Inside Slant....07.31.2006

Angry Pope

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Oakland Raiders wide receiver Jerry Porter, known for his many moods, has taken that phase of his personality to a new level.

His discontent with the organization was rumored for weeks, first floated by ex-Raider Lincoln Kennedy on a local radio show.

Porter, the Raiders' leading receiver last season with 76 receptions, confirmed on the first day of Raiders training camp he would rather be elsewhere, although he gave two rather conflicting interviews on the same day.

In a column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Porter stated his demand to be traded, detailed a shouting match with coach Art Shell shortly after the new coach was hired and said the argument began over his decision to train at a new home in Florida rather than at the club facility.

The same day, Porter told an Oakland Tribune columnist he was resigned to remaining with the Raiders for two more years until his contract voided, but confirmed his level of unhappiness.

"Everybody, no matter who you work with, has somebody at their job they don't like," Porter said in reference to Shell.

According to a Page 2 column in ESPN.com, Porter's problem with the Raiders goes beyond Shell. At a charity basketball tournament at Venice Beach on July 7, Porter seemed upset about Shell's choice of Tom Walsh as offensive coordinator.

Walsh has not coached in the NFL since 1994, when he was dismissed from the Raiders along with Shell, and he has been out of coaching since 1999. The Raiders had conversations with Mike Martz, who ended up as the Lions offensive coordinator.

"I'm furious," Porter said. "They might as well trade me. I wanted Mike Martz as my coach and a real offense that's proven in today's NFL. Not something dusted off from a bed and breakfast in God knows where."

Shell brushed aside the Porter issue, essentially echoing the notion that everyone in life must work with someone they don't like. If Porter produces on the field, Shell said, they would have no problems.

Porter then sustained a calf injury that caused him to miss two days of practice.

Meanwhile, Porter went to and from practice wearing a belt roughly the size of a boxing championship belt adorned with dollar signs. His T-shirt of choice for two days displayed two hands — one with an extended middle finger and the other pointing at whoever was looking at the shirt.

The bottom line on Porter is the Raiders would sustain a $6.45 million acceleration against the 2007 salary cap if they were to trade him.

There seemed to be no bitterness with Porter's teammates, who have come to expect the unexpected.

However, defensive tackle Warren Sapp did sound off on the Porter issue to Sirius Satellite Radio, a wide-ranging rant which included this choice blast:

"People talk about football being a family. It's not a family," Sapp said. "It's a brotherhood of men. In a family, if the baby is lagging behind, everybody waits for the baby to catch up. We can't wait for the baby to catch up. We've got to go."

CAMP CALENDAR: Raiders opened camp July 25. Practices are closed to the public except for selected guests and youth groups. Camp scheduled to break Aug. 23, before fourth of five pre-season games.

NOTES, QUOTES—Coach Art Shell renewed a Raider tradition by breaking out the "Pit Drill," also known as "Oklahoma," on the third day of camp. It is a basic football drill in which a running back carries the ball through a small gap as a defensive lineman tries to fight off a single-team block from an offensive lineman.

The sense of drama comes from teammates who surround the drill and cheer for their guy — offense or defense.

"You don't want to get beat in front of your teammates," tight end Courtney Anderson said.

Former Raiders coach John Madden, who will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 5, visited Oakland's camp during the first practice. One of Madden's first questions was whether Shell would use the "Pit Drill."

The drill is so old school most Raiders said they hadn't done it since high school, and defensive tackle Warren Sapp said he had never done it in his entire career.

"It's offense vs. defense so it's going to get a little heated and excitable, plus give us some comic relief at the same time," Sapp said.

—Linebacker Danny Clark, the team's Most Valuable defensive player two years ago and one of their most popular players, has been moved to second team in favor of Kirk Morrison.

Morrison started at outside linebacker as a third-round draft pick out of San Diego State and led all NFL rookies in tackles with 106. With Morrison moving inside, rookie Thomas Howard slated to start outside and oft-injured Sam Williams getting another shot on the strong side, the Raiders have their fastest, most athletic set of linebackers in recent memory.

Clark understands the philosophy, but isn't going to relinquish his job without a fight.

"I look at this as very temporary," Clark said. "This is not a different role, it's just some adversity that everybody goes through, and at the end of the day, I see myself as a starter on this football team."

Clark was running with the first goal line defense and backing up Morrison in the middle.

—NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw, a Hall of Fame guard who lined up next to Hall of Fame tackle Art Shell in the 1970s, noticed a difference with his old team the moment he stepped on the field in a visit to the Raiders training facility in Napa.

"The atmosphere is very different than it was a year ago when I was here," Upshaw said. "No one is running out of here to go to the chow hall or go lay down and rest. It makes me feel good to see because everybody else in the league is doing it. The Raiders didn't do this a year ago."

—Shell is promising running back LaMont Jordan will not be the lone ranger in the Raiders backfield this year. Jordan gained 81.5 percent of Oakland's rushing yards in the 14 games he played last season, the highest figure in the league.

Early on, Justin Fargas, whose playing time has dwindled in each of the past two years, has had some solid moments in the early days of camp.

"It's important that we have more than just LaMont Jordan carrying the ball," Shell said. "Justin is a guy we're looking at to see if he can carry the load."

—One of the focuses of defensive drills has been turnovers, and more specifically interceptions. The Raiders had just five in 16 games — the lowest total over a full season in league history.

"That's just horrible," second-year cornerback Fabian Washington said. "I know we would have won a lot more games if we had just had 15 interceptions."

The league average for interceptions in 2006 was 15.8 per team.

cont'd...
 
cont'd...

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you weight this much and you're that explosive this can happen." — Left tackle Robert Gallery, tongue planted in cheek, on how he sustained his pulled quadriceps muscle.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Jerry Porter's two-day absence with a calf strain gave the Raiders a chance to look at their options should Porter be traded or end up in the Marcus Allen-Al Davis memorial dog house.

Although the Raiders used Randy Moss on occasion in the slot, Moss' strength is not in the 10 to 15-yard area to convert third downs.

The most interesting development was putting Doug Gabriel, exclusively a downfield, outside receiver, in the slot for a few snaps. Johnnie Morant, Oakland's biggest wideout, stayed mostly outside.

—Chad Slaughter has filled in for the injured Robert Gallery at left tackle, and could challenge on the right side if Langston Walker struggles. Slaughter filled in for Gallery at right tackle in last season's finale and neutralized Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.

—Danny Clark, a starter for two years in the middle, could have difficulty making the roster if Ryan Riddle fares well at that position behind new starter Kirk Morrison. Riddle is younger, cheaper and plays on more special teams.

—WR Ronald Curry, who suffered season-ending Achilles' injuries in each of the last two years, opened camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. It came as a surprise to Curry, who told reporters he was 100 percent before he learned of his fate.

—WR Carlos Francis suffered a hamstring injury he said was Grade 2 — which according to medical journals is a a slight tear. The Raiders love his speed, but likely wouldn't be kept on the roster again should has absence be a long one.

—K Sebastian Janikowski has struggled with his field goal attempts, but there is no indication the presence of kickers David Kimball or Tim Duncan is anything other than extra camp legs.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK
: Tyler Brayton vs. Bobby Hamilton for starting DE. Lost for two seasons as the Raiders tried to make him a linebacker, Brayton is making the most of his return to defensive end. Brayton offers a better pass rush than Hamilton, one of the team's veteran leaders. Where Brayton must prove he can be stout is as a run-defender — which happens to be a strength of Hamilton. With the Raiders residing in the NFL's best running division, Hamilton's ability to hold his ground should keep him in the mix.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Marcellus Rivers vs. James Adkisson for No. 3 TE —Randal Williams should back up Courtney Anderson based on special teams skills. Rivers is more of a blocker, and Adkisson, a converted wideout, is an emerging receiving talent.

—Adam Treu vs. Chris Morris for backup C — Treu is the longest-tenured Raider, and the long-snapper. Morris is an extremely smart player, a good team guy, can long-snap and is considerably cheaper.

—Sam Williams vs. Grant Irons at SOLB — Williams has the job if he can remain healthy — it's been a challenge for him for two years. Irons, who plays in goal line situations, is next in line if Williams falters.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DT Warren Sapp. He's been animated, vocal and impressive in scrimmages, knifing through linemen and harassing quarterbacks. With Charles Woodson and Ted Washington gone, Sapp is the undisputed leader of a young defense. In drills, Sapp has shown excellent hustle and has given no indication of being slowed by surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff last November. An excellent start for a veteran the Raiders sorely need to have a big year.

ROOKIE REPORT: SS Michael Huff is getting reps with first teams of all defensive packages. His roles will include coverage, blitzing, playing in the box.

—LB Thomas Howard is starting at weak-side linebacker and impressing with athletic ability and coverage skill.

—RG Paul McQuistan opened as a starter and has retained his position through the first five days of camp.

—LB Darnell Bing is learning how to play linebacker after a college career as a safety. He is second team on some defensive schemes and figures to be a core special teams player.

—G Kevin Boothe is running with second and third teams.

—C Chris Morris is running third string but could push veteran Adam Treu.

—WR Kevin McMahan, Mr. Irrelevant, is having a solid camp but at a deep position.

INJURY REPORT: LT Robert Gallery (quadriceps strain) missed the first five days of training camp on Physically Unable to Perform list, should return before first pre-season game Aug. 6 although he might not play.

—WR Ronald Curry (Achilles surgery) is on Physically Unable to Perform list, is awaiting clearance from medical staff.

—RB LaMont Jordan (quadriceps bruise) expected to return soon.

—WR Carlos Francis (hamstring strain) is out indefinitely.

—FB Zack Crockett (back) missed two days of practice is expected back soon.

—T Jabari Levi (heat stroke) was hospitalized for two days, should return soon.

—G Kelvin Garmon (back) should return soon.

—SS Derrick Gibson (flu) missed two days of practice, expected to return soon.
 
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