Art, Carlos Francis, Al....

Angry Pope

All Raider
Feb 2, 2006
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The first hints of change came at the pre-draft minicamp, when coach Art Shell put the Oakland Raiders through six practices in three days instead of the usual five.
Defensive tackle Warren Sapp noted it was the first time a team he played on didn't get away early on Day 3.

Although league rules prohibited Shell from an extra practice at the post-draft minicamp, he continued to lay down the law.

"I think with the first camp he kind of put it to us how it was going to be, and we worked long days," left tackle Robert Gallery said. "The attitude is changing because he's demanding it. We'll see when we put the pads on, but I think we're moving in the right direction, that's for sure."

Coaching, Shell discovered, was like riding a bike. Now 59, and not having coached since 1994, Shell is enthused about how things are going.

"It's coming, it's getting there," Shell said. "I haven't lost anything. I haven't missed anything in the sense of knowing how to approach the players. That's working well. The coaches have to get in shape, too. Walking around this football field we have to get in shape for (training) camp, because you know, you're back starts to bother you a little bit because you're walking around and moving around. But I'm doing fine."

Unlike the unmistakable presence of Jon Gruden, the clear distinctive voice of Bill Callahan or even the occasional on-field blow-ups by Norv Turner, Shell's practice persona is by contrast understated.

One has to strain to hear Shell from a sideline vantage point. He spends much of his time working with the offensive line, occasionally strolling from position group to position group and imparting his thoughts.

But his status, players insist, brings a built-in credibility. Shell's resume speaks volumes.

"He's not a man of many words, but when he does say something, it's important," reserve quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo said. "It's like, `you'd better do this, or you may not like the consequences.'

"He's played. He's coached. He's in the Hall of Fame. So there's validity there."

Shell considers the field a place for teaching, and his office as the site for discipline. He's had a face-to-face meeting with virtually every player on the team, giving each man specifics on his expectations.

He has in a sense deputized some key veterans to help carry out his vision.

"I think your veteran players, your veteran leaderships, needs to police the locker room," Shell said. "For years we did it here under John Madden and Tom Flores. If something got to them, that meant it was bad, but very seldom did that happen. We as veterans took care of the locker room. We made sure everyone knew how we did things with the Raiders, this is what is expected of you, and we expect you to abide by that."

Not that Shell feels his job is done.

"It evolves. Leadership comes from guys watching you and wanting to be with you," Shell said. You can't just say, `Hey, I'm a leader in here.' That's not going to wash."

Sapp rejected the theory that Shell's glory days as a player are too far removed to have any effect with modern players.

"You'd have to be a dead man not to know who Art Shell is," Sapp said. "But your past never equals your future and he understands that. This is a fresh start with a whole new group of guys. He just wants to get us going in one direction. If we're all rowing in the same way, the boat is going to move."


—Coach Art Shell can thank his former coach for the fact the Raiders will have some additional preparation time to get ready for the season opener.

With John Madden being inducted to the Hall of Fame, the Raiders were selected to play the Eagles on Aug. 6 in the Hall of Fame game, with Madden at the microphone in his debut with NBC.

That gives Shell four more quarters to get a new staff and offensive system ready for the season opener Sept. 11 against San Diego.

"I've always liked the fifth game," Shell said. Some people don't like it, but I've always liked it because I feel it gives you a head start. That's going to be invaluable for us, especially with a new staff coming in on the offensive side of the ball."

—Barry Sims, the longtime starter at left tackle who was moved to left guard, likes the idea of a quarterback who can take evasive action. Predecessor Kerry Collins was a statuesque pocket passer how absorbed 39 of the Raiders' 45 sacks given up in 2005.

"Aaron is a competitor and he's got a strong arm," Sims said. "It will be exciting to have someone in there that's got some mobility and some leadership. We're excited to have him here."

—Wide receiver Carlos Francis has abandoned No. 10 for No. 82. And while assuming the number of another former sprinter (James Jett), Francis thought a change of luck was in order.

"I had to change," Francis said. "There weren't any plays in No. 10."

Francis, a former world class sprinter out of Texas Tech, suffered a knee injury as a rookie and had his training camp derailed by a hamstring pull last season.

—Thomas Howard Jr., a rookie linebacker out of Texas-El Paso who was Oakland's second-round draft pick, is the son of Thomas Howard who played for the Kansas City Chiefs against Raiders coach Art Shell.

"We laugh about it," Howard Jr. said. "I had one of the players come up to me and said, it's gonna be a problem if your dad played for KC. I told 'em, `Nah, my dad's a Thomas Howard fan, first and foremost.' He's got my back all the way."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He'll be around. If he doesn't show up starting in training camp and during the regular season, then I'll get worried. I look forward to seeing him out here. His presence is fine. I have no problem with his presence. This minicamp, he doesn't need to be here. When training camp starts, he'll be around." — Raiders coach Art Shell on not having owner Al Davis watching his every move during minicamp.
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