Let the record show that, defensive tackle Travis Ivey is the first player cut by the Raiders since things got serious. Coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie pulled the plug on Ivey on Sunday.
“We’ll keep all options open and do anything we can to try to help this football team,” Allen said, “but right now, it wasn’t something that we felt like was going to help the team.”
The Raiders signed Ivey late last season in hopes that he would fill a need as a massive presence in the middle of their defensive line. His role seemed to take on more import with the arrival of Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and their desire to incorporate the 3-4 alignment into the scheme.
For whatever reason, Ivey reported to training camp overweight, out of shape and on thin ice. He spent his week or so here working on a treadmill, walking around the field and hoping he could work his way back on the field.
To no avail. Now, the Raiders are without a true nose tackle on their roster. To that, Allen said that doesn’t mean that the Raiders still can’t use the 3-4.
“It won’t change it at all,” Allen said of the scheme. “Three-four is a personnel grouping, it’s not necessarily a mentality of a way you play defense. Dallas has played 34 defense with an undersized nose for a lot of years now, so I don’t really worry about that. If we decide to put some 3-4 groupings out there, we just got to change up how we use them.”
Desmond Bryant and Christo Bilukidi got some work at nose tackle Sunday when the Raiders shifted to a 3-4 alignment. Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour presumably can handle the role, as well, if called upon.
Media are prohibited from getting into specifics when it comes to personnel groupings, scheme, trick plays and such. Therefore, I can’t be too detailed on what the Raiders do when they’re in the 3-4.
Suffice, there are times when they line up in a straight 3-4 and other times a linebacker plays with his hand down as an extra lineman.
It’s likely that the Raiders will wait until they break camp in Napa and get back to Alameda before going head long into the 3-4. At that time, the media won’t be allowed to watch all of practice, and the Raiders are free to work without prying eyes watching their every move.
— Cornerback Ron Bartell (hamstring) spent most of the first week or so of camp on the non-football-injury list, meaning he hurt his hamstring in a non-football-related activity. On Sunday, he passed his physical and is one step closer to making his Raiders debut in camp.
Bartell now is in the midst of a three-day acclimation period, as set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“From my understanding, I can do individual drills, I’ll be able to wear shoulder pads, shells and shorts,” Bartell said. “I can’t get in full contact. I guess I’ll go through the drills, the walk-through aspect of it, then in the live periods they’ll probably hold me out. It’s only a couple of days. I’m just excited just to be able to be back and feel healthy again.”
Bartell is eligible to practice at full speed Wednesday.
— Wide receiver Denarius Moore (hamstring) was one of five players who missed practice Sunday. Allen admitted that he is concerned about Moore’s injury.
“It’s a concern,” Allen said, “because it’s been a nagging type of deal. So, we’ve got to make sure that we’re diligent in the rehab process and make sure we continue to get that strengthened so that it’s not an issue during the season and we’re not dealing with this on an every-day or every-week basis.”
Moore has been on and off the field in recent days. On Sunday, he watched the entire practice from afar. He said that he reported to camp at 100 percent on the heels of a hamstring injury at a mini camp in June.
— Running back Taiwan Jones suffered a hamstring injury and Seymour tweaked a knee in practice. Allen said he is awaiting word on the severity of Jones’ injury. Allen said Seymour was held out as more of a precautionary measure.
Tight end Richard Gordon returned to practice after missing several days with a hip flexor and lower leg infection. He wasted little time making his presence felt.
Twice, Gordon got the better of his man in a one-on-one drill. Later in the drill, Gordon got beat by linebacker Philip Wheeler when he fell for an inside fake.
— Fans hopeful of never seeing a linebacker or backup safety on a speedy receiver or running back no doubt will cringe when they read this:
Defensive end Lamarr Houston attempted to cover running back Darren McFadden on a skinny post route on one play Sunday, with the results being oh so predictable.
Carson Palmer spotted the mismatch, waited for McFadden to sprint past Houston and then delivered the ball to McFadden in stride. From there, it was all over, with Houston trying in vain to chase down McFadden.
Later, defensive lineman Dave Tollefson was left alone on running back Mike Goodson a little way downfield. Matt Leinart lofted the ball over Tollefson’s head, into Goodson’s hands and watched as Goodson took it all the way for a long touchdown.
The two plays were enough to bring back memories of linebacker Rolando McClain and former safety Jerome Boyd covering Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson on a deep middle pattern last season, or McClain on San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson or former linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.
— When the ball was placed at the Raiders own 49-yard line, fans knew what was coming. Allen wanted to see if Sebastian Janikowski could kick a 61-yard field goal at the tail end of practice.
As the fans buzzed, Janikowski calmly drilled the ball through the uprights with a little bit of room to spare.
“I was working on it yesterday on the other field,” Janikowski said. “I hit a 70-yarder, so I figured, why not?”
You might recall that Allen was the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator last season, when Janikowski converted an NFL record-tying 63-yarder in the regular-season opener in Denver.
— Punter Shane Lechler continues his rehab away from the sight of the media. Allen said Lechler is here in Napa, but he isn’t sure of Lechler’s date.
“When he gets back out here, I don’t know for sure, but he’s continuing to work at his rehab process and when the time’s right for him to start kicking again, we’ll have him back out here kicking.” Allen said.
— Marquette King is making the most of his golden opportunity during Lechler’s unexpected absence.
Don’t get too worked up about it, though. Lechler isn’t going anywhere, even if he is in the final year of his contract.
In fact, King admitted that whenever he kicks for the Raiders in exhibition games coming up, he will be doing so with an eye toward impressing the 31 other teams in the league.
“I am going to have that mindset,” King said, “but I am going to be out there just trying to have fun. Make sure I don’t get too excited because it’s my first game punting in the NFL.”
After all, teams don’t have the luxury of carrying two punters on their 53-man roster and it’s unrealistic to think that the Raiders have any notion of throwing open the punting job when Lechler still is regarded as among the best, if not the best, at his position.
King is here as an insurance policy, at best, and perhaps with an eye toward the Raiders lining up a punter for 2013 if Lechler opts to sign elsewhere or the Raiders decide to move on.
On Sunday, King put on a display for the 1,000 or so fans in attendance.
“I know when I hit my A ball, I am just as good as any punter,” King said. “I felt like I wasn’t trying to come out here to take anyone’s job, just to learn and get better.”
At first, King started slow, with one good punt followed by a poor one. Then it clicked.
Time and again, King launched booming punts that backed up the returner near his own goal line. His punts routinely were sailing well past 50 yards beyond the line of scrimmage — it was difficult to gauge from the media vantage point.
“He has done a nice job,” Allen said, “but I’d like to see him more consistent. We see that in a lot of young players. As a matter of fact, we talked to the whole team about consistency, and that’s how you win in the NFL. You can’t be up one play and down the next or up one day and down the next. You got to be consistent in what you do. So, that’s something that I preached to him and trying to work on an every-day basis.”
— Safe to say that quarterback Terrelle Pryor took a step back with his performance Sunday.
The culmination of an otherwise poor showing came in a two-minute drill near the end of practice.
On the final four plays:
1. Pryor made an ill-advised throw into a crowd of people, with rookie safety Aaron Henry almost coming down with the interception.
2. Pryor threw a short pass at the feet of wide receiver Rod Streater, with Streater the hot read on a play the defense pressured Pryor with a blitz.
3. Pryor made a nice read of his progression, spotted rookie receiver Derek Carrier in the flat and delivered a well-placed throw for a short gain.
4. Pryor fired a pass toward the end zone, with rookie linebacker Nathan Stupar cradling the ball on the ground after making the interception. Worse, it’s difficult to tell who Pryor was throwing the ball to.
— A handful of officials presided over the practice for the first time since camp opened. The officials didn’t spend much time blowing the whistle or throwing penalty flags.
Unlike previous seasons, the officials working practice in camp aren’t regular NFL officials. They are replacement officials because the league and the regular officials are at an impasse.
“My thing to them was, if we get a penalty, we’ll throw the flag but we won’t do anything to stop practice,” Allen said.