That was the popular belief during the offseason – and in training camp – pertaining to the Oakland Raiders starting center job.
Well, the starter will be Matt Stinchcomb, Raiders head coach Bill Callahan said Monday.
Many people may be surprised by the move but it should not come as a complete shock. Stinchcomb gets the nod over Robbins, the All-Pro who has endured a turbulent off-season. Tree's NFL meal ticket has been long snapping but he capably started for Robbins started 14 games for the Raiders in 2001 when Robbins suffered a season-ending knee injury. Treu also started when Robbins went AWOL on the eve of the Super Bowl. Robbins was suspended for his well-publicized drinking binge, and Treu performed well in the Raiders' loss to Tampa Bay.
Stinchcomb joins some elite company in franchise history.
He will be the fifth starting center for a season opener in team history when Oakland takes the field against Tennessee on Sunday. Jim Otto, Dave Dalby, Don Mosebar and Robbins preceded him.
Treu was listed No. 1 on the depth chart but Stinchcomb was given a large chunk of the repetitions in training camp and in the exhibition games. Stinchcomb has been mostly a disappointment since the Raiders drafted him in the first round in the 1999 draft from Georgia.
Stinchcomb spent his rookie season on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury but won the starting left tackle job to begin the 2000 season. Stinchcomb, however, sustained a shoulder injury midway through that season. Barry Sims then played so well he retained the job.
Stinchcomb started six games at left guard last season while Mo Collins; the starter at right guard was injured.
Robbins entered training camp not assured of his roster spot, let along his starting job. Robbins survived the final cut despite being slowed by a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery during the offseason.
The main reason why Stinchcomb drawing the starting assignment is not a total surprise goes beyond the fact that Robbins is not physically well enough. While Treu has proven to be a capable center and deserved an ample shot at the starting job, he is simply too valuable as a long snapper.
Need more evidence of the importance of that skill? Ask the New York Giants after their 39-38 playoff loss to San Francisco. In addition, the Raiders have no one on the roster realistically capable enough to replace Treu in that role – and he enjoys a mechanically sound relationship with punter Shane Lechler and kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org