While the subject so far in training camp has not been as much about those that are here but rather those that are not, the talk has already begun to shift in the right direction.
Although Darrius Heyward-Bey was not at practice yet, he has signed with the team and will be joining them shortly. That just leaves Burgess as the lone holdout. And a subject of which Cable wisely shut down when asked about it and refused to comment further.
The players were pretty mum on the Burgess front as well but they were all very excited that there are no draft holdouts – especially those that remember that lengthy Russell holdout two years ago that cost him nearly the entire season.
It seemed everyone is very excited about the veteran leadership that was brought in this offseason as well as the veterans that are already on the team stepping up to get this team pointed in the right direction.
Greg Ellis is drawing raves by his teammates and coaches as a mentor and for his leadership and willingness to impart his winning wisdom. Tom Cable seems sold on his skills and work eithic:
“He came from 3-4, but started as a 4-3 end. The transition back to it has been very good. Greg is a veteran, you hear me use the phrase “A real pro” he was only there for a couple of days, but he’s taking information and he is studying and he came in very prepared.”
But what do some of his teammates have to say?
“He’s brought a lot of leadership so far.” says Kirk Morrison. “He’s a guy who’s been in the league for a number of years (and) you need that. Especially a guy like me who’s going into my fifth year. I’m always learning, always looking to get more knowledge of the game and he’s helped me out so far. He brings a guy who is battle tested, knows what it takes to win and has been a part of winning.”
Chaz Schilens also chimed about the addition of Ellis as well as Lorenzo Neal:
“Those guys are unbelievable for our team. What they bring to us with their knowledge and years of experience. The’re good motivators too. They’ve been around winning teams so it’ll be good for us
One of those current team members that is being looked to as a leader is Nnamdi Asomugha. And while Nnamdi is coming to work everyday ready to play and imparting his wisdom, he feels pretty good about this Raiders team as well, thanks to the new veteran winning influence.
“It’s good because…(Jeff) Garcia, and Lorenzo (Neal) and Greg Ellis…They’ve been on winning teams, it’s not just that they’re older. In meetings yesterday, they’re the ones that are getting up and telling everyone ‘this is how it works. This is how we got to the playoffs’ and those sorts of things. It’s good to hear from people who have been there before because it encourages the guys.
“In the past we’ve had guys that have won but not necessarily stepped up and said how it was done. So we’ve had winners here in the past but now we have an understanding of what it takes to win as a team.”
It seemed only one player neglected to mention Greg Ellis and Lorenzo Neal for their leadership contributions and that was JaMarcus Russell. He preferred to place the responsibility elsewhere. And it is exactly where every Raider coach and fan would want him to place it: On himself.
“I would say myself and Jeff (Garcia), we have to be leaders whether we want to or not. That’s our position and everybody says “ok, at that locker over there, that’s your quarterback and everybody looks up to him. But you have a lot of the older guys on the team that everybody looks up to.
“As a quarterback you always in the eye so pay close attention to what you do. You never know who’s watching.
“I always say be better than they expect you to be. Be greater than they expect you to be. Anything they expect of you, be more than that. And then they can’t ask for anything else.”
It seems Russell certainly knows what it means to be an NFL quarterback. The key now would be following his own wise advice.
As for his feelings about Garcia as a teammate? Well…that may be a different story altogether.
“He’s only been here for a short period of time but we meet and greet each other every time we see one another. We joke around, we have joking time but right now it’s time for work.
“We’re all for the same team and if he’s going to push me to be my best then you know. If he goes out there and does better than me then I’m going to be his biggest cheerleader but we’re all for the same team. I wish him the best, whatever happens. But other than that, (my) third year is going to be (a good one). There’s a lot going on, you have a lot of doubters counting the Raiders out. But it’s the beginning of a new year. God has given us this day.”
I like that attitude. It seems the winning attitude is back in Oakland. The next barometer will be if they can maintain that passion and optimism if they lose a couple games. But for now, things are looking up.
There’s a new Marshall in town
New Raiders defensive coordinator John Marshall is making a few changes around here! Ok well maybe just one change…but it is a big one. BLITZ!
Raider fans having been screaming for this team for blitz more and show more aggression in getting in the opposing team’s backfield. Especially since we saw the Giants take that style of play all the way to a Super Bowl title.
So far it seems that Marshall is doing things right. He is maintaining continuity in the style of play for the most part while giving it some teeth. Just ask some of the players on defense like Thomas Howard:
“If you watch what Jim Marshall did when he had those weapons in Seattle, he did a great job. We run some of the same system that we ran last year but were going to bring a little bit more pressure on the offense which is going to be good. We got some speed in this defense and we’re going to get it moving.”
“Hopefully we’re all getting more sacks. I mean, if I’m getting sacks we’re all getting sacks. As of now it looks like we’re going to be attacking the ball more which is great. We have great speed, we can get after the ball, we can get after the quarterback or whoever has the ball, just getting after it. We’ve done more coverage than pressure in the past and hopefully this year we’ll have a better mix of it.”
His defensive backfield mate Kirk Morrison echoed those sentiments:
“We just want to be more attacking. Downhill, aggressive, try to disturb a lot of backfields. Last year we kind of played off a little bit and got caught a lot of times. But this year we want to put the pressure on the opposing offense. I just wanna get a little more active. That’s something I did a lot of in college, I just kind of got relaxed a little bit. I think moving to a more attacking style defense and just getting after it, making the quarterback make some quick decisions. Get the ball in the air because we know we have a ball hawking secondary.”
Oren O’Neal- Knee
Hopes to play some in the preseason and be 100% by the start of the season.
“It’s been a year since I have played football so they want me to ease back into it. I’d say I’m pretty close. I’m gonna put pads on Monday and be ready to…do whatever I gotta do and be ready in whatever schedule they got me on. Show up to work whenever they tell me to work.
Javon Walker- Knee
According to Cable, Javon Walker is healthy enough to come back at any time and they are holding him out simply as a precaution
“We just want to be sure. We want to give him enough time. He seems to be on schedule and all that. Last year we may have hurried him back.”
Robert Gallery- Abdomen
He is expected back no later than the third game of the preseason. Until that time, former RG/RT Paul McQuistan will fill in for him with the first team in practices and the first two preseason games.
Ever wonder where the nickname “The Law Firm” originated? Let Thomas Howard tell you:
“I think Kirk may have come up with that a few years ago. We were thinking of some nicknames you know like “Dynamic Duo” but that’s been done. Then “The Law Firm” came up because every time we come out there it’s business.”
Not terribly interesting but good to know.