By Steve Corkran
Friday, September 16th, 2011 at 1:13 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Coach Hue Jackson was asked Friday why wide receiver Derek Hagan was inactive against the Denver Broncos in the regular-season opener.
Well, let’s just say that Jackson has been waiting for an opportunity to respond to those who questioned the decision and called him on his repeated preaching about performance-based play.
First, let’s give Jackson the microphone since he, obviously, has yearned for the chance to fire away at his critics (in the interst of full disclosure, yes, I was one of the most vocal).
“OK, let me, because this has come up several times, about Hagan,” Jackson started. “I just said Hagan’s done a great job and, obviously, he was our leading receiver in the preseason, right? But I never once said he’s the best receiver on our team. I never once said that.”
For the record, no one quoted Jackson as saying Hagan is the best wide receiver on the team. Back to Jackson.
“What he did in the preseason gave him an opportunity to be on this football team,” Jackson said. “It did not make him the starting receiver on this football team. So, let’s make sure we understand where I was with Hagan.”
Where Jackson stood was on firm ground about those who performed best in training camp and exhibition games would be rewarded with playing time. He uttered this stance numerous times.
Hagan caught 12 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown in Oakland’s four exhibition games. He outplayed every receiver on the roster, though it’s important to note that Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens missed some or all of the four games.
Moving on, Jackson said there’s a role for Hagan on the team. That will be defined by Jackson as he learns more about his roster.
“Now, if he gets an opportunity this weekend, he gets an opportunity,” Jackson said. “But I get to make that decision. Nobody else. Me. So, everybody else who thinks I was supposed to put him out there because he was our leading receiver in the preseason, forget that we had other guys that have been very good receivers on this team.
“So, I get to make that decision. That’s the decision I made last week and on we go. Now, if he plays this week, he plays.”
At that point, I reminded Jackson that the media takes their cues from what he says, and that Jackson said playing time would be performance-based.
To which, Jackson replied:
“Yeah, but here’s the deal,” Jackson said. “You said that ‘performed the best.’ No doubt, but we had some other guys that hadn’t practiced that I’ve seen perform in games and make big plays, i.e. Jacoby Ford. So, you guys were like, I’m supposed to sit him down, sit Jacoby Ford down, and let this kid play.”
Um, coach, no one said that that I am aware of. It would be easy to make a case for Hagan playing ahead of Schilens, rookie Denarius Moore and Game 1 starter Darrius Heyward-Bey, though.
Let’s not get in the way of Jackson’s rant. He’s not through yet.
“No, that’s not where I was,” Jackson said. “So, let’s make it clear about what that was. That was for him to get on the team. Performance is what matters, and that’s what got him on the team. That’s where it starts first. Then, he has to continue to perform and beat some of these guys out and then he’ll play. That’s the way it works.”
So, there you have it. What Hagan did in practice and exhibition games was good enough to get him a spot on the 53-man roster. For him to play in a game, he’s going to have to do even more in practice.
*Nick Miller is one of the more versatile players on the Raiders roster. That, more than anything, played into his making the 53-man roster each of the past two seasons.
All his talents just might be on display Sunday against the Bills, given injuries to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and kick returner Jacoby Ford.
Miller’s primary role is that of punt returner. However, he also is a backup receiver and one of several options on kick returns. He performed all three in practice Friday.
Jackson would not say who is going to return kicks Sunday. Rookie Taiwan Jones and veteran Rock Cartwright also lined up on kick returns during practice Friday.
Jones declined comment in the locker room, saying he had to shower before boarding the plane.
*The Bills turned in, perhaps, the most-impressive showing of Week 1 by rolling into Arrowhead Stadium and rolling up the defending AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs 41-7.
Mind you, the Chiefs are quite difficult to beat at home, even when they aren’t in the midst of a successful season. The Raiders pulled off the feat last season.
Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly has a message for the Bills, lest they get too caught up in their season-opening victory.
“It caught everybody’s attention around the league,” Kelly said. “Anytime you can go on the road and have a victory like that, that’s going to open up a lot of people’s eyes. But the thing about the NFL is, that happened last week. You’ve got to do the same thing this week. So whatever they did is a nice, impressive victory. Bu they’ve got to come and deal with us now. And we ain’t the Chiefs.”
*The Raiders received some encouraging news Friday with the return of defensive tackle Richard Seymour and free safety Michael Huff. Both missed practice Wednesday and Thursday.
Seymour is battling sore ribs. Huff strained his groin against the Broncos. Their return Friday makes it likely that they intend to play against the Bills. However, they are listed as questionable, which equates to a 50-50 chance of playing in NFL injury report lingo.
Seymour no doubt wants to play. He has more sacks against the Bills (7) than any other team during his long, illustrious NFL career.
Huff said in the locker room that he intends to play, no doubt.
*Jackson said Murphy (groin) and backup safety Mike Mitchell (knee) also are out for the Bills game. Both players said they are targeting the New York Jets game Sept. 25 for their return from injury.
*Tight end Kevin Boss made it through his third straight practice this week without any setback from the left knee injury he suffered against the 49ers on Aug. 20.
“It’s definitely improving each day,” Boss said. “I’m looking forward to getting back out there and playing some football again.”
*Running back Michael Bush received huge props for his starring role in helping the Raiders close out their 23-20 victory over the Broncos.
Some people are taking to calling him the closer.
“I don’t consider that a role,” Bush said. “It’s something that needed to be done. The line did a great job. It’s was something that we did. We were practicing on it. We just had to move the chains, and we got it done.”
When reminded that closers get paid top dollar, Bush said: “I’ll take it.”
He said he also is aware of the fact that people always seek to label players as something or other.
“Something that comes with the territory,” Bush said. “I’m always getting labeled as something. So, if (everybody) wants to give me that, I’ll take that, too.”
Jackson said he views Bush as more than just a late-game specialist.
“I’m not going to say he’s the closer,” Jackson said. “There’s a couple of things, whether it’s Darren (McFadden) or him, that I know they have a good feel of doing. At the time, there are a couple of things that I’d seen that I thought would give us an opportunity to finish the game.
“You always keep a couple things in your back pocket when you need them the most, and I thought this young man would run those particular plays very well. So that’s why he was there.”
*Here’s the full injury report, in Jackson’s words:
“Ford, did not practice, and he is out, OK? Heyward-Bey, did not practice, and he’s questionable. Murphy, did not practice, he is out. (Stephon) Heyer, limited, questionable. McFadden, full, probable. Boss, limited, questionable. (Jason) Campbell, full, probable. (Jarvis) Moss, full, probable. Seymour, limited, questionable. Huff, limited, questionable. (Chris) Johnson, full, probable. Mitchell, did not participate, he is out. (Joe) Porter, full, probable.”
*Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl