By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 at 2:59 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Coach Hue Jackson wants everyone to know that the Raiders are his team. He calls the plays on offense, he is responsible for the losses and, most of all, he is the one who decides whether a player is worth adding to the roster.
So it was that Jackson felt compelled to quash any rumblings about recently acquired quarterback Carson Palmer playing a role in the Raiders signing wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh on Tuesday.
“None … ,” Jackson said, when asked what role Palmer played in the signing. “A lot of people have said – and I’ve heard all the reports; you walk around and look, and some of the coaches have their TVs on – ‘Oh, this is a Carson Palmer deal.’ Carson Palmer had nothing to do with this. I tried to get T.J. during training camp. People forget that I had a relationship with T.J. I coached him and I know exactly what he is. So, this wasn’t Carson’s idea, by no stretch.”
Jackson said he wanted Houshmandzadeh way back in August, when the Raiders were without the services of wide recievers Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy due to injury.
Ultimately, the Raiders signed veteran Derek Hagan. Why? Well, Jackson didn’t have the autonomy at that point. That belonged to managing general partner Al Davis.
“At that time, Derek was there, we took Derek,” Jackson said. “I wanted T.J. Hey, like I told you, when coach makes a decision. He made it.”
Jackson said Davis wanted the emphasis placed on younger receivers. Houshmandzadeh, 34, didn’t fit the bill.
Now, Jackson feels as if the Raiders are in need of a proven receiver who can help spark the Raiders struggling passing attack.
“He has ability in the slot, but T.J. can really play everywhere,” Jackson said. “The player that I worked out yesterday still has some of the characteristics he had when I coached him. Obviously, he is a little older and a little more gray, but he knows how to play game. I am excited he’s here.”
Houshmandzadeh said he is excited to be reunited with Palmer and Jackson. Already, he is confident that he can fill a void in the Raiders offense.
“With the guys they have, they’re all fast,” Houshmandzadeh said, “but they don’t really have a guy who can work the middle of the field and can run routes. So I can bring that to the table. With those guys on the outside and the way Carson throws the ball and his ability to understand what a defense is trying to do, we can be really good if we put this thing together real fast.”
Houshmandzadeh hasn’t played in a game of any kind since Jan. 15, when he dropped a fourth-down pass in a game in which his Baltimore Ravens were eliminated from the AFC Playoffs.
That drop still bothers Houshmandzadeh, he said. As a result, he can’t wait to get back on the field and play in a game. Jackson said he expects Houshmandzadeh to play Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
“It doesn’t haunt me, it bothers me,” Houshmandzadeh said. “Because I don’t drop the ball. But I dropped that ball and I’m not ashamed to say I dropped it.”
Palmer raved about the qualities and intangibles Houshmandzadeh brings to the Raiders.
“T.J.’s always been a tremendous competitor,” Palmer said. “He has a chip on his shoulder. He doesn’t ever want to be covered, doesn’t ever want to drop the ball, he doesn’t ever want to lose a game and he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure those things don’t happen.
“But he’s consistent. He’s really another quarterback on the field. He knows more about offensive and defensive football than any non-quarterback I’ve ever been around.”
PALMER’S ARM JUST FINE
Houshmandzadeh is one of the few people qualified to pass judgment on Palmer’s arm strength. He played with Palmer when Palmer was in his prime, worked out with him the past two summers and caught passes from Palmer in practice Wednesday.
“I noticed it, and it’s a big difference,” Houshmandzadeh said of the zip on Palmer’s passes. People on TV, they’re like, ‘Oh, he doesn’t have the arm strength.’ They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
There was a time when Houshmandzadeh felt as if Palmer wasn’t the same. That came in the summer of 2010, when Palmer and Houshmandzadeh worked out in Southern California.
Palmer’s ball didn’t have the same zip on it, and he appeared to be throwing at less than full strength. When they convened this summer, Palmer looked like the Palmer of old.
“Last summer (in 2010), the zip wasn’t there,” Houshmandzadeh said. “It was at certain times, but he fatigued really quick. But this summer I asked him, it was one of the let times we worked out, actually, and he was like, ‘Yeah, it was bothering me. … ‘ but this summer, I thought, ‘Wow, this is like Carson when we were rolling in Cincinnati.’ ”
HEYWARD-BEY IN UNCHARTED WATERS
Darrius Heyward-Bey has 27 receptions for 434 yards through seven games. Not mind-blowing stats, but they certainly are impressive considering the recent performance of Raiders wide receivers.
Randy Moss totaled 1,005 yards in 2005. Ever since, the Raiders have not had a receiver who caught more than 62 passes or totaled more than 727 yards in a season.
Louis Murphy led the Raiders wide receivers in receptions and yards each of the past two seasons, with 41 for 609 last season and 34 for 521 in 2009. Johnnie Lee Higgins captured both titles in 2008, with 22 for 366. In 2007, Ronald Curry caught 55 for 717. In 2006, Curry had 62 for 727.
Heyward-Bey is on pace for 62 receptions for 992 yards.
NO WORD ON SELLOUT
The Raiders have until Thursday afternoon to sell enough tickets to avoid a blackout of the Broncos game on local TV. It’s uncertain where the Raiders stand toward that end.
They have sold out their first four regular-season home games this season, something that hadn’t been accomplished since the 2008 campaign.
Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl