Whether Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain gets suspended for his offseason conviction on four misdemeanors from a gun-related incident last season is in the hands of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie said they are proceeding in a business-as-usual fashion until told otherwise. McClain sounds as if he isn’t worried about the issue.
“No, I don’t think I’ve ever had a talk of anything about a suspension,” McClain said Monday. “I haven’t heard it. I guess that’s all speculation.”
As for the potential of a suspension weighing on him, McClain said he isn’t fazed.
“It’s football,” McClain said. “I get paid to play football.”
For the record, Allen and McKenzie said they there’s a plan in place for the Raiders to move forward without McClain if the need arises.
This past May a Decatur, Ala., municipal court judge found McClain guilty of third-degree assault, menacing, reckless endangerment and illegal discharge of a firearm and sentenced him to 180 days in jail. McClain appealed the ruling.
Next up is a jury trial in Morgan County, which likely wouldn’t take place until at least six months after an arraignment. Even so, Goodell isn’t bound to that timetable.
McClain underwent stem-cell treatment for nagging injuries in the offseason. The treatments must have worked, for McClain said he feels good entering the regular season.
As for the defense, McClain said he likes the way things are run under first-year defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, where the Raiders aren’t as predictable as they were in recent seasons and everyone has a chance to make plays.
McClain also is growing more accustomed to being the vocal leader that Allen and Tarver asked him to be during the offseason.
“I was a pretty good leader at Alabama in college,” McClain said. “It’s different here. It’s just different. You’re not dealing with guys your own age. You’re dealing with grown men. Being a leader is just not about yelling but understanding guys that you’re working with. Different people respond to different things in different ways. It’s figuring out your teammates and how they respond to things to get them to work. It’s still a process.”
— Recently signd offensive tackle Willie Smith started three games for the Washington Redskins last season. The Raiders were thrilled by the prospect of having a promising offensive lineman fall into their laps after the Redskins waived Smith Friday.
“Athletic, long arms, comes from the same type of system, so the learning curve shouldn’t be that difficult,” Allen said. “He’s really an athletic talent at the tackle position.”
Smith isn’t shy about echoing that sentiment.
“I was definitely shocked that they let me go,” Smith said. “It was a huge shock to me. But I was like, ‘Hey, I know somebody else is going to pick me up because I know I was a great player.’ I did some good things last year, and I improved this year. I’m just ready to go out there and keep getting better and let these guys know they got a good player in me.”
Part of Smith’s confidence stems from starting games last season in which he was assigned to block Jason Pierre-Paul, Trent Cole and Jared Allen.
Sure, each of those players recorded a sack in those games, but Smith feels as if he faed pretty well, all things considered.
“Every day you go in practice against Pro Bowl caliber guys,” Smith said. “I was going against (Brian) Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, and then you get in the game situations and you get to actually go against Jason Pierre-Paul and Jared Allen, it lets you know that, ‘Hey, I can do this. I’m good enough to go out there and play.’ So it was good for my confidence and allowed me to realize that I could go out there.”
— Allen said Phillip is in line to return punts in the opener if Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford aren’t healthy enough to play.
Returning punts isn’t anything new to Adams. He handled that role in college and he has done so at times during his NFL career, as well.
Allen was quick to point out an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown that Adams had against the Raiders in an exhibition game in 2010.
“I like getting back there and just being by myself,” Adams said.
Adams also plays cornerback and special teams.
— The six primary cornerbacks that received playing time for the Raiders in 2011 no longer are on the 53-man roster — Stanford Routt, Chris Johnson, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Chimdi Chekwa, Joe Porter and Lito Sheppard. Chekwa is on the Raiders practice squad.
In their place, the Raiders signed Ron Bartell, Shawntae Spencer, Adams, Joselio Hanson, Pat Lee and Coye Francies.
“As things played out throughout OTAs, minicamp and in training camp, we felt like that was a position that we needed to try to upgrade,” Allen said, “and we felt like with the players that we brought in here that it helps us as a team to be better.”
Bartell said it’s going to take time for the newcomers to mesh. Even so, he isn’t overly concerned.
“We’re pretty much set for starters,” Bartell said of he and Spencer locked in as the replacments for Routt and Johnson. “In terms of that, we’re fine. It’s just getting guys brought up to speed. If someone goes down, then you could see some issues.”
Allen isn’t worried about Hanson having only a week to learn a new system. The Raiders signed him this morning at the same time they waived Van Dyke.
“He’s smart,” Allen said. “We’ve spent some time with him already, talking over the defensive scheme and the things that we would ask him to do and he seemed to grasp it pretty quickly. So, I would anticipate he would have a pretty quick learning curve.”
Pretty quick? How’s this for a quick learner?
“I feel like in the next couple of days I’ll get it down,” Hanson said. “I’ve seen basically every (defensive scheme). I went over the whole playbook already, so it’s just now about all about studying and reiterating it to myself. It’s the same defense, a 4-3 defense, it’s just different names, different plays, but once I get that down I’ll be ready to go.”
— Moore spent time running Saturday and Sunday, Allen said. That gives Allen more reason to believe that Moore will return from a hamstring injury in time for the opener a week from today.
“He’s had a couple of good days back-to-back, so I’m encouraged by that,” Allen said.
As for wide receiver Jacoby Ford, he still hasn’t been cleared to run. Even so, Ford is making progress and has a chance to play against the Chargers, as well.
— Wide receiver Juron Criner practiced Monday, though with a noticeable limp as a result of an ankle injury.
“I don’t really think it’s a big deal,” Allen said. “He was able to get out and run around pretty well yesterday. He’s a little bit more sore today. It’s a long time until Monday night, so we’ll be fine there.”
— Center Stefen Wisniewski was limited in practice Monday. Allen said he expects Wisniewski to be at full strength for Thursday’s practice, when things crank up to full speed in advance of the Chargers game.
Wisniewski missed every practice, as well as three exhibition games, since he suffered a calf injury against the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 13.
Alex Parsons worked with the first-team offense and Colin Miller with th second-team during the media-window access period.
— It’s conceivable that the Raiders will start two rookies against the Chargers — weak-side linebacker Miles Burris and wide receiver Rod Streater.
Burris is a lock to start. Streater is expected to start opposite Darrius Heyward-Bey if Moore and Ford can’t go.
Allen said he is comfortable with Burris starting, even though there are sure to be some ups and downs in the early going as Burris adjusts to the NFL.
“He’s made some progress,” Allen said. “He’s an athletic guy. He runs really well. He’s tough, physical. He’s still going to be a work in progress. He still has to get better from the mental aspect of the game just like all rookies do. Will there be growing pains? Yeah there will be some growing pains. But I feel good about where he’s at right now.”
McClain said he and others will be there to help Burris through the growing pains.
“There’s not a lot of pressure on him. You got two veteran guys beside you, me and Philip. So, I just try to tell him to relax. He gets excited. He’s a very energized guy, and we love him. The hardest thing is, just tell him to calm down. He always wants to make his plays. He has to be calm. He’s a great young guy. I’m excited to see him play.”
— Lest you think the Raiders are set at running back, consider a report from the Newark-Star (N.J.) Ledger that says the Raiders and Seattle Seahawks also put in waiver claims on former Giants running back D.J. Ware, who went to the Buccaneers because of a higher priority in terms of waiver claims.