be able to play against the Broncos.
*Some teams scour the waiver wire after roster cutdowns and target players from other teams when forming their practice squad. The Raiders felt most comfortable signing their own players.
“Sometimes that’s what you have to do, bring back the guys that you can have on your football team,” Jackson said, “and I’m glad we have those guys back. They were here, know our systems, know me and know exactly what we need to do. Some of it is, I’m not going to tell you all of it, it’s not developmental. Some of these guys know how to practice, know exactly what to expect until you can get better.”
*Backup safety Mike Mitchell spoke Sunday for the first time since he suffered a knee injury in practice almost a month ago.
He said he is making progress, running around and gearing up for the Broncos.
“I feel good, I feel great,” Mitchell said. “Everything’s coming along good. The only thing, I’m not going to give a team a tip whether I’m going to play or not. Make them guess.”
Mitchell’s injury was severe enough to cause him to need crutches to get around at one point during camp. He said he intends to make sure that he is all the way healed so that his injury doesn’t linger or become aggravated and cause him to miss an extended period of time.
“Everyone has said, ‘Be smart with it,’ and that’s what I’m doing,” Mitchell said. “If we were playing the Super Bowl, I wouldn’t have missed a preseason game, but we’re not, it’s the preseason. It’s really no point to aggravating something or injuring something if there’s no need to. We’re talking about a 16-game season. I don’t think I will, but if I was to miss a game or two, there’s still 14 more for me to come in and make an impact in.”
*Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl