You can’t count Tom Cable’s relief of Lane ‘Lance’ Kiffin as his first year as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. While he gets the credit, or blame, for how the season turned out, it’s really what he’s done since going from ‘interim’ head coach to actual holder of the job.
Prior to the start of 2009, while still in training camp, Cable stressed the importance of changing the mindset of the team and also the challenge of changing the negativity surrounding the franchise from those looking in from the outside. With his counterpart, Mike Singletary, across the bay taking all sorts of criticism, it’s safe to say that the press is much less negative when talking about the Raiders than they were a year ago.
While not all the ‘haters’ have been convinced that the organization is on the right track, and justifiably so, many on the fence are no longer as negative about the Raiders chances this season as they were last season. That really doesn’t matter. In the Raiders’ hey-day, the attitude was always ‘us against the world,’ and that went a long way to gaining them success.
What is important, and it’s likely Cable would agree, is the mentality of his team. What Cable wants from his players is a winner’s mentality — guys who never give up, always work hard, never put themselves above the team, and guys who can focus on a consistent basis to do it week in and week out.
So has that mentality changed? Cable was asked that and how close the team is to obtaining that goal set early last season at his daily press briefing.
“I do think we have changed our mentality. We’ve changed how we do business from Wednesday to Sunday. Now it’s a matter of going out and repeating that kind of effort, intensity and desire that it takes on Sunday and I do think we’re getting close to that. Where are we at? I think we’re about three-quarters of the way there. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”
He’d no doubt like to see some improvement come in the form of winning back-to-back games — starting this Sunday against Bay Area rival, San Francisco. The last time the Raiders won two games in a row was 12/21-12/28 of the 2008 season. Winning on Sunday would also make it the first time the Raiders have been .500 or better after six games since their Super Bowl season of 2002.
Don’t let the 49ers 0-5 record fool you. In fact, being winless at this point in the season could make them even more dangerous. “Yeah, it’s an 0-5 team, but they easily could have been 3-2, probably even 4-1, easily,” said Raiders receiver Louis Murphy Wednesday morning at his locker.
Nnamdi Asomugha says the team knows how big this game is, all records and conferences aside, because a win would put the Raiders back to .500. “I think it’s big, everybody thinks it big for us,” said the Pro Bowl defensive back. “Just to get those back-to-back wins and try to build off of that, especially with a Niners team that’s really looking for a win, and so we know they’re going to try to bring out all their weapons. So it’s going to be big for us.”
Good news for Raiders fans, not so good for the 49ers who hope to surprise the Silver and Black on Sunday.
Normally, when a team signs a player from another team that they play soon after, there’s a little information gathering from the player the week of the game. Bruce Davis was a 49er just a little more than a week ago, but when asked if he’d been called to the coaches office yet, he said, “No. Nothing like that, not yet.”
The Raiders and Niners practiced together in the ’09 training camp. There was a verifiable difference between the two teams. The Raiders were mostly silent while the 49ers were rowdy in comparison. By the end of the week, it seemed as though the 49ers had gotten into the minds of the Raiders players — and then beat them that weekend at the Stick.
Louis Murphy recalled what he remembered of practicing with the guys from across the bay. “Yeah, physical, talking trash. It’s a veteran group over there.” Of all the Raiders, the one most likely not to be affected by trash talking is Louis Murphy — at least not negatively.
“They gotta’ worry about what the Raiders have to do,” said the Raiders’ leading wide receiver. “The main thing we have to do this week is execute on every play. We can’t leave plays out there and we have to make sure that we go out there and do what we have to do to win. Can’t worry about what they’re doing.”
That’s the sort of mentality that Cable is looking for. Asked if the team came back from their day off the way he would’ve liked, the head coach answered in the affirmative, “Yeah, we did.”
Cable continued that thought, “It’s a new challenge and a new issue. Offensively, you’ve got to get ready for their tailback and the tight end. Those are really good players. We’ve got to understand what it’s going to take to win this football game, and certainly it’s not anything to do with last week.”
That’s true, unless they get a win to make it two in a row.
- Chaz Schilens (knee), Michael Bennett (hamstring/personal), Bruce Gradkowski (shoulder), Travis Goethel (back), Thomas Howard (knee), and John Henderson (foot) did not practice Wednesday.
- Michael Bennett, who’s been out with a hamstring injury, missed practice to be with his wife and newborn baby. Cable said that he would be back to the facility later Wednesday evening.
- Johnnie Lee Higgins (knee), Robert Gallery (hamstring), Darren McFadden (hamstring), Daniel Loper (ankle), Quentin Groves (hamstring), and Jeremy Ware (hamstring) were all limited in practice Wednesday.
- Cable said that he’s optimistic that Gallery will play on Sunday. “I’m probably more optimistic about Robert [Gallery] than [Darren] McFadden,” said Cable. He also said that if Gallery doesn’t go on Sunday, it will be due solely to his injury and not attributed to any rust on the former first-round pick, “Because he went back in there and picked it right up and was fine.“
- If McFadden does play, it won’t be much. Cable said that Bush would start and get the bulk of playing time, “because Darren’s not 100 percent yet, hasn’t been able to go out and work 100 percent. Until we know that, I’m not sure [how Bush and McFadden would split carries] really is part of the discussion.“
- The Raiders have allowed over 947 yards on defense in the last two games. Cable isn’t pleased with that. “Because as I said on Monday, my biggest concern right now for our defense is to play a complete game. One week it’s this, the next week it’s that. Neither one of them are acceptable. In order for us to become better and get where we want to be, we’re going to have to clean that up. We can’t have a week of this and a week of that.“
- Right now the Raiders are ranked 23rd in total defense, 10th against the pass and 31st against the rush. Cable isn’t as concerned with the yardage as he is with scoring. Asked if he concerns himself with the yardage, Cable responded, “I don’t if they’re not crossing the goal-line. If they’re crossing the goal-line and they’re scoring points with all those yards, then it’s definitely an issue.“
- Cable wouldn’t officially name Jason Campbell the starting quarterback for Sunday. Asked what Gradkowski’s status was for the week, Cable said he’d know something by Thursday. He went further saying, “We have a pretty good idea. Obviously he didn’t practice today and I think he’s pretty sore so we’ll see what kind of progress we make in the next 24 hours.” In coach-speak, that means that Campbell will probably be the starter.
- If Gradkowski doesn’t start, it’s also unclear if Kyle Boller will be active again for the second week in a row. Cable was non-committal on who would be the backup and who would be his number three saying, “we’ll decide that, where is [Gradkowski] at, come gametime.“
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