By Steve Corkran
Thursday, December 15th, 2011 at 3:17 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Coach Hue Jackson says his troops will play with reckless abandon Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is encouraged by a return of the kind of effort he witnessed during the Raiders three-game win streak. The players say they are poised to finish strong.
We won’t know until Sunday whether all the talk means much. However, everyone at the team’s year-round facility in Alameda is of the belief that the Raiders won’t suffer a hangover from their two-game losing streak and that something special is about to happen.
“There’s no thought of that,” Jackson said, when asked about the prospect of his players being too tight. “Our thought is, we’re going to go out there and play as well as we can and we’re going to let everything else fall where it may. At the end of the day, everything is going to take care of itself, other than our effort, how hard we play, our focus, our attention to detail and how we go about our business.”
As evidence, Bresnahan points to a “rejuvenated effort” in practice and the meetings, akin to what he recalls seeing three weeks ago, when the Raiders were riding high, at 7-4 and in first place in the AFC West.
The key, Bresnahan said, is getting that kind of effort and focus every week.
“It’s exactly like it was three weeks ago,” Bresnahan said. “But you got to be able to do that all the time.”
The Raiders realize, to a man, that time is running out and their best shot at making the playoffs is to block out distractions, win their remaining three games and hope that’s enough to earn the division title or one of two wild-card berths.
A sold-out crowd will be at the Coliseum to do its part, the seventh in as many games this season. That in itself, Jackson said, should make a difference.
“Oh, my God, that’s going to be a huge boost,” Jackson said. “We’ve been on the road, with angry people screaming at us, yelling at us for the last couple of weeks and giving it to us. We’ve had to take it. Now we’re at home and our crowd will be there for us, and they’ll be there yelling and screaming for us and we’ve got to give them something to yell and scream for.”
SEYMOUR IN A SLUMP
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour recorded one tackle — a sack — in Oakland’s past five games. Bresnahan likens it to a baseball team’s best hitter being in a slump.
Yet, neither Bresnahan nor Jackson is worried about Seymour’s lack of production of late.
“Richard is a professional and the one thing that you judge Richard on is the high standard that he set for himself throughout his career,” Bresnahan said. “He’s a professional and he’ll respond. I’m not down on Richard one bit. He’s going to step up and have a heck of a game this week.”
Bresnahan was quick to point out that the entire defense is accountable for the subpar play, the past two games, in particular.
Seymour suffered a knee injury against the Houston Texans in the fifth game. He has missed more practices in recent weeks than he has attended while dealing with the knee and other nagging injuries. He had five sacks his first eight games.
“It’s just been tough for me just because I haven’t been able to practice much,” Seymour said. “It’s just tough pushing through injuries. Earlier in the year, I felt good, it was going … I don’t know what game it was … then I was just battling through practices and just trying to manage it going through games.”
Things got so bad that Seymour didn’t even participate in pre-game warm-ups in Minnesota before the Vikings game, yet he played some that game.
Seymour has made it through both practices this week. He said his knee is getting better and that he is hopeful of getting back to full strength.
“Your health is very important, especially when you are playing on the inside,” Seymour said. “You got to be able to fight off guys and be explosive, and I haven’t had that the last couple of weeks. But, I am getting better.”
Jackson and Seymour had a little chat in recent days. Jackson walked away from the confab confident that Seymour is in the proper frame of mind for the stretch run.
“Richard’s fine,” Jackson said. “He’ll be fine. Me and Richard had a great conversation, and I feel very comfortable with him and where he is. Richard’s a pro.
“I know when you say that, the thought is he needs to step his game up. Richard would be the first to tell you, he knows what he needs to do, and I do, too. We’ll get it done, and it’s crunch time now, it’s time to play. Not that it wasn’t before, but we know what it is now. So, let’s go.”
Jackson said it would be “tough” for players such as running backs Darren McFadden and Taiwan Jones, wide receiver Jacoby Ford, defensive tackle John Henderson and free safety Michael Huff to play Sunday if they aren’t able to practice this week.
Given that, those players have one more shot to practice before the Raiders shut it down the rest of the week. The Raiders practice Friday, with a brief walk-through Saturday.
“I like to put guys out there who have practiced,” Jackson said, “unless I know definitely what’s going on, whether it’s medical or emotional or whatever that is.”
The emotional part is in regard to cornerback Chris Johnson, who still is dealing with the recent death of his sister Jennifer and the wounding of his mother.
Johnson has not practiced this week, and he has not rejoined his teammates since traveling to Texas for his sister’s funeral. He is expected back in town later today.
NO MORE PADS
The Raiders reached their allotment of padded practices last week, Jackson said. Therefore, they are practicing this week without pads, just as they will the next two weeks.
“There’s no more of those and that’s the way the league is,” Jackson said. “I respect that. We’re not going to break any rules. We’re going to do it right but, boy, I’d sure like to have ‘em on.”
The new guidelines as put forth in the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that teams are not allowed to conduct more than 14 padded practices during the regular season, as a means of preventing players from getting too worn down throughout the course of the season.
Jackson said he and his coaches have had to change the way they conduct practices to they are in accordance with the new rule.
“You have to adjust to it because there’s times when you need pads to sharpen certain things and sharpen fundamentals,” Jackson said. “You have to say, ‘OK, you can’t do it this way,’ but that’s OK. The emphasis is still the safety of the player, to make sure they haven’t been worn down, or grounded down, as a lot of people think they’ve been in the past.”
HOUSTON, WE NEED MORE FLASH
Jackson likes what he has seen from defensive end Lamarr Houston this season. Still, he said, there’s room for improvement from the second-year player.
“He’s done some really good things,” Jackson said. “He plays consistent, plays really hard. Obviously, you want to see more flash because he has that kind of ability, but he’s been very consistent and solid for our football team. I’m looking forward to him coming on these last three weeks and playing really well.”
Houston has only one sack in 13 games. Yet, he has played well against the run in most games and applied pressure on the quarterback on a consistent basis.
Bresnahan lumped Houston and middle linebacker Rolando McClain into the same category, young players finding their way in the NFL and growing on the job.
“They’ll probably tell you, they’re not where the want to be as of yet,” Bresnahan said, “but they approach it like professionals and, again, is it anywhere perfect yet? No. But that’s as a unit as well. But they’ve come into their own a little bit. They’ve grown.
“The maturity level with the way they prepare, the way they practice, again, it’s an ongoing (process). I’ve seen them mature throughout the season since I’ve been here. So it’s a work in progress, but it’s going in the right direction.”
Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl