Lance Johnstone...

Angry Pope

All Raider
Feb 2, 2006
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Johnstone announces he's 'still the man'

Bruce Adams

Monday, September 4, 2006

Suggest at your own risk that Lance Johnstone may not be quite the player he was in his first stint with the Raiders.

"I'm still the man, dog," Johnstone says. Then he smiles. And that's a good thing.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end is no one to be trifled with. Even though he's 33 -- which in NFL years ought to qualify him for the senior discount at the movies -- he's still capable of inflicting his share of pain and suffering on opposing quarterbacks.

Johnstone is in his 11th year in the league and ranks No. 6 on the list of active NFL players with 70 career sacks. He spent his first five years with Oakland, leading the team in sacks in 1998 with 11 and in '99 with 10. He was with the Minnesota Vikings the past five years, and had 7.5 sacks last season.

He hasn't been an every-down player the past several years. And that's fine with him.

"It's definitely added years to my career," he said.

He's been able to stay competitive by working to "keep my speed up" and through sheer veteran savvy. "You learn," he said.

At the Raiders, he'll be used on passing downs, pairing up with the team's reigning sack master Derrick Burgess, who led the league with 16 sacks last season - his first in Oakland.

"It helps me, definitely," Burgess said. "There are always enough (sacks). We'll just spread them around."

In theory, the pair should often leave quarterbacks with nowhere to turn -- taking some of the pressure off a young secondary that contributed to the Raiders ranking a ho-hum No. 18 out of 32 teams in passing defense last year -- surrendering an average of 202.7 yards a game.

In the just-completed exhibition season, rotating in and out of games in the musical chair lineups that characterize the preseason, Johnstone had two sacks and Burgess one.

"I don't like to assume anything," Johnstone said.

Johnstone was signed by the Raiders this past offseason. And what with two coaching changes and player turnover he hardly recognized the place.

"The faces, man," he said. "There were maybe five players I recognized."

Grove healing: Regular starting center Jake Grove said it's been nothing but good news since he injured his left shoulder Aug. 22 at training camp in Napa. He expects to rejoin the team any day now.

"When it happened it was the season," Grove said. "Then it was a month."

Now Grove says his shoulder is "day to day."
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