By Steve Corkran
Monday, January 2nd, 2012 at 1:05 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Less than 24 hours ago, Raiders players were putting on their cleats and preparing for a must-win game against the San Diego Chargers. Today, those shoes are being thrown into garbage bags, loaded into vehicles and stored until the offseason workouts begin.
Such is the harsh nature of a season, when one loss brings everything to a screeching halt and sends thoughts of Super Bowl titles in another direction.
“Yeah, it’s definitely tough to swallow,” right guard Cooper Carlisle said Monday. “We didn’t know the exact scenario that would play out, but it turns out if we win that game, we’re preparing for Pittsburgh. Instead, I’m cleaning shoes out of the locker.”
That scene played out throughout the Raiders locker room this morning, as players gathered their belongings, participated in exit interviews and said their good-byes much sooner than they expected.
Strong safety Tyvon Branch said a night’s sleep and some reflecting back on what could have been hasn’t changed his outlook.
“It still hurts,” Branch said. “Same feeling. Ain’t much changed overnight. We still want to keep playing, but we can’t.”
Veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour said he will let coach Hue Jackson and whoever else is involved in the decision-making process this offseason decide whether changes need to be made in terms of personnel and scheme.
The important thing is, recognizing that the way the Raiders performed this season wasn’t good enough and finding ways to get better play on a week to week basis.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing, for sure,” Seymour said. “We didn’t accomplish our goals, so, t’s disappointing, to say the least. But we never make any excuses. We were inconsistent and that ended up being our Achilles heel at the end of the day.”
Punter Shane Lechler is one of two Raiders who know what it’s like to be on a playoff team around here. Yet, even he and kicker Sebastian Janikowski are nine years removed from that taste.
Lechler said he and his teammates were confident of ending that drought. Now, they have to deal with the pain of coming up short.
“That one hurt, man,” Lechler said. “It’s been a long time, though, since we had anything to play for around here. We just let a great opportunity go.”
Just the same, Lechler said, being in a position to challenge for a playoff spot in the final game of the season counts as progress.
“Yeah, I’ve been out of competition for anything around here in November for the last six years, know what I mean?” Lechler said. “Finally had something to play for, and it’s fun, I’ll say that. But it sucked losing.”
Jackson’s season-ending news conference begins at 2 p.m. Should be interesting to see if he has changed his tune from yesterday, when he used the word “pissed” or “pisses me off” nine times in describing his emotions on the heels of a 38-26 loss to the Chargers.
Jackson spent all season saying he isn’t into pointing fingers, making excuses and singling out players. His comments Sunday broke from that and signaled that major changes are in the offing this offseason.
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