Charting the AFC West - Oakland Raiders

Throughout the preseason Broncos Update will be keeping a close eye on the AFC West. Today we cover the Oakland Raiders and where they stand this far into 2005

The past met the present at the Raiders' training camp as Rich Gannon stood on the practice field and watched the team he was leaving behind.

"We were standing there talking about some of the things we're doing with Randy Moss, some of the things Kerry (Collins) is doing and the way we've advanced as an offense," coach Norv Turner said of Rich Gannon's last day as an NFL athlete prior to retirement.

"I could see Rich get excited. He started asking me about this play or that thing."

It was typical Gannon -- always excited, always analytical and always wanting to be in the middle of things.

Minutes later, Gannon was in a crowded meeting room at the Napa Valley Marriott saying his farewells. The official retirement announcement was attended by not only Turner but Raider owner Al Davis.

Davis does not do press conferences, so you knew this sendoff was for a special Raider. But Davis had always had a soft spot in his heart for this quarterback who was a one-man force-field not only on the field but in the locker room.

"He's a sore loser," Davis said. "So am I. So were the great quarterbacks."

Gannon's stay in Oakland was relatively short. A total of 74 starts, 45 of them victories. Davis hinted that Gannon may have been destined to join his team from that time prior to his being drafted that he told off the NFL.

Teams were projecting him as a defensive back, not a quarterback.

"He told them right there and then there's no way I'm going to play anywhere but quarterback," Davis said. "Boy, I'll tell you ... he's stubborn. On a lot of things."

New England did draft him as a safety. Some 16 years later, he was the NFL's Most Valuable Player.

But before coming to Oakland, by his own admission, Gannon was a journeyman quarterback just trying to find someone who believed in him. He hadn't felt that love in Minnesota, Washington or Kansas City.

But his passion burned ... so much so that his legend also included being tough on teammates he felt weren't playing up to expectations. Davis heard rumblings from the locker room from time to time that the players were upset because Gannon was being too tough on them.

"And, boy, I raised my hand and said 'Amen ... go ahead,' because I believe you have to get on them from time to time," Davis said. "You have to drive people ... earn their respect by winning and that's what I thought he had."

But during the journeyman years, Gannon must have wondered if football didn't love him as much as he loved football. He kept getting chances, doing well, and then being bounced.

"I knew I'd get the opportunity some day," he said. "I always felt like I was a good enough player. I just needed to be in the right situation with the right organization and the right coaching staff."

He found that combination in Oakland.

"As a quarterback, the biggest thing is for someone to believe in you," Gannon said. "It wasn't until I came to Oakland that I finally felt like I was home. Someone believed in me enough to give me the keys to the car to see what I could do with it."

It was, he said, the best thing that ever happened to him. He found an owner, Davis, and a coach, Jon Gruden, who had faith. Gruden and Gannon became, as Gannon puts it, "like brothers." There remains some awkwardness there because Gruden left Oakland and then met Gannon's Raiders in the Super Bowl a year later. Five interceptions later, Tampa Bay was a 48-21 winner.

Gannon bears no resentment even if cynics keep suggesting Svengali pulled one over on his pupil.

"What I look at is what if he never left, what would we have accomplished," Gannon said. "We had a good thing going. The unfortunate thing about that night was we just didn't play well. We made 16 mental errors in the first 27 plays.

"I never said anything, but we were horrible. Then you get behind and try to make some plays you wouldn't normally (try). The end result is just ugly. That's really what happened."

It was at once the high and low points of Gannon's stay in Oakland, which ended with him standing on the training camp field he had worked so diligently for five years and had to wonder.

What might have it have been like to throw in Randy Moss' direction?

CAMP CALENDAR: Training camp at Napa continues until Wednesday, Aug. 24. The Napa camp is not open to the public. The team will also spend two days in Houston prior to its Aug. 20 preseason game practicing against the Texans.


-- Give credit to a pair of Raider players for honesty if nothing else.

Both Tyler Brayton and Langston Walker have starting jobs but neither will cop to being exactly excited about where their services will be utilized.

Brayton was a defensive end until last year when he was shifted to linebacker. Walker was an offensive right tackle but this year he is listed as the starting left guard.

"Enthusiasm? There is no enthusiasm," Walker said of his switch. "It's not something I'm super enthused about but I do it because I want to help my team and because I want to get out there. That's why I do it."

Brayton struggled as a linebacker a year ago. He is being asked to improve, not to go back to end.

"I am still holding to defensive line for life but I guess on the official roster, I am a linebacker, so ..."

He said that it was difficult to accept early on.

"It still make take a little convincing," Brayton said. "But coach (Rob) Ryan came up to me at the beginning of the season and said he is not going to accept any excuses, like 'I'm a defensive lineman.' He said that to all of us outside linebackers that used to be defensive ends. He said we are outside linebackers and need to start acting like it."

Walker is dealing with his position change that way.

"We all have different paths to take," he said. "This is mine, I guess. I just come out here with a fresh head and an open mind ... and a sharp pencil."

-- Backup quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo isn't saying play me or trade me, but he insists he's competing to win the quarterback job over Kerry Collins. Even if nobody thinks it's possible.

"This is the longest I've ever had to wait," he said Friday. "I've always either waited behind a guy or beat him out. I'm not happy being second. I don't want to be pegged as a career backup."

Tuiasosopo slid to No. 3 on the depth chart when the team acquired Kerry Collins in June of 2004. Then, when it took Arizona State's Andrew Walter with a third round pick this past April, he had to wonder what the club had in store for him. Walter has been impressive so far in training camp.

Coach Norv Turner waxes vague when asked if the team has explored possible trades that could free Tui to fulfill his ultimate destiny. For his part, Tuiasosopo responds "that's why you have agents. They're always working.

"I love playing here. Right now, I'm just focused on this upcoming season. I'll be ready to go when the opportunity comes."

It will come, Turner says, in larger doses than it did last August when Gannon was No. 1, Collins No. 2, both were absorbing a new offensive system and Tuiasosopo was deep on the depth chart.

"It's a whole different deal," Turner said. "Tui's going to get a lot of playing time."

-- Raider running back LaMont Jordan is suspicious of people who ask him about the statement his t-shirt makes, but not suspicious enough to avoid wearing it.

To paraphrase, the shirt says he gives 100 percent every week ... then below it says "14 hours on Monday, 11 on Tuesday, 19 on Wednesday, 15 on Thursday, 12 on Friday, 16 on Saturday and 13 on Sunday."

"I've been criticized for the shirt," he said, pointing out that its meaning was intended to be a sort of tongue-in-cheek joke. "People can say what they want. If you've got something bad to say about a shirt, go ahead."

Nothing bad, actually, just something puzzling. Shouldn't he give zero percent on Tuesday (NFL players' days off) and maybe a little more on Sundays?

"Yeah," he concurred. "But I have to leave some time for my personal life. In fact today, Wednesday, is supposed to be my hardest practicing day. I'm giving a nice 19 percent."

-- Coach Norv Turner was asked if this year's team looks markedly better than last year's.

The answer: yes, until further notice.

"We're a lot better football team," he said. "I told our guys that on Day 1. Every year you go into the season with high expectations, whether they're realistic or not. We had high expectations a year ago. We felt we had a great training camp."

The Raiders went 5-11.

"Me saying it and them saying it doesn't mean anything," he concluded.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's amazing, even this many years later people still say how do you guys get along and what is your relationship. We were connected at the hip. I mean we were like brothers. There were some outbursts but it was all in the heat of the battle. Unfortunately I still get accused of being the one who provoked it. But people don't see him on the sidelines ... calling me out or something. He knew that sort of thing drove me. We got along great and do still to this day. I love the guy." -- Rich Gannon on former coach Jon Gruden.


BATTLE OF THE WEEK: At right guard, Brad Badger has been named the starter but he is splitting time with three-time Pro Bowler Ron Stone, who was hurt last year in his first year in Oakland. The outcome could have repercussions on the left side. If Stone beats out Badger, Badger may go back to left guard, a position he played most of last year, and Walker could return to tackle as a backup.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: The kickoff return competition looks like a line at the department of motor vehicles. So far there are no less than six players trying out and nobody is running away with it.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: RB LaMont Jordan, the Raiders' premiere free agent acquisition, has shown exceptional vision on bull-like runs between the tackles. Coach Norv Turner said "when you get to see him every day, he does something where you kind of get big eyes and say, 'Wow.' He is having an outstanding camp."

ROOKIE REPORT: CB Fabian Washington hasn't made a breakthrough yet and is functioning on the third team dime defense. ... No. 2 pick Stanford Routt, meanwhile, is ahead of him in all specialty defenses. ... Pick 3-a, QB Andrew Walter, has been up and down. The staff has been impressed with his arm but Turner paused practice once to chastise him for not getting rid of the ball quick enough. ... Pick 3-b, LB Kirk Morrison is still struggling with the nuances of pro defense, but several teammates believe he has an excellent chance of not only playing but of starting. ... Pick 6-a, DT Anttaj Hawthorne, has not made his presence felt yet. ... Pick 6-b, DE Ryan Riddle has made a number of mistakes and will have to make the squad off special teams play. ... Pick 7, T Pete McMahon, remains deep on the depth chart on a veteran offensive line.

INJURY REPORT: CB Charles Woodson returned to practice one day after straining his groin. He has been well enough to have spirited matchups with Randy Moss and the first unit ... There has been a run of injuries to wide receivers. Jerry Porter and Carlos Francis are out for at least another week with hamstring pulls and Doug Gabriel dislocated his index finger Saturday ... A calf strain has kept C Adam Treu from practicing for nearly a week. br>

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