By Steve Corkran
Thursday, September 6th, 2012 at 3:59 pm in Oakland Raiders.
As amazing as it seems, quarterback Carson Palmer and running back Darren McFadden have yet to be on the field at the same time in a regular-season game for the Raiders. They get their first crack Monday night against the San Diego Chargers.
Palmer made his Raiders debut last season in the same game that McFadden suffered a season-ending foot injury, though Palmer didn’t enter the game until long after McFadden got hurt.
“I wanted the opportunity to play with him last year and it was such a tease in the preseason because he’s really only gotten a series here or there,” Palmer said. “I have no idea (what it’s like). But I’m like a kid in a candy store, though. I cannot wait. Just the little that we’ve seen of him in the preseason, he brings so much to the field. I’m more excited about that than anything.”
Another oddity is, the Raiders played the San Diego Chargers twice last season without McFadden. Chargers coach Norv Turner said defending the Raiders with McFadden and Carson Palmer on the field at the same time for the first time as teammates won’t make for much fun.
“The more great players, the more players you have that can make explosive plays on the field, the harder you’ll be to defend,” Turner said. “McFadden is a guy that, through a game, will make explosive plays. You have to minimize those plays.
“Obviously, if you’re putting your attention into him to minimize those plays, then it adds opportunities for someone else. Carson played awfully well against us in both games. We got a lot of respect for what he’s capable of doing.”
Palmer passed for 716 yards and four touchdowns against the Chargers last season, including 417 yards in the regular-season finale.
McFadden sounds just as eager to play in a game with Palmer.
“He’s a good quarterback, I’m a good running back, and I guess they just go hand in hand,” McFadden said. “I’m looking forward to getting out there with him. He’s a smart guy who makes the right decisions, puts us in the right situations, so it’s going to be a great thing.”
– Wide receiver Denarius Moore practiced today for the first time in more than a month. He spent most of training camp working through a nagging hamstring injury.
“It felt really good to be back out there with my teammates and get my timing down with the quarterback, just getting a feel for things,” Moore said. “I’ve been out for so long, you somewhat forget the fundamentals, just getting back to that.”
It won’t be easy, either, according to Palmer, who has said several times how important it is to get as many reps as possible with his receivers.
“It’s good to see him out there getting reps, getting his legs back out there underneath him,” Palmer said. “He’s going to need that. You lose football shape really fast, and it’s hard to get it back. So, it’s good to see him getting some work today and hopefully he’ll continue to improve as the week goes on.”
Moore said he won’t play unless he feels as if he can hold up for the entire game.
– Wide receivers Juron Criner (ankle) and Moore, defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee) and left guard Cooper Carlisle (back) were limited in practice. Center Stefen Wisniewski made it through the entire practice at full strength and without any setback from the calf injury that sidelined him for three weeks or so.
As for wide receiver Jacoby Ford (foot), Allen said: “We haven’t gotten any update on him. It’s basically still the same. And we’ll see where he’s at later in the week.”
Ford said Tuesday that he is awaiting word from a team doctor on the status of the foot he injured against the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 17. At this point, it appears unlikely that Ford will recover in time to play Monday.
– Phillip Adams and Taiwan Jones are the projected punt and kick returners, respectively, for the Chargers game, Allen said.
– Wide receiver Derek Hagan signed with the Raiders this morning, practiced today and, before long, he said he expects to know the entire playbook.
To hear Palmer tell it, Hagan is well on his way to making a seamless transition.
“I’ve been really surprised to see how well he’s picked things up in his first practice, because there’s a ton of different formations and shifts and motions,” Palmer said. “He’s done a real good job in Day 1, just really consistent.”
That’s Hagan, former New York Giants teammate Dave Tollefson said. Hagan is one of those players that can be counted upon to work hard, study harder and give everything he has to offer all the time.
“He’s a pro,” Tollefson said of Hagan. “There’s a group of guys in the league that are pros, the situations are what they are, and they take advantage of them. Derek, from my experience with him, he’s going to give us all that he’s got, whether that’s special teams, slot receiver, X receiver, whatever it is. So, any time you can add a guy like that to the mix, it does nothing but help your team.”
Hagan said he prides himself in immersing himself in the playbook and working hard every day, even when the grind of the season sets in.
It’s part of what endeared Hagan to the Raiders last season, when he arrived early in training camp and performed at a high level in the exhibition games.
“They just know that I’m going to come in and work and get the job done, whether it’s on offense or special teams,” Hagan said. “It really does not matter to me. I want to be here and I want to win. That’s what it’s all about. When you play football, the joy of playing this game is winning at the end.”
Hagan got cut by the Raiders when then-coach Hue Jackson brought in T.J. Houshmandzadeh midway through the season. He said he was surprised by the move, just as he was surprised by the Bills waiving him last week.
– There’s a school of thought that the Chargers window for winning the Super Bowl has closed. Quarterback Philip Rivers still is in his prime, sure, but tight end Antonio Gates is nearing the end of his brilliant career and many of the standouts from recent seasons are gone.
Turner said the Chargers had no choice but to add an infusion to a roster ravaged by free agency, injuries and retirement.
“We lost a lot of players over the last two or three years,” Turner said, “when you add Kevin Burnett and (Darren) Sproles and then you go to Kris Dielman and then Marcus McNeill and then Vincent Jackson. We’ve lost some pretty good football players.
“It was time for us to go out and aggressively replace some of those guys. I believe with Meacham and Eddie Royal and La’Ron McClain, offensively we added to our mix. Defensively, we did a good job of adding athletic guys who are pretty good football players.”
– Switching Saturday’s practice from the morning to the early evening was done for several reasons, Allen said.
First and foremost, it gives the players an opportunity to get their bodies acclimated to playing a game at that time of night.
Also, Allen added, it’s something he has been a part of in the past, and it worked to great success. It’s also something that former Raiders coaches Tom Cable and Hue Jackson did, as well.
Palmer said there are other added benefits to practicing at the Coliseum, where the game will be played.
“Just to get under the lights and have receivers have to worry about the lights when they’re catching balls,” Palmer said. “And the more times you get out on that field and work on the dirt and the transition from the dirt to the grass. It’s good for us and it’s an advantage for us because we’ve played and practiced on it now a handful of times.”
– Long-time Raiders fan Ice Cube is scheduled to perform before the game Monday night at the Coliseum.
Ice Cube is expected to perform the anthem he wrote for the Raiders, as part of the Pepsi NFL Anthems program.
Also, Gene Simmons, of the legendary rock band KISS, will perform the national anthem just before kick-off.
Finally, fans entering the stadium at least one hour before kickoff will be eligible to win some unique, exclusive prizes such as field passes, locker room tours, memorabilia autographed by Pro Football Hall of Famers, Raiders legends and current players, the latest in merchandise, Raider Image gift cards, and more.
For more information about the “Early In And You May Win” program, visit www.Raiders.com/Gameday