Hue Jackson is in the building – or in this case, on the turf – and he's certainly not shy about letting everyone know it.
The man hired to guide Al Davis' beloved franchise is involved in just about every drill
going on during the Raiders training camp, and if he's not, you can be assured he's not far away.
Jackson's mere presence has created a stir, not only among his players and coaches but
with the media and fans alike. While Jackson is fond of saying he's building a bully in town, he's
also been building a buzz that this team has sorely needed.
Unlike so many of his predecessors who seemed to always be looking over their
shoulder waiting for Davis' other shoe to drop, Jackson has wrapped himself in the Raiders logo
and carries the banner proudly.
He smiles and uses the word wow almost on a daily basis when talking about his team
or players. He jokes with reporters and mingles with fans, not because the job title calls for it
but because that is part of who Hue Jackson is.
He's also very serious when it comes to football. His message of building a bully was
delivered in early in camp when Jackson had his players line up for the Oklahoma drill.
"That was the first time I've actually done it," cornerback Chris Johnson said. "We've got
his back. We're going to follow what he wants us to do, and I think that's going to make the
team even closer than we were last year. You can't be soft playing the sport. We've got to build
a bully, like he says, and that's actually what we're doing."
All of it has created an atmosphere in training camp that hasn't been felt since the days
of Jon Gruden, one the players and coaches have completely embraced.
"You guys know Jon was full of energy and the whole thing," said Raiders defensive
coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, who was on Gruden's staff when Chuckie was coaching in
Oakland during the late 1990s. "Hue has a vision and his vision is totally different than what
Jon's was. Hue is Hue. That's the one thing we've told our players is that when you come out
here: ‘This is hue Jackson's practice. This is how he envisions the Raider organization.' We're
100 percent behind him."
That last statement should ring deep in the heart of the Raider Nation.
Since Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay prior to the 2002 season, Davis has gone
through a steady stream of replacements, none of whom had the full support of the locker
Bill Callahan, who nearly came to blows with some of his players and openly feuded
with cornerback Charles Woodson, certainly didn't. Norv Turner alienated the defensive side of
the team. Art Shell had to be held back from going after Jerry Porter then totally lost control of
the locker room. Lance Kiffin never did want to be here and wormed his way out of town by
openly criticizing the owner and the players on the roster.
Even Tom Cable, who led the Raiders to their
best record in nearly a decade, wasn't
Jackson is, and his popularity only seems to grow with each practice.
It's pretty easy to find him on the field, too, and not just because of his shaved dome
that beams under the Northern California sun.
Jackson moves from drill to drill, sometimes quietly but only for so long. He has
challenged his offense and taunted the defense, sometimes at the same time. Then he switches
gears to challenge the defense and taunt the offense. Often the change comes from play to
"He brings that mentality of physical, relentless (football) and playing like a Raider,"
quarterback Jason Campbell said. "That's what he's all about."
Though he had to wait more than six months to conduct his first official practice as an
NFL head coach, the 45-year-old has hit the ground running.
"I came back here because I like coach Hue Jackson, his mentality and his philosophy of
what he wants in his team," said tackle Khalif Barnes, a free agent who re-signed with the
Raiders shortly after the free agency period began. "Everybody wanted to play for him. He
brings a lot of energy and excitement to playing. He's serious when he needs to be serious, and
he'll jump you when he needs to jump you. But he makes you understand what playing this
game is all about. That's why everybody likes him."
The rookies and younger players like a coach who talks their talk and can communicate
on their level. Jackson, whose smile often seems painted on, chats players up about their tastes
in music, food, cars … whatever.
For the veterans, Jackson has instituted a 30 Club – that is, anyone 30 and over gets to
have an occasional day off from practice during the preseason.
Whatever the message, whoever the target, it's been getting through loud and clear.
"I want to be heard," Jackson said. "I don't think you can talk tough and speak in a
soprano voice. You've got to talk a little bass in your voice so guys understand what you're
trying to accomplish. We might be in a stadium where it's loud, nobody can hear you.
"Plus I think it gives our players a little more energy and it allows them to play with a
little bit more zest. It's about competing. Everything we do is about competing. If we compete
and we have that mindset, we have a chance to just raise the bar just a little bit."
To be sure, good feelings with no results don't add up in the world of Al Davis. Cable
found that out the hard way when he crowed about the Raiders' 8-8 finish in 2010 and
infamously declared, "You can't call us losers anymore."
Davis, whose franchise owns three Super Bowl championships, was angered by the
statement and used it as part of his reasoning to fire Cable.
Just Win, Baby.
That's all that matters to Davis.
With Hue Jackson running the team, that motto sounds a lot more realistic than it has
been in the past.
As I see it
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