Just got back into the press room from talking to some of the players in the locker room.
The team is definitely not in mid-season form. I’m not talking about the way they played on Sunday, but the fact that most of the players were still in the locker room when the handful of reporters were allowed to enter their locker room this morning. Normally, when our time comes to enter, there might be about 15 players at their lockers — and nearly half of those guys quickly find something to do in another part of the building upon seeing us come through the door. Today, when we walked in, there may have been around 25 players taking a little down time before meetings began.
Michael Bennett was showing Khalif Barnes pictures of his car from his phone when I walked up. Barnes saw time as the second tight end on Sunday, something he hadn’t done since high school. I asked if there were any plays in which he would be a receiver and he told me that there were and when he gets his opportunity, he’ll make the play. Later on, he joked with a group of us that the Raiders are saving him for an important situation, and when he scores a touchdown, he’ll “act like I’ve been there before…even though I haven’t.”
Many of the players seemed in good spirits until being asked about yesterday. The overall theme from the group interviewed was that it’s all fixable…which may be why there didn’t seem to be a looming cloud over the locker room.
“We just have to come out here, just go back to the basics, go back to preparing and getting things right,” said Darren McFadden, one of the few Raiders bright spots on Sunday. “We had a few busts in our offense. Got to come out here and just get better every day.”
A few busts in the offense, defense, and special teams would seem to be quite a bit to fix before the home opener against St. Louis this Sunday. According to Stanford Routt, making the repairs on defense shouldn’t be much trouble. “[Fixing the defense is] as easy as it is when you gotta go get an oil change from the body shop, that’s all it is,” said the starting cornerback. “It’s that easy. It’s not hard. Like I said, the Titans didn’t beat us, we beat ourselves, which is probably the most frustrating loss, but it’s probably the one with the most silver lining. Cause it’s the easiest to fix.”
One thing about this team, they aren’t about to turn on one another…at least not after one loss. When asked about the Nate Washington 56-yard touchdown completion to his side, Routt was so diplomatic that safety Mike Mitchell interjected, “I like you Stan.” What was Routt’s answer to Tyvon Branch biting on the double move that prompted the love? “We just [had] a defensive miscommunication, that was it.”
One of the big issues with the Raiders’ offense was the snap count. As I mentioned last night, I believe that Jason Campbell is tipping off the defense, but that was never brought up by the offensive players I spoke with. The speed in which the Titans were in the backfield was though.
“They were getting off on the snap count pretty quick,” said tight end Zach Miller. “They were getting in the backfield and disrupting Jason’s timing and making him scramble or check the ball down or even took quite a few sacks. We have to get our protection right.”
Starting right tackle, Langston Walker, had a different theory as to why the Titans were timing the snap so well, but he wouldn’t overtly say it. “I’m not gonna’ talk about the issues that we had with our officiating, or lack thereof,” said Walker with some disgust. “But, you know, Tennessee was getting off the ball, there defensive line was getting off the ball a little early sometimes, but we’re not gonna’ — I mean, it doesn’t matter if they line up in the backfield. We’re paid to block, and that’s what we’re gonna’ do. We gotta’ do it better.”
In the end, most everyone seemed to be towing the party line: The Raiders beat themselves on Sunday. “It was us – it was nothing they were doing,” said kick returner/wide receiver Yamon Figurs who was attributed with a fumble on his stat line Sunday. “We were beating ourselves. We just put ourselves in bad situations with the second and long, the offsides, stuff like that.”
As far as his fumble on the kickoff? “The guy who hit it, he put his helmet right on the ball. He just made a good tackle.”
Raider Nation should take heart in the fact that the players are at least saying all the right things. Things such as, ‘it’s their fault,’ ‘they can fix their problems and will,’ and that ‘ nobody is pointing any fingers.’ Besides seeing the team get better, it’s hard to ask for more than that after a humiliating loss.
I’ll be waiting to see what Coach Cable has to say today around 2 p.m. PST. Check back later for more.
Best quote: “That’s why I get along so well with the little guys. Because I’m really just a little guy who ate too many burgers.”
~6’5″, 325 lbs, Khalif Barnes on his ability to mingle with the non-linemen on the team.