By Steve Corkran
Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 at 4:44 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Naturally, cornerback D.J. Hayden being hospitalized with an abdominal issue is the big news concerning the Raiders today. However, there is plenty to talk about in terms of what transpired at practice today.
For starters, coach Dennis Allen said he wasn’t thrilled by the way his players practiced today. He attributed some of that to the fact the players were away the past four days and needed to shake off the rust.
“It was obvious that we had the long (layoff) with Memorial Day weekend,” Allen said. “I don’t think we were as crisp as we needed to be in practice today. We only get a certain amount of opportunities and we didn’t practice the way that we needed to today.
“The good news is the guys are still out there, they’re competing and they’re trying to do everything we’re asking them to do to get better.”
Quarterback Matt Flynn said he and his teammates didn’t need to be told that they need to do better than they did today. As Allen said, Flynn and the others have Wednesday and Thursday to get back in synch and keep progressing in a positive way.
– Kicker Sebastian Janikowski is the only player, besides Hayden, that wasn’t at practice today. Wide receiver Josh Cribbs (knee), linebacker Miles Burris (knee), cornerback Tracy Porter (knee) and fullback Jon Hoese (calf) were among those unable to participate.
Tight end Nick Kasa (hamstring), nose tackle Johnny Jones (knee), defensive tackle Stacy McGee (foot) and cornerback Coye Francies (illness) either weren’t able to practice at all or were limited.
– Al Davis despised the word “rebuilding.” He was fond of saying, “We don’t rebuild, we reload.” Count Allen among those that doesn’t warm to the dreaded “R” word, as well.
“I wouldn’t use the term rebuilding,” Allen said. “We’re trying to win. That’s what you do in this league. You try to win football games. We’re going to do whatever we feel like we need to do to try to do that. I do think we’ve brought in some pieces that will help us in that regard.”
Reaching the desired goal of building a championship-caliber team is going to take time, Allen admits. Bringing in veteran players such as cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Porter that have played for Super Bowl teams is a huge help.
“The teams that have success, eventually, at some point in time, the players take over,” Allen said. “When they understand the commitment that it takes to have success in this league and to win in this league, and figure out how to do that on a consistent basis, those guys have to understand what the expectations are.
“When their expectations of themselves are equal to or greater to what our expectations of them as coaches are then that’s when you got them. I don’t think we’re there yet. But we’re moving in that direction.”
– Speaking of Woodson, he donned a Raiders uniform on the practice field Tuesday for the first time since his first Raiders stint ended after the 2005 season.
No, he’s not wearing No. 24. Yet. For now, Porter still owns the rights to the number Woodson wore during his first eight seasons with the Raiders. Woodson wore a black shirt without a number Tuesday.
“We got him out there in a limited role, and he’s still feeling his way around a little bit,” Allen said. “I don’t have any concerns that he’ll be ready to roll. We’ll kind of work him in a little bit. We’ll kind of work him in a little more as we keep going.”
Woodson signed with the Raiders last week, even though he had an opportunity to sign with the Denver Broncos. Allen said that’s another sign that the Raiders are headed in the right direction.
“In talking with Charles when he came in on the visit, it was apparent to me that he wanted to be a part of the Raiders,” Allen said. “This is a tradition rich organization, and he can see some of the things that we’re doing to try to get back to those winning ways. At the end of the day as a player, a coach or whatever, you want to have a vision for success. We’re putting some of those pieces together.”
Woodson said Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie sold him on the Raiders during their visit last week.
“I was really sold on the fact that they believe on the guys that they have here,” Woodson said. “Of course, you can always use more and as the years come up, they’ll be able to do some more things. But they really have a lot of faith in the guys that they have on the roster right now.
“Who knows what this team will be at the end of the season, but I was convinced that this team will compete, this team will be in games, and we look forward to going out there and wearing the silver and black proudly.”
The warm reception Woodson received from fans at the Alameda facility the day he visited reaffirmed his faith in the Raider Nation.
“I know what it’s like to have this fan base behind you,” Woodson said, who played for the Raiders from 1998-2005. “That’s a big deal. There’s a lot of energy here. A lot of these guys don’t know that, they don’t know that feeling to be that type of team here and have the fans behind you. To have the fans here at the facility last week welcoming me back meant a lot and I appreciate Raider Nation for that. ”
– Lucas Nix got a shot at showing what he can do at left guard with the first-team offense today. Last week, it was Tony Bergstrom running with the ones.
It’s all part of offensive line coach Tony Sparano’s grand plan to take a look at every player available to him before deciding upon a starting five.
“We’re going to mix and match a little bit and Lucas and Tony were both two young guys that we wanted to look at on the interior of our offensive line,” Allen said. “Both of them have done a nice job so far. It was kind of his day to be up with the ones.”
In reality, it’s likely that several of the spots already are sewn up — left offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, center Stefen Wisniewski and right guard Mike Brisiel. However, it’s conceivable that rookie Menelik Watson might push veteran Khalif Barnes for the starting spot at right offensive tackle.
At one point, Nix got scolded for leaving before the snap. Hey, better now than in the regular-season opener, right?
– Nick Roach said he doesn’t view this season as him getting his first shot to prove what he can do. Others might see it that way, but Roach already feels confident in his ability to be a full-time starter despite starting more than nine games only three of his six seasons with the Chicago Bears.
Allen likes what he has seen from Roach in a short time, as Roach goes about making people forget about his predecessor, Rolando McClain.
“He’s brought what we anticipated he would bring,” Allen said. “He’s a veteran guy that, he’s never really had the opportunity to say, this is his time to run the show. He’s getting that opportunity here.
“He’s done an outstanding job so far. He’s very intelligent, does a great job of running the huddle for us and getting us into the right checks and the right defenses and it’s still early in the offseason but I’ve been pleased with what he’s done so far.”
– Quarterback play was a mixed bag today, with just as much bad as good from Flynn, Tyler Wilson and Terrelle Pryor.
Flynn said some of that can be chalked up to the coaches throwing a bunch of new stuff at him and his quarterback mates, as well as working on red-zone plays for the first time.
Still, Flynn said, there’s only so much time for learning. Before long, the quarterbacks have to be up to speed and ready to execute better.
Case in point, Wilson looked pretty sharp in a lot of early drills. Then, in the red-zone work, he had passes intercepted on back-to-back plays.
Even so, Allen said, it’s Flynn’s job to lose.
“Matt’s our starting quarterback as we go forward right now,” Allen said, “and until the competition dictates otherwise, that’s where we’re going.”
Flynn said he isn’t worried about how well Wilson and Pryor perform. He said he has enough to worry about competing himself.
– Allen made it clear that he isn’t one to heap too much praise on rookies, especially after only four practices. Yet, he doesn’t hesitate finding good things to say about running back Latavius Murray.
“Probably the thing that’s been most impressive is that he’s picked up everything offensively from a schematic standpoint, assignment wise,” Allen said. “He’s done a great job. He’s done a nice job in pass protection. That’s one of the things you see with young backs that they struggle with at times.”
Murray seems to excel in just about every facet. At one point today, he was returning kicks. Don’t make too much of that, though. Several players returned kicks today, and it’s a stretch to envision that role going to anyone other than Jacoby Ford or Cribbs.
Still, it speaks to Murray’s versatility that he can return kicks if needed and that he is willing to do whatever it takes to make the 53-man roster.