By Steve Corkran
Thursday, November 29th, 2012 at 3:41 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Quarterback Carson Palmer was limited in practice today as a result of sore right thumb. This came as a bit of a surprise, given Palmer practiced full tilt the day before.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said Palmer hurt his thumb against the Bengals last Sunday. Even so, he is “100 percent confident” that Palmer will be ready to play this Sunday against the Browns.
Coach Dennis Allen didn’t sound as certain.
“He took all his reps (Wednesday),” Allen said. “Today, his thumb was a little sore. We limited his reps. He’s another one we’ll have to see as we go through the remainder of the week where he’s at.”
If Palmer can’t play or if he gets injured in the game, it will be Matt Leinart who takes over and not second-year player Terrelle Pryor, who is expected to be on the active roster for the first time in 12 games this season.
Leinart said he is eager to make his Raiders debut and play for the first time since he suffered a broken left collarbone. He received all the reps with the first-team offense Thursday.
“I’m super competitive and want to get on the field any way I can,” Leinart said. “I just love the game. So, with that being said, I just got to keep preparing, just keep studying like I have been because I’m still one play away from being in there. But, yeah, everyone wants to play, everyone wants to get on the field. That’s all I can really do is just control the way I work and prepare.”
Leinart is signed through the end of this season. He sounded like a guy that wouldn’t mind coming back to the Raiders.
“It’s awesome because there’s so much tradition here, there’s so many great players that have played here,” Leinart said. “Growing up, I was a Raiders fan, so it was silver and black, my family grew up being Raider fans. … It’s been an honor to play for the Raiders. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year but I love playing for this team.”
Leinart said fans need to be patient with what the Raiders are going through. He likes what he sees in Allen and general manger Reggie McKenzie and feels as if better times are coming.
“It’s a building process, step by step,” Leinart said. “I really think that it’s going to be a special place to be. When? You never know. You just keep building and building. But he’s got the right message for us, coach Allen. Guys have bought in, guys are working hard, guys are playing hard. We’re not getting the results on Sunday, but it’s a process.”
– Running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson were limited in practice today for the second straight day.
Given they are returning from high-ankle sprains that forced them to miss the past three games, Knapp said he expects regular fullback Marcel Reece to be used primarily as a halfback Sunday against the Browns.
Knapp said it’s likely that McFadden and Goodson will need more time to get back into football shape. Therefore, if they play, they will be eased back in to the mix.
“There’s still a little work I have to do,” McFadden said. “But for the most part, I’m getting back to being me.”
McFadden said he isn’t sure what to expect once he gets back on the field.
“The only thing I can do is go out there and play football,” McFadden said. “I don’t know how it’s going to be. I’m just going to go out there and do what I do every down and play ball.”
– Raiders middle linebacker Rolando McClain and Browns rookie running back Trent Richardson were teammates at Alabama for one season.
Richardson said he is looking forward to seeing McClain again. Well, that’s not apt to happen now in light of McClain being excused from practice Wednesday and told not to show up for practice Thursday by coach Dennis Allen.
Therefore, the primary task Sunday of trying to slow down Richardson in the run game falls to McClain’s replacement, Omar Gaither. Richardson has rushed for 755 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games for the Browns.
Richardson said he grew up idolizing Raiders running back Darren McFadden and later idolized McClain after watching him play at Alabama.
“From what I see and from what I’ve been told, the Raiders have a good team, especially Rolando McClain,” Richardson said in a conference call with Bay Area media. “Obviously, I look up to him a lot. He was a captain for me at Alabama when I was a freshman. He was one of my idols I looked up to as a leader on the team.”
Richardson added that McClain has had a “good impact” in his three NFL seasons. It’s worth noting that coach Allen replaced McClain in the nickel package in favor of rookie Miles Burris earlier this season.
“A lot of people sleep on Rolando because I don’t think they give him (as) much media as Oakland should,” Richardson said. “At Alabama, he got a lot of media and stuff. He has had a good impact. Will it be more? Yes, it will be because that’s Rolando.
“I know how Rolando trains and how Rolando prepares for the games. But how I see it, it’s not all about Rolando. He has to get a lot more help. He has to get a lot more help from the defensive (standpoint) for him to be a good, successful player, and for the whole team to stand up.”
If so, it likely won’t be for the Raiders.
– When the Browns lost to the Raiders at the Coliseum last season it kicked off a losing skid away from Browns Stadium that stands at 12 games and counting. The Browns are 0-5 on the road so far this season.
When asked for a common theme in those losses, Browns coach Pat Shurmur said:
“Yeah, we’ve slept the night before in a hotel.”
He then added:
“I don’t know. The theme for me as this year has gone on is, we haven’t really been able to finish a game. Each game is a different story. We were behind in some and came back and went ahead and then lost. We were ahead and let them come back.
“The big thing for us is prepare yourself for the road venue whatever it is, crowd noise or what not, and then go play the game. If you overthink that … We lost a few games at home, too. If you overthink that, then now you start to build in you play differently if you play at 1 o’clock then 4 o’clock. That’s just not the way I want to do it.”
The Raiders aren’t much better. They are 1-5 on the road this season and they have lost their past nine games played in the Eastern Time Zone.
– Former Cal offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz has started all 11 games at offensive tackle for the Browns. He was their second-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
“He’s done a nice job for us,” Shurmur said. “He’s kind of established himself as a guy, he doesn’t say much but he goes out and he battles. Even our older players will tell you, he’s one of the most studious and the smartest of our guys up front. He’s making good progress. If he stays on track here, he has a chance to be a good player in this league for a long time.”
– McFadden went down with a high-ankle sprain after 170 touches in eight games this season. Richardson is still going strong after 250 rushes and receptions through 11 games.
He said he hasn’t hit the so-called wall that typically undoes many rookies accustomed to playing 12 or 13 games in college.
Richardson said he can handle whatever workload the Browns throw his way.
“Oh, yeah, I’m comfortable with it,” Richardson said. “That’s what they brought me here for, why they traded up for me. That’s what I train hard for. That’s one thing I do. I train hard, so I can get prepared every week for 22 carries or more. Whatever they have in store for me, I’m here for it.”
– The Browns have been in almost every game this season. Like the Raiders, they are struggling to find a way to win the close games.
Richardson came from an Alabama program that won most, if not all, of its game on an annual basis. He said he knows the key to winning games.
“Oh, yeah, you got to start fast, man, you got to finish strong,” Richardson said. “That’s something that coach (Nick) Saban always stressed, finish strong. Being in more condition, being more disciplined. That goes along with it. You got to man up and be more disciplined than the other team and make sure you do everything you can to make the play.”
So, there you have it. The cat is out of the bag.
– The Raiders-Browns game failed to sell enough tickets — at least 85 percent — to avoid a blackout locally. That snapped the string of consecutive games televised locally at 13, dating to the start of the 2011 season.
Allen said it’s incumbent upon the Raiders to play better, win more games and give the fans reason to attend games.
“I’m disappointed in that,” Allen said, “but the only way we can change that is to go out and try to get a win against Cleveland and then hopefully we won’t have to worry about that at any time in the future.”