More Sunday notes, quotes

There are so many times it’s tough to keep up, but here is the list of 20 players who were held out of practice Sunday, either because of injury or to get a rest:

Defensive linemen (7): NT Johnny Jones, DL Brandon Bair, DT Myles Wade, DT Pat Sims, DT Stacy McGee, DT Vance Walker, DE Lamarr Houston.

Linebackers (4): Sio Moore, Miles Burris, Billy Boyko, Kaluka Maiava.

Defensive backs (2): CB Mike Jenkins, CB Tracy Porter.

Offensive players (7): WR Connor Vernon, RB Latavius Murray, RG Mike Brisiel, C-G Alex Parsons, OT Menelik Watson, WR-RS Josh Cribbs, G Lucas Nix.

– Brisiel’s absence gave Allen a chance to get a look at Khalif Barnes at guard. Barnes, whose starts have all been at tackle, last remembers playing inside “three or four” years ago against the San Diego Chargers after two players went down due to injury.

“It’s cool. Things happen a little faster. I haven’t done it in a few years, but I’ve just got to get the footwork down and notice that things happen a little quicker inside as opposed to the edge,” Barnes said. “The more you can do the better it is. You just make yourself more valuable. I’m just trying to come in and do what they ask me to do.”

Said Allen: “He’s a big guy that’s got some power, so I think that’s something we want to look at. Him moving inside some, and kind of mix and match the lineups a little bit and see what we got. That was something that we had kind of planned on doing throughout camp and we took the opportunity to day with Brisiel being down to put him in there and see what he can do.”

With consistency being preached from Day 1 of training camp, Allen was asked which players have been the most consistent. Although he as reluctant to give names, Allen did anyway, naming SS Tyvon Branch, DE Jason Hunter, MLB Nick Roach, Barnes, C Stefen Wisniewski and RB Darren McFadden.

Given a little more time, the guess here is Allen would have also named FS Charles Woodson, WR Rod Streater and LT Jared Veldheer.

– Interesting that the two Raiders who have played the most games _ Woodson and DE Andre Carter _ have not missed a practice.

– Watson, who along with Sims and Burris has not practiced through the first nine sessions of camp, will have a difficult time mounting a challenge for the right tackle position considering his college experience at Florida State is just 13 games.

“He’s way behind. He went through the offseason program, but here we are in the second week of camp and he hasn’t seen a down yet,” Allen said. “He’s got to get healthy and got to get back out here. It’s frustrating to me, but it’s frustrating for him too.”

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Camp wrap ’08: defense

Impressions gathered from viewing 24 of 26 training camp practices over the course of 21 days:

– Not long after camp opened, Lane Kiffin offered a preemptive strike, musing about the importance of the offseason program in light of the fact that his two best players weren’t even participants.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha walked into camp on time, signed his exclusive free agent tender and was so good he looked like a bargain at $9.7 million.

Defensive end Derrick Burgess put on eight to 10 pounds of muscle working out on his own, showing up only to the mandatory minicamp, and was essentially unblockable. Raiders tackles found themselves getting nothing but air or simply being shoved aside by one of Burgess’ perfectly sculpted arms.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is flopping sides with Burgess now and then, moving him from his more familiar left side to the right. The idea is to get him an a single blocker from time to time, rather than the double-team plus a chip treatment he has received so often the last two years.

The truth about training camp defense is it is can be extremely deceiving because there is no actual tackling. Tackling only happens to be the most important thing about defense.

But there was no mistaking what Asomugha brought to pass coverage and Burgess brought to the pass rush. If health is not an issue, and Asomugha’s sore foot is at least a little troubling, the Raiders have two cornerstone defensive players to help build a viable defense.

– Training camp restrictions being what they are, there is no way to know for sure if the Raiders have repaired the gaping hole in the middle of their defense which opposing runners ran through repeatedly in 2007.

They should be better, but how much better? Do they go from giving up an embarrassing 4.8 yards per carry to the 4.0 range, or could they actually do even better and be above average.

Two reasons for optimism _ Tommy Kelly’s brief but dominating appearance against the San Francisco 49ers, and the presence of Gibril Wilson at strong safety.

Kelly has a ways to go in terms of conditioning, as witnessed by his feeble yet comic attempt at taking a lap the other night after being called for offsides. Kelly was collapsing the 49ers line almost single-handedly, but to do that for four quarters he will need more stamina. Rehab from knee surgery put him behind, and Kelly needs to catch up.

The Raiders aren’t paying him all that money to be a part time player.

Wilson has been a guy who plays bigger than the 210 pounds or so he weighs, and his presence in the box will be a welcome one in a division featuring LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and whoever is the Broncos runner of the week.

– More optimism regarding the run defense _ linebacker Thomas Howard looks a little bigger and a little meaner without sacrificing the speed and ability that makes him one of the NFL’s best pass coverage linebackers. He and Kirk Morrison are intent on shedding their reputation as pass defenders who give ground against the run.

They need to be much, much better than a year ago. The two or three series they play against a hard-nosed Tennessee running game will be a good litmus test.

– The Raiders brought a lot of pressure during training camp, which makes aggressive amateur defensive coordinators salivate with the possibility of more blitzing.

Much of the additional pressure was to prepare JaMarcus Russell for what the Raiders think he’ll see. Kiffin could have been sandbagging, but more likely he was telling it like it is the other day when he was addressing Stanford Routt’s role as a nickel back and said, “We’re not very complicated on third down, our defense. We don’t blitz very much so he doesn’t have to do very much.”

– The play of Raiders’ offensive tackles makes it a tough call, but there may be some help for Burgess in terms of a natural rush. Jay Richardson, a decent point-of-attack player as a rookie and tall enough to take away passing lanes, has had some success getting deeper into the backfield. Kalimba Edwards has practices where it looks as if he will fit nicely into the Chris Clemons role as a situational rusher.

– The resurrection of Terdell Sands to be the kind of inside force he was as a part-time player in 2006 is still far from complete. Sands conceded he went into an understandable funk last year after the death of his mother and let his weight get out of control.

He is lighter this year _ how much, no one will say _ but he has already had a knee drained and is missing practices. It’s tough to get into shape that way. Sands will probably continue to back up Gerard Warren, who through most of his career has been either impressive or invisible _ sometimes from one week to the next.

– In early practices, sixth-round pick Trevor Scott looked like he might be a wasted pick. Later, he looked like he might be a find. Line coach Keith Millard beams like a proud papa when Scott’s progress is the topic.

Yet you see Scott in person and it’s almost alarming. He physically resembles Stuart Schweigert, and in fact doesn’t look much bigger. Listed at 255, Scott, in truth, is slightly under 250. He won’t be 260 until next year at the earliest.

– When camp started, Michael Huff looked liberated to be at free safety and making the occasional play with the kind of anticipation the position requires. The plays became more infrequent as time went on.

It’s nearing make-or-break time for Huff to justify his No. 7 overall selection in 2006, and it’s a tossup as to which way it will go.

– The whole strong side linebacker issue makes for interesting reading, being that it’s a starting position and all, but the truth is the winner will be the first player off the field when its time for nickels and dimes.

That’s why the Raiders didn’t make a serious run at Takeo Spikes, who wound up in San Francisco. They’d rather pay the veteran’s minimum for an Adam Archuleta than invest another half-million or so into a player who would be an ideal strong side linebacker but spend too much time on the sidelines to justify the money.

Not saying it’s right, and in fact it probably isn’t in this case.

– DeAngelo Hall is going to catch some heat, both from opposing quarterbacks as well as the home fans. Teams are still going to avoid Asomugha, and Hall will be there for the taking. He will also occasionally make a break on the ball and make a big play, and has a knack for being in the area when balls are deflected.

If you’re expecting a shutdown corner, guess again. There are precious few of those around.

– Routt has had an excellent training camp. He could have been miffed by Hall’s acquisition but instead has appeared to elevate his performance in practice.

Now it has to carry over into games. One of Hall’s strengths is he forgets when he just got beat and it doesn’t prevent him from coming back to make a play. Routt has had a habit of letting the failures which come with the territory affect him for the rest of the game.

Routt will need to be at the top of his game, because things get extremely thin after that at cornerback.

– Bad break for Tyvon Branch, with his right thumb encased in a cast. He could still end up being a defensive contributor at some point during the season, if his goal line hit against the 49ers’ Cam Colvin is any indication.

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Wesley cut

Whether the Raiders utilize Adam Archuleta at linebacker or safety remains to be seen, but they cut a safety to make room for him.

Greg Wesley, omitted from the morning roster but on the field, was released later in the day, according to a league source.

UPDATE: The Raiders have updated Archuleta’s signing and the release of Wesley on their Web site.

It’s also an even swap in terms of salary. Archuleta, should he make the 53-man roster, will make the same $730,000 that Wesley was to receive. Kiffin danced around the topic of Wesley’s status following practice.

“I don’t know that yet. He did move around well today,” Kiffin said. “Had a good workout the day before that but I don’t know that yet.”

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Training camp, Day 8 (A.M. practice)

Quick hits from Thursday morning’s practice:

– He may not have had his best fastball, but JaMarcus Russell was felt good enough to rejoin practice and make due with off-speed stuff, choosing to simply flick his wrist rather than unleash the full power of his $60 million right arm.

In his first team session, Russell completed two of five passes, one a short pass to Johnnie Lee Higgins and a dump-off to fullback Oren O’Neal. Michael Huff broke up a sideline pass intended for tight end Darrell Strong, a screen to Louis Rankin fell incomplete and Derrick Burgess pressured him into an incomplete pass.

In Russell’s second team session, there were two more short completions.

During seven-on-seven drills, Russell was the victim of a perfectly-played pick by Nnamdi Asomugha, who stole a pass intended for Arman Shields in stride and ran the other for what would have been a touchdown.

“You can see a little bit of a velocity issue with him right now, different from normal,” Kiffin said. “I think that will go away here pretty soon.”

Kiffin said the staff watched Russell closely and that trainer Rod Martin gave the go-ahead to continue.

Russell acknowledged he wasn’t 100 percent but wasn’t comfortable watching from the sidelines.

“I just wanted to get out here today just so I could get back in practice,” Russell said. “I don’t really like sitting out and watching guys bust their behinds when I can be out there doing something. Just anything out there I can help.”

– Right guard Cooper Carlisle and right tackle Cornell Green were given the morning session off, with the Raiders reshuffling their line to accomodate the absence of two starters. Seth Wand got some work at right tackle, Chris Morris at right guard, and Mario Henderson has been working on both sides.

– Speaking of Henderson, it sounds as if Kiffin’s patience has about run out on the first of three third-round picks in the 2007 draft. During the offseason, Kiffin said the Raiders were working on Henderson’s lack of aggression and his passion for football.

It sounds like Kiffin and line coach Tom Cable haven’t made much headway. Rather than shift into coach-speak when asked if Henderson was challenging Green at right tackle, Kiffin was blunt and to the point.

“No, he’s not pushing him. We’ll continue to move Mario around to both sides,” Kiffin said. “Mario is not improving the way we’d like him to so we’ll just continue to push him. But it’s not close right now.”

When asked if Henderson needed to shore up a particular area, Kiffin said, “No, it’s everything right now. Unfortunately.”

– Sounds like Javon Walker, the free agent aquisition whose salary suggests he is the No. 1 receiver but whose practice play has been so-so, will begin getting some extra work starting Monday.

Kiffin said Walker and Fred Wakefield, rehabbing from a knee injury, would begin working twice per day Sunday when the 49ers visit Napa.

When asked if Walker was making progress, Kiffin said, “There’s progress being made. I wouldn’t say as much as I’d like at this point so we’re going to continue to push them. I think pushing him back into two-a-days will help him.”

– Defensive tackle Gerard Warren missed with a thigh injury sustained Wednesday night. Kiffin said he didn’t think the injury was as serious as one that hampered Warren last year and said he was day-to-day. Tommy Kelly sat out as scheduled and should practice tonight. Cornerback John Bowie (knee) did not practice.

Safety Greg Wesley (back spasms) was back at practice but did little of note.

– Defensive tackle Terdell Sands, who has avoided speaking with reporters for the first week of camp for reasons that ranged from a team meal to a team meeting to a doctor’s visit, stopped and chatted for a few minutes.

He conceded to being in better condition this year and was affected last season by the death of his mother.

“I lost my mother last year, so that was very big,” Sands said. “You lose anything like that, some things take tolls on you. You lose things that are aspects of life right there. That’s behind me. I’ve got to push on this year.”

Sands said he takes responsibility for the Raiders’ run defense in 2008.

“I take it all, because they look for me to be a big part of it,” Sands said. “And like I say, I wasn’t mentally in it, so I did some gap responsibility and all my true effort wasn’t out there. I thought I was. But when I watch film, it really wasn’t like I was the year before. So I take responsibility and put it on myself.”

Sands declined to specify how much he weighed last year and how much he weighs now.

– Kiffin has taken to visiting with members of the Raiders’ personnel department occasionally during practice sessions. Wednesday it was Bruce Kebric, Thursday it was Kent McCloughan.

– Defensive tackle William Joseph was worked over by Chris Morris and Jesse Boone on consecutive plays during a blocking drill. Kwame Harris buried Kalimba Edwards on another.

– McFadden was fielding kickoffs along with Hiram Eugene, Rankin, Adimchinobe Echemandu and Tyvon Branch, prompting Kiffin to be asked whether the Raiders’ biggest off-season investment might be utilized on that role.

“He’s such an explosive player that it’s something we have to look at,” Kiffin said. “Part of that will be determined by how the other returners do. Let’s say Branch in preseason is returning great. Then it’s not worth it. If you have a great return situation to put Darren out there that may not be worth it. If we’re struggling, then it becomes more valuable to us.”

Said McFadden, who has been in camp eight days and has had a sunny and agreeable disposition for every one of them: “I don’t know if they’re going to use me back there or not but I’m always prepared for it.”

– Practice joggers for pre-snap violations included Harris, Robert Gallery, tight end Chris Wagner and defensive end Greyson Gunheim.

Gunheim, an undrafted free agent from Washington, actually protested his lap, telling Kiffin that Henderson had first moved his leg, drawing him offsides. Gunheim was right, by the way.

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Wesley in, Buchanon out

The Raiders are confirming the signing of safety Greg Wesley, who was waived by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Former Raiders exec Mike Lombardi, who writes for CNN-SI as well as on his own Web site, doesn’t think much of the acquisition.

Lombardi has dubbed the Raiders “The Hotel California,” after the Eagles song about that strange place where you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

“What can Wesley do for the Hotel? He can’t cover, play in the kicking game, or run anymore,” Lombardi writes. “All he will do is take “Someone’s” money (which he loves to spend now) and not play. Do you think they remember Donovan Darius at the Hotel? Another favorite of `someone.

“Things never change.”

“Someone,” of course, is Al Davis.

Wesley, who reportedly signed a one-year deal, is like Darius in that there is very little risk involved in the signing. If Lombardi is right and Wesley can’t run, the Raiders can cut him, just as they did with Darius.

It’s worth noting that although Darius may have been a Davis favorite, the Raiders didn’t make the mistake of keeping him on the roster when it became apparent he wouldn’t be able to hold up physically.

To make room for Wesley, Will Buchanon was waived.

The Raiders begin filtering in to the Napa Marriott Wednesday, although coach Lane Kiffin won’t address the media until Thursday, the day of the first practice.

The Raiders also announced the signing of Mauricio Lopez, who will be on the Raiders practice squad this year as part of the NFL’s International Practice Squad program.

Lopez is a defensive tackle.

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Your 53-man roster

NFL writer Jerry McDonald

Posted by NFL Editor and ANG football writer Jerry McDonald
After admittedly giving it a lot less thought than the men who actually make the decisions, here is one man’s final 53-man roster:

WR—Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry, Doug Gabriel, Johnnie Morant, Alvis Whitted, Randal Williams (7)
Comment: Now try and figure who is inactive on game day.

TE—Courtney Anderson, Zeron Flemister, Rickey Dudley (3)
Comment: Get a decent draft pick for Teyo Johnson. He’s potential playmaker, but that’s not what’s needed here.

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In Tough For The Final 53

NFL writer Jerry McDonald

Posted by NFL Editor and ANG football writer Jerry McDonald
A few thoughts on some players the Raiders may watching very closely as the final cut down approaches:

  • WR Randal Williams. Has special teams experience with Dallas and has been a solid receiver ever since he arrived shortly after training camp began. Faces an uphill climb with roster spots already locked up by Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry, Doug Gabriel and Alvis Whitted…with Johnnie Morant as a probable No. 6. Any chance of getting help at running back, in the secondary or a mid-range draft pick for Gabriel probably ended when he underwent surgery on his left hand.

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    Bring on Clarett

    NFL writer Jerry McDonald

    Posted by NFL Editor and ANG football writer Jerry McDonald
    The guy’s really only played one year of football since graduating from high school and seems to have serious character issues, but the Raiders ought to consider rolling the dice anyway and seeing if they can get lucky with Maurice Clarett.

    Clarett will never come at a lower price than right now after getting his exit visa from a Denver team foolish enough to draft him in the third round.

    If the Raiders wait for Clarett to first clear waivers, they can sign him for the minimum. Or they can claim Clarett and honor the deal he signed in Denver – one laden with incentives they’ll only have to pay if he is actually productive.

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    Blog continues

    Training camp may be over and Raiders may have returned to Alameda, but the blog will go on. Jerry McDonald and Bill Soliday will continue to bring you their inside look at the Raiders throughout the entire season.

    And make sure you stick with InsideBayArea.com for complete Raiders coverage as we launch some new and exciting features this season. It all starts tonight with our live real-time scoring, stats and play log from the Raiders vs. Cardinals.

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