The Raiders practiced under the lights Wednesday night, with the theme from Monday Night Football blaring at one point, and coach Hue Jackson struggling to contain his eagerness.
It’s all part of Jackson’s master plan to build toward the Raiders regular-season opener against the Denver Broncos, which doubles as Jackson’s first meaningful game as an NFL head coach.
The players seemed to enjoy playing under the portable lights, even if it meant getting home way later than normal.
“I’ve never practiced at night like this, but it was fun for us,” defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. “You kind of had that Friday night lights feel. So, it was fun for us. You’re playing a game that you love to play, and we just want to go out and play with that attitude, just have fun doing what we’re trying to do and accomplish our goals along the way.”
That attitude is something that Jackson is working hard to instill in his players. From what he sees, it’s working.
“Oh, yeah,” Jackson said, when asked if he notices his players sporting a swagger. “It starts with me, and it’s going to permeate down to our coaches, to our players. That’s what I told you we’re going to be, and what I told you what we’re going to become, we’re going to become. And it starts on Monday.”
Jackson admits to being amped up already. He said he expects his emotions to reach a fevered pitch come Monday night.
“I’m sure as it gets closer, I’ll get even more excited,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to just (get overexcited) right here tonight. We’ve got a long way to go before that game, but I’m looking very forward to the game, very forward to our football team because our team, it’s time. I always say the time’s now, and the time is now. It’s time for the Raiders to play like Raiders.”
*The Broncos are candid about poring over the video from last year’s double butt-whippings administered by the Raiders, including a 59-14 game at Mile High.
Jackson said he prefers to look forward.
“That doesn’t matter,” Jackson said of last year. “That was a year ago. What happened a year ago really doesn’t matter. And that’s what we talked about. We haven’t really, truth be told, even made a mention of what’s happened last year. They’re talking about last year, we’re not talking about last year. We’re talking about now. This team has to go lay its statement and leave its legacy what they do this season not what they did last year.”
*Wide receiver Chaz Schilens is doing more than practicing on a regular basis these days. He’s also making a rare appearance in the locker room during media access.
To that end, we made a bee-line for Schilens to get his take on his health, what he expects this season and anything else we could get out of him, just in case we don’t see him for the next month or more.
“I plan to play in the game,” Schilen said, “and I hope everything goes good.”
Hope seems to be the operative word with the oft-injured Schilens. His speed, size, hands and overall talent give the Raiders and their fans hope that he stays healthy and realizes his immense talent.
Schilens returned to practice this week after being out since he suffered a leg injury against the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 11. He isn’t babying his latest injury, either.
“Actually, probably the opposite,” Schilen said. “I try to come back even harder, so maybe that’s why I’ve gotten myself in some of the problems. But, nah, I try not to think about it at all, really.”
Schilens looks around and sees several new faces on the offense, from receivers Derek Hagan and Denarius Moore to runnin back Taiwan Jones and tight end David Ausberry.
It’s enough to send his mind wandering about the possibilities if he and his teammates are healthy at the same time — Murphy is out for the opener.
“Yeah, I’m excited,” Schilens said. “I’m excited when we can all get out there, especially when Louis comes back and everything. We’ll be good. It will be hard (for defenses), a pick your poison kind of thing.”
Schilens turned heads when, as a rookie, he performed like a seasoned veteran from the outset. He now has a locker right next to Moore and shakes his head when asked about Moore’s meteoric rise.
“Ah, he’s amazing,” Schilens said. “He’s amazing. I expect big things from him and I’m excited to see him in his first game on Monday night.”
*Much has changed since Seymour arrived via trade a little more than a week before the 2009 opener.
There’s a new coach, a new quarterback, as well as numerous other different players, and optimism that hasn’t been felt in these parts since 2002, perhaps.
“It’s night and day,” Seymour said of the difference between this year’s Raiders team and the two previous ones. “It’s night and day. It isn’t even close. And that’s what you want. But now we’ve got to get it to translate into wins and losses. Every
year I’ve been here, we’ve won more games. Hopefully, we’ll get to double digits this year.”
When pressed for examples, Seymour offered the following:
“Across the board, just the mentality,” Seymour said. “We had a young team when I came in. As guys mature and get older and understand what this business is about. Also, different coaching staff, different schemes come in, and just maturity.
Even when I was a rookie, I didn’t know the things I needed to know. But it was passed along from veteran guys, so I’m trying to help pass some of the knowledge that I have to some of the young guys. It’s kind of like that compound interest. It’s starting to snowball.”
*Few players get Jackson as excited as wide receiver Jacoby Ford. His eyes widen, he smiles and cuts loose with a string of superlatives whenever someone brings up Ford.
That’s understandable, given Ford’s immense success his rookie season last year. He scored touchdowns on kick returns, receiving and running.
This season, Jackson said he wouldn’t be surprised if Ford catches 75-80 passes. The fact Ford is only 5-feet-9 and 185 pounds doesn’t limit what Ford can do, Jackson added.
“I don’t subscribe to that theory,” Jackson said. “If he can score touchdowns, I’m going to give it to him.
He likes the ball in his hands, we like to put it in his hands. He’s a good player. We need to go and turn this guy loose. He has some special ability, and I’m looking forward to watching him play.”