Gallery has one more hurdle before returning to field

Robert Gallery coming off the snap to block for Bruce Gradkowski (right) in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, November 22, 2009. The Raiders won 20-17. (Photo by Kelly Thomas)

After playing in only six games in 2009, and getting injured just before finishing three quarters of play in game one, Robert Gallery may finally be healthy enough to get back on the field — he hopes for the rest of the season. It would probably help if the Raiders don’t turn the ball over too often.

Why is that? It’s how he injured the hamstring. “I was going full speed on that interception in the Tennessee game, and when you pop [the hamstring] like that it’s hard to come back from,” said Gallery on Thursday about how he was injured in week one. That play wasn’t a total loss though. Gallery was credited with the tackle when he forced Titans defensive back Chris Hope out of bounds at the three.

Unlike last season, Gallery’s return isn’t as critical to the play of the offensive line this season, thanks in large part to the play of Daniel Loper in his place. Loper has helped the Raiders with their seventh-ranked rushing attack. Unfortunately, Loper has also been credited with two sacks in little over four games played.

Gallery should be able to help in the passing attack while keeping up with the play of Loper in the rushing game. Even though the running game is doing well, Gallery thinks there is still room for improvement. In front of his locker, Gallery told reporters, “Yeah, we can still be a lot better, especially up front, so you know those backs are running hard and gaining yards and we need need to continue to make that a staple for us.

So what does Gallery have left to prove before getting the start on Sunday? “I would expect if we come through today fine – didn’t see anything … I just talked to him, he felt pretty good,” said Tom Cable at his meeting with the media on Thursday. “And if he’s fine in the morning then I would say he’s probably ready to go.

If you believe Gallery, then he’ll be on the field Sunday. “It feels good to do what I gotta do so I definitely plan on being out there.

Thursday Notes

Nearly every Raider that has spoken with the press this week agrees — the 49ers are not your typical 0-5 team. In fact, every player has made sure to mention how good their next opponent is. Here are just a few quotes on the Niners from Thursday:

This team is not a bad 0-5 team. This is a good team, everybody knows that, and I think everyone here has the right mindset. They’re a good team that could easily be 4-1 the way their games have been going
– Robert Gallery

I’ve been in their situation, I know that, 0-5, a little desparate situation, you just want to get a win. You’ve put all that work in it. You want to get a little fruit for your labor and they’ve been struggling. They’re a good team, a good running game, struggling right now. I’m sure they’ll try to get it going against us.
– Tommy Kelly

You see a former first round quarterback [Alex Smith], you see a Pro Bowl running back [Frank Gore], and you see receivers that are coming along [Michael Crabtree], and coming into their own. And you see a Pro Bowl tight end [Vernon Davis].
– Stanford Routt

Whether or not all that is just lip service, it probably isn’t. Their coaches are saying much of the same type of things.

They’re a very good defensive football team. Greg Manusky, who I know, does a fabulous job with their defensive personnel. They’re a lot like the Chargers. They play from that same mode. They kind of come after you. They have very good players. Their linebacking crew is, again, somewhat like the Chargers, one of the best in football. Manny Lawson, Takeo Spikes, Patrick Willis, this guy, No. 98. These guys are good. They’re not an 0-5 football team. But as I always tell our football players, it’s really not about who we’re playing, it’s more about us, how we prepare, how we go to the game, what are determination and desire to go win a football game, I think regardless of what we face on Sunday that we’re going to come out and play well.
– Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson

Most have wondered if Darren McFadden will be available this Sunday. After speaking with the third-year runner and his head coach, it would be best not to bet on McFadden playing on Sunday.

McFadden was asked if he thought he’d play on Sunday and the Raiders leading rusher said, “It’s up in the air right now.” That’s never a good sign just three days prior to a game. McFadden is still limited in practice, but according to the former first rounder, he did test it on Wednesday. “I went out and did pretty good but like I said I’m just still working and taking my time with it.

The key for McFadden is being able to turn on the jets when he needs to during a game. Right now, he’s very tentative about that. “It’s very hard,” said McFadden of his tightrope between proving he’s ready to play and avoiding a setback. “You just try to tell yourself you just want to go out and try to coast, don’t hit a burst until you feel like you can all the way.

The person with the final say on whether or not McFadden will play is his head coach. Asked if he’d put McFadden in while he’s still tentative with his injury, Cable said, “No, I just think that if they’re tentative, they can’t cut it loose. And if you can’t cut it loose, you’re not going to run hard or at the best of your ability. And if you do try to, you’re probably [going to] pull it again.

The Raiders have been hit hard by hamstring injuries this season. A few reporters took a count of the hamstring injuries since training camp began, and the total they came up with was 13. That is an average nearing one new hamstring injury ever week.

Why are they getting so many hamstring injuries? “The doctors say its from overwork, so I guess I will go with what the doctors say,” said Gallery. Out of 53 players on the team, nearly 25% have had hamstring injuries since training camp began and one took a week off due to fatigue. That’s one hardworking team!

Michael Bennett was back on Thursday after being with his wife and newborn baby boy on Wednesday. He’s also one of the Raiders struggling with the hamstring issue. He didn’t practice, but he was seen working on an empty practice field. While he did say that he was confident about being ready for Sunday, the same rule holds true for Bennett as does McFadden — it depends on if he’s still tentative with the injury.

Charlie Frye is out of his cast from the broken wrist, but he’s on injured reserve and won’t be playing any time this season. As he did while in the cast, he was on the practice field with the other quarterbacks on Thursday. Bruce Gradkowski, again, didn’t practice.

Kyle Boller took rep’s with the first team offense. No, Boller won’t be starting on Sunday and shouldn’t be added to any fantasy squads anytime soon. Cable said that they wanted to get him some work just in case. “Being prepared, yeah,” said Cable on Thursday about Boller’s rep’s having any significance to Sunday. “I think, there’s some improvement with Bruce, but unless he could work tomorrow that we kind of know where we’re headed with it.

Cable made it clear on the status of Gradkowski. “Could he go in as a backup? Maybe, but if he’s good enough to go, enough to go in and win the game, then he’d play and start and all that.” So if you had Gradkowski on your fantasy team, you might want to try and pick up Jason Campbell for this weekend.

Boller did receive very high praise from Cable on Thursday. Cable was asked if he was confident about Boller being ready if he was called upon and he didn’t hold back in his answer.

Very much so. He’s lucky because he’s been in this particular system a little bit, and he’s played enough football as a starter that he knows what all that is about. Kyle’s kind of a rare bird. He studies everything and prepares like he is the starter all the time. I know you hear that, but when you watch him work and you listen to him talk, he’s talking like a coach, he’s talking to Jason or to Bruce like he’s doing it all the time. So I think his mentality is he kind of puts himself in that spot of I’m the guy doing it and I’ve got to be prepared. I have no issues or worries whether he’s ready to go or not.

Chaz Schilens won’t be playing in a game any time soon. Cable said that he’s still limited to rehabbing his injured knee, but the plan is for Schilens to finally take the practice field either next week or the week after. When asked if the injury was taking longer than anticipated, Cable said, “I think it is.

Cable continued on that thought, “I don’t know that it’s moved along as quickly as we would have liked, obviously. I know it’s improving, but it seems to be rather slow.

Schilens is beginning to fall into a precarious situation. In his third year, he’s already missed half of one season and will probably not return until after the Raiders have played half of this season. With Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey improving while Schilens has been on the sidelines, he may be relegated to a backup position going forward — that is, when he returns.

Don’t be too worried about Raiders receivers not getting many catches, at least according to both Cable and Jackson. While Jackson said he’d really like to see his receivers catch more balls, he reiterated what Cable has been saying about the lack of receptions by receivers.

I’d like for [Darrius Heyward-Bey] to catch 10 balls a game,” said Jackson. “I’d like for he and Louis both to catch 10 balls per game. Again, this is about winning, and sometimes teams don’t allow you to do certain things, and sometimes there are things that you can do and you have to take advantage of ‘em.

Cable was asked a similar question, but his question was whether or not he thought Heyward-Bey had hit a lull in production the last few weeks. “I got asked that the other day,” Cable began. “I don’t know if it’s really a lull so much or if it’s been kind of take what they’re giving you. If you look at Zach’s production has gone up, the backs’ production has gone up. It’s like everything in this game it kind of comes around to you. I think those guys are definitely ready when the opportunity comes back to them.

You have to wonder when defenses are going to force the Raiders to utilize their receivers. In the last two weeks, Raiders receivers have accounted for just six receptions, four against Houston and two against San Diego. In comparison, fullback Marcel Reece has three receptions in the same span.

That’s not to say that the Raiders’ fullback isn’t a weapon in his own right. The former college receiver has made the transition to fullback quite well. Cable sees the second-year pro as a full-fledged weapon in his offense.

Look what he did in the preseason,” said Cable of Reece. “He caught a couple of deep balls there and a screen play I think against Chicago. We do think he can do some of those kinds of things. We try to put guys in position where they can make plays for us. He can run.For a fullback, he has exceptional hands. Of course, being a former wide receiver I think that helps him. He understands about running routes and being in space and all that.

Quentin Groves is getting healthier, but expect Trevor Scott to be at linebacker again. That will make room on the line for Matt Shaughnessy, who had a sack, two tackles for loss, and a forced fumble last Sunday. As far as Groves returning? “He’s getting healthy. That’s the way to look at it,” said Cable. “When we get everybody healthy and back again we’ll get where we need to be.

Hue Jackson was in the running to be the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers before coming to the Raiders. Talk about dodging a bullet! Jackson was very respectful when recounting his interview for the position. “Yes it was a position I did seriously consider,” said Jackson of the job opening. “It just didn’t go right. Obviously they went in a different direction and I was back in Baltimore and wished him well, and I’m here in Oakland.

He went on to explain that he didn’t get the opportunity to turn the job down. When asked if it was his call to not take the job, Jackson responded, “No, no. That was their call at that time. And that’s OK. I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be now, here at the Raiders and helping this organization get to where it needs to be.

Injury Report

Full practice:
Jeremy Ware (hamstring)

Limited in practice:
Johnnie Lee Higgins (knee)
Robert Gallery (hamstring) – improved
Daniel Loper (ankle) – improved
Darren McFadden (hamstring)
Quentin Groves (hamstring)

Did not practice:
Chaz Schilens (knee)
Michael Bennett (hamstring) – improved
Bruce Gradkowski (shoulder)
Travis Goethel (back)
Thomas Howard (knee) – making good progress and may be ready to go next week
John Henderson (foot)

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