Inside Slant 08.07.2006...

Angry Pope

All Raider
Feb 2, 2006
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Al Davis made it official.

Wide receiver Jerry Porter is on the trading block. In fact, Porter and agent Joel Segal were given the OK to seek a trade as far back as the NFL Draft.

Actually coming back with a deal is another matter.

"His agent has known this for a long while that if someone offers us the (draft) choice we want or a representative player and the $4 million bonus he took from us ... we'll respond," Davis said.

According to an NFL source, the Raiders were seeking a first-round pick at the time of the draft.

Insisting that Porter repay bonus money isn't just about restoring some cash to the club's coffers. It would also reduce the acceleration on Porter's deal next year by that amount as well, cutting the cap hit from $6.45 million to $2.45 million.

Porter stopped talking to the media after voicing his displeasure on the first day of training camp. When asked about Davis' comments, Porter said. "I don't even know what he said."

Porter was then asked if he wanted to know, and he said, "I don't even care," while not breaking stride.

Sidelined for all but three practices with a calf strain, Porter has fallen behind Doug Gabriel on the depth chart. Coach Art Shell said simply that if Porter is healthy, he'll practice.

Davis was unconcerned that one brooding player would disrupt team chemistry. Davis said he doesn't believe in locker room chemistry.

"We're talking about one guy, and I don't think it will make any impression whatsoever," Davis said.

As for Shell's comments about "changing the culture" of the locker room, Davis said, "If you win, your culture is fine. If you don't win, you have a problem with your culture. Whatever Art wants to do in that vein, he will do it."

A second-round draft pick in 2000, Porter has 140 receptions for 1,940 yards and 14 touchdowns in the last two seasons. He clashed with Jon Gruden in 2000 and 2001 before blossoming in his third season under Bill Callahan and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.

Porter caught 51 passes for 688 yards and nine touchdowns in Oakland's AFC championship season as the third receiver behind Jerry Rice and Tim Brown.

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.


—Raiders defensive line coach Keith Millard grew up in Pleasanton, played high school football with John Madden's son Mike and considers his three trophies for the All-Madden team among his most cherished possessions.

He also considers Madden, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, responsible for his first trip to the Pro Bowl, which came the season after he had a breakout playoff game in 1987 against New Orleans.

"I'd had a good year, but it was until John Madden said it that people seemed to know it," Millard said. "It wasn't just me, but linemen in general. A lot of offensive linemen never got recognition until he did the game. He pointed out the good things that offensive and defensive linemen do. He gave us exposure."

—No word yet on how ticket sales are going with the Raiders taking over the sales and marketing of their own product for the first time since they returned to Oakland in 1995.

CEO Amy Trask said the club would have some sort of announcement between Aug. 27 and Aug. 31 She would say only that the Raiders were "significantly ahead" of their pace at this time last year.

Oakland's season-ticket base shrunk to less than 30,000 last season, the last year the sales were handled by the Oakland Football Marketing Association.

Owner Al Davis, who maintains he was promised a full house every week if he returned to Oakland, said, "I am not encouraged or satisfied . . . unless we sell out," Davis said.

—Running back LaMont Jordan believes he was being too nice last season in his first year as a feature runner. He attempted to deal with that weakness by working out in the offseason with Roger Leonard, the brother of boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.

"The best thing I did was take up boxing," Jordan said. "That helped me out so much, just the cardio and getting myself focused. I've been a little bit too nice. My agent and a couple of my (friends) told me when I was in New York, I ran a lot angrier."

—Kevin McMahan, the Maine wide receiver honored as Mr. Irrelevant in honor of being the last person taken in the draft, doesn't mind his designation.

"People look at it different ways, but I look at it as motivation to have been taken last," McMahan said. "So many guys were taken before you, especially at the wide receiver spot, you look and think, `Man, I could have been taken there or there or there. Look at this team and this staff. I've got Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, coach (Fred) Biletnikoff and I'm going against Willie Brown's defensive backs. I think I am in a good situation."

McMahan is having a solid camp, but his odds of sticking would seem to be slim unless Porter is traded.

Oakland's last two Mr. Irrelevant picks, wide receiver Ryan Hoag (2003) and linebacker Andre Sommersell (2004), did not make the roster.

—With Charles Woodson gone to Green Bay in free agency, defensive tackle Warren Sapp considers himself the leader of Oakland's defense. He was hesitant to seize that role the past two seasons.

"I didn't want to step on anybody's toes. In Tampa, I had been there since Day 1 building it. When you are there building a house from Day 1, it is easier to yell and scream and enjoy the day," Sapp said. "But when I walked into somebody else's house that was already built, it was different. Now I have been here since we got into this (Rob Ryan's defense) so it feels a lot more like this is my team."


QUOTE TO NOTE: "Aaron's making big strides. The light bulb's going off. He's saying, 'Oh, OK.' You know he understands what we're trying to do." — Raiders coach Art Shell, who probably meant to say the light bulb was going "on."


Wide receiver Ronald Curry, on the physically unable to perform list since training camp opened, has been running patterns and catching passes in solitude without a trace of a limp.

He spent a good part of one practice session huddled under a goal post with personnel executive Mike Lombardi, and chances are good he was lobbying for a return.

Curry suffered a torn Achilles' in each of the last two seasons, and the Raiders don't want to rush him back to the field. Although no one will come out and say it, the fear is Curry came back too soon last season.

—WR Will Buchanon, son of former NFL cornerback Willie Buchanon, has been catching everything in sight — and some of his receptions have been spectacular.

—LB Danny Clark, replaced as a starter by Kirk Morrison, got to work with the first unit for three days while Morrison nursed a hamstring strain. There are no indications he could reclaim his starting job.

—SS Derrick Gibson, who never became an established starter after being a first-round draft pick in 2001, is playing well enough that he could make the roster again.

—DT Anttaj Hawthorne, a smallish and soft-looking tackle, is nonetheless getting snaps with the first goal line defense and could stick as a fourth defensive tackle behind the primary rotation of Tommy Kelly, Warren Sapp and Terdell Sands.

—RB Rod Smart, based on team sessions, is evolving into a third-down back. He has caught several passes over the middle and broken them for big yards.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Stanford Routt vs. Tyrone Poole for nickel back. Poole entered camp running with the first nickel and despite being undersized at 5-foot-8, was making some big plays — even as a blitzer. He is already a source of information for the Raiders' young defensive backs. When Poole strained a hamstring, Routt, a more conventional slot corner at 6-foot-2, took over and had an excellent three days of practice, breaking up passes and looking much more comfortable than he did as a rookie. Routt started the season as Oakland's slot corner in his rookie year, but eventually was moved outside and played sparingly.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Andrew Walter vs. Marques Tuiasosopo for No. 2 quarterback. Walter has retained the spot, but his play has been spotty at best. Tuiasosopo is doing good work with his legs, at one point hitting rookie Kevin McMahan in a two-minute drill for a touchdown with six seconds to play.

—Zack Crockett vs. John Paul Foschi at fullback. If Foschi can stay healthy and be a block-and-release tight end, Crockett could move back to his best role — that of a short-yardage tailback.

—Kevin Huntley vs. Bryant McNeal at defensive end. Tyler Brayton, Derrick Burgess, Bobby Hamilton and Lance Johnstone appear set. Huntley is a tall first-year free agent who has knocked down a few passes and could have the upper hand.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Cornerback Fabian Washington. A first-round draft pick out of Nebraska last season, Washington became a starter when Charles Woodson went down in Week 5. He generally played solid, unspectacular football and had a decent rookie year. He has been much more active this season, had intercepted his share of passes, and for a week, anyway, had the look of being the shutdown corner Woodson never became.

ROOKIE REPORT: S Michael Huff as getting plenty of work with the first team with starting FS Stuart Schweigert out. Although listed on the depth chart as a backup, that status should not last long. No. 2 pick Thomas Howard (LB) and No. 3 choice Paul McQuistan (G) have retained their starting roles and show no signs of relinquishing them. Fourth-round pick Darnell Bing will probably see limited time until he adjusts to being a linebacker after playing safety in college. C Chris Morris (sixth-round) could move to No. 2 if Adam Treu's back becomes a serious issue. WR Kevin McMahan, the No. 7 pick, has found the going tough in part because undrafted rookie free agents such as Will Buchanon and Rick Gatewood have played well.
On our linebackers....

Sources in Oakland say that the new-look LB trio of Kirk Morrison in the middle and Sam Williams and rookie Thomas Howard on the outside is the fastest the Raiders have had in probably two decades. The strides made by Howard and fellow rookie Darnell Bing, a converted safety, have allowed Morrison to move inside and have pushed veteran Danny Clark to become more of a role player.
Brooks and our receivers...

New Raiders QB Aaron Brooks has developed a nice rapport early on with Randy Moss and the team’s tight ends, Courtney Anderson and Randal Williams.
This was mentioned in an article I posted before...

Warren Sapp is taking on more of a leadership role on the Raiders’ defense this season, in large part because he felt as though the defense previously belonged to NT Ted Washington and CB Charles Woodson, both of whom departed in the offseason.
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