Just when you thought Kyle Boller would be elevated to starting status, Tom Cable stepped up to the podium and put that thought on hold. Cable’s first remarks to the press today following the team’s practice was to give an injury report.
“[Chaz] Schilens (knee) did not practice. Michael Bennett (hamstring) did, was limited. Darren McFadden (hamstring) did, was limited. Brandon Myers (concussion) did not practice. Jason Campbell (knee) practiced limited. Bruce [Gradkowski] (shoulder) practiced limited, he did some individual. Didn’t throw much, did some ball-handling, so. [Travis] Goethel, with a lower back, practiced limited and Thomas Howard (knee) did not practice. Jon Henderson (foot) did not practice. And an addition to the injury report is Tyvon Branch. He has a sore back; he was limited.“
The fact that Gradkowski and Campbell both practiced in a limited capacity drew inquisitions as to who would be the starting quarterback for Sunday; Bruce? Jason? Kyle?
“You know, Bruce did some stuff, which was good, and some real easy stuff, in terms of throwing (but didn’t) cut it loose or throw the ball loose or anything like that. Moved around fine” said Cable right before he hit the press with the infamous ‘game-time‘ answer. “Jason is a little bit sore. You saw Kyle practicing. So we’ll just continue on that path and it may have to be a game-time decision.”
Cable was gracious enough to answer a question dealing with a specific scenario: If Gradkowski couldn’t go, but Campbell could, would Campbell start over Boller? “Yes,” said Cable bluntly.
Shane Lechler also took snaps on Wednesday, but Cable said that it was his normal two to three week precautionary practice for his star punter and emergency quarterback. “We do it about every couple, two or three weeks,” started Cable. “There’s a set of plays he would run, a What If-thing.”
Many in Raider Nation doubt that Lechler could do any worse than Jason Campbell’s 10.7 QB rating on Sunday, but they’ll have to wait for Lechler’s quarterback debut…maybe forever. Boller’s debut, however, could still come this Sunday even though Cable wouldn’t really address the issue.
“I think it would just be speculation right now,” said the coach. “Say it’s Kyle, say it’s Bruce, say it’s Jason … it’s just too early and they haven’t done enough, really any of them, for us to say we’re OK with it.” So, to summarize this long story, Cable hasn’t named a starter at quarterback for Sunday — at least not publicly.
Cable did come closer to naming his guy at left tackle, but stopped short of making anything official as of yet. Asked if Jared Veldheer had finally won the position over Mario Henderson, Cable said, “I think we’re getting close where we’re going to be there, yes.” The reason for the speculation was that Veldheer was taking all of the rep’s while the media was allowed to watch.
Then Cable clarified that answer much like he did his answer to the starting quarterback this weekend. Asked if he’d still be rotating Henderson and Veldheer in this week’s game, Cable answered, “Yeah, we’ll continue to work both those guys, yeah.” When it comes to Cable’s ability to disguise his answers to the media, what Robert Deniro told Billy Crystal in Analyze This sums it up: “Your good. Your good!”
Should Henderson lose out to Veldheer on the left side, Cable didn’t rule out putting Langston Walker’s job at right tackle up for grabs, but he has other concerns for now. “We could do that,” said Cable of a possible competition at right tackle. “Right now my biggest issue is getting the quarterback position settled down and continue to work with him up front and get who we need to get where and keep getting them better.”
Some reports sprung up over the weekend that the Raiders had contacted teams in the NFL and telling them that ALL of their players were available for trade. Cable shot that down saying, “I don’t believe that to be true.” While there wasn’t a follow-up to that, it’s safe to say that the reports were bogus.
Bigger news to some is the return of Goethel. Some among the media are convinced that the rookie linebacker was on the fast track to being a starter this season before succumbing to back problems. Wednesday was the first time he’s been able to practice since his injury occurred. Cable said he may see playing time in a week if everything goes well.
“He did some drills, did some conditioning, kind of followed his rehab format and really, just the first time getting him back out there. So, hopefully he’ll feel good tomorrow (and) we can just continue to add to that. I wouldn’t expect him, in terms of playing, until next week at the earliest.”
Branch’s injury could be of some concern, but the play of Mike Mitchell as of late could lessen the impact if Branch misses any time. Cable admitted Wednesday that he thinks Mitchell’s role will have to increase due to his play.
“I think it has to, with his improvement,” said Cable of Mitchell. “I feel so good – and I am not trying to jinks them – about that safety group and how they’ve elevated their play. Collectively as a group, they’re playing at a high level. And he certainly is part of that. It seems like when we needed him, when Thomas Howard went down to come in and play at the nickel backer spot, he’s elevated his game. What I like about is the focus and attention to detail he is playing with. He is doing a nice job.”
Even so, Cable was clear that he already has starters at both safety positions when asked if Mitchell might be pushing for one of the jobs. “No, I think we’re pretty set at those two spots. We’re pretty good there.“