Raiders Draft Outlook: Center

The Raiders are probable to address center in the draft because it is not yet known if they will bring back Barret Robbins.

             One story in a series on the 2003 NFL Draft and how it pertains to the Oakland Raiders needs. Today – a look at center:

             Much like offensive guard, center is not a position of weakness for the Raiders but there are pending factors that may compel the team to draft at center.

            It is not yet known if Pro Bowl selection Barret Robbins will return after his well-documented episode on Super Bowl weekend.

If he does not return, the Raiders can turn to Adam Treu, who has been primarily the team's long-snapper. Treu, however, also has starting experience. Treu started the Raiders 48-21 loss to Tampa Bay after the team suspended Robbins. In addition, Treu started 16 games (14 regular season, two postseason) in 2001 when Robbins recovered from knee surgery.

Oakland would not gain or lose anything in terms of the salary cap by releasing Robbins. The question becomes will Robbins, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, return? That remains to be seen.

According to a recently published report in the San Francisco Chronicle, Raiders head coach Bill Callahan and Robbins met a few weeks ago, roughly at the time that Robbins was cleared to begin working out at the Raiders' facility. Callahan described the conversation as "productive," but said he was "more concerned about (Robbins) as a person than as a player right now."

A few Raiders spoke out harshly against Robbins, notably fellow linemen Frank Middleton and Mo Collins.

"That will be answered in time," Callahan told the Chronicle. "I couldn't answer that today. How the team embraces him or re-embraces him, it'll be interesting to see. Anytime you go through an experience like that on the stage that it occurred on, it's going to be highlighted. Obviously, he knows he's disappointed a lot of teammates, he disappointed the organization. He's apologized for that, but I still believe it's going to take some time for the team to re-establish that identity that they had with him."

Callahan's statement was not one that suggested Robbins was no longer a Raider but it was not a vote of confidence either.

If Oakland does not retain Robbins, the issue is not whether the Raiders have a capable replacement. Treu has proven he can perform, as starter but the team must prepare in case Robbins does not return because teams need depth. Oakland knows that as well as anyone.

The Raiders have the 31st and 32nd picks in the in draft. If the team decides to address this position early, Notre Dame's Jeff Faine would likely be on the board. If Oakland decides to wait until later in the draft, Northwestern's Austin King, Mississippi's Ben Claxton and Maryland's Todd Wike might be good fits.

Faine may lack the ideal athleticism but should develop into a solid NFL starter. King has the reputation for being an overachiever but could be a Day Two find. Claxton lacks the ideal athleticism but it's hard to ignore his outstanding career at Mississippi, especially if he's available, as expected, in the late rounds. Wike may not evolve into an NFL starter but teams always need depth.

 Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at vdad7@yahoo.com


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