Tui time in Detroit

"I'm just fired up to be able to contribute to the team more and help us win a ballgame. just go out there and try to have some fun." -- Raiders QB Marques Tuiasosopo

While the severity of Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon's shoulder injury remains a mystery, his status for Sunday's road game at the Detroit Lions is not.

            Backup Marques Tuiasosopo will start his first NFL game after relieving the injured Gannon in a 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Gannon, who is listed as doubtful for Sunday with a torn labrum, underwent an MRI examination last Tuesday. Raiders head coach Bill Callahan did not have a time frame in which Gannon will return. The coach said, "We hope he returns sooner rather than later."

Tuiasosopo will get the call in Sunday's game at Detroit.

            "I'm just fired up to be able to contribute to the team more and help us win a ballgame," said Tuiasosopo, whose father (Manu) played for the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. "I'll just go out there and try to have some fun."

            Tuiasosopo, meanwhile, nearly rallied Oakland to force overtime and completed 16-of-28 passes for 224 yards. Tuiasosopo, whom the Raiders drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft, has waited patiently for his opportunity behind Gannon after an outstanding career at the University of Washington.

            The question therefore begs how will Tuiasosopo perform in a starting assignment as opposed to coming into the game in relief.

            "I try not to look at it any different," Tuiasosopo said. "I've gotten ready to go whenever I have to. You just get on the field and take a deep breath and go out and play."

            The Raiders, however, appear confident that Tuiasosopo can lead them to positive results.

            "He was a star quarterback in college and had to wait his turn," Oakland wide receiver Jerry Porter said. "Now is his time. He's going to have two weeks to prepare for the Lions. They're not as good as the teams we've played before. He'll get a chance to showcase his talent against some guys he should do pretty well against."

            Rookie tight end Teyo Johnson, like Tuiasosopo, is another youngster who will get his chance to contribute more for the Raiders. Johnson had the opportunity to see Tuiasosopo while he was at Stanford, a fellow Pac-10 Conference school.

            "I've been impressed with Marques Tuiasosopo since college," Johnson said. "The kid is a baller. If he hadn't had the league MVP in front of him, he'd be doing Donovan McNabb type of stuff. I think he's a special player."

            Like McNabb, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, Tuiasosopo is capable of running when the play breaks down. That can be a plus or a minus.

            "Tui's pretty tough," said Oakland defensive end DeLawrence Grant, who played against Tuiasosopo while at Oregon State. "He's a big strong guy. It makes it harder anytime you have a mobile quarterback. You want to stay disciplined."

            Tuiasosopo's style has been likened to a young Gannon. The latter, however, has been more reluctant to run in recent years.

            "You just have to go with the flow and catch him out of the corner of you eye," Raiders right tackle Langston Walker said. It's a little more stressful because it's hard to block when you don't know where he's at. They're different but they're the same. They each have their own inclination. Tui is more mobile but they're pretty much the same."

Quick hits

n      Mo Collins and Frank Middleton returned to practice. Collins worked with the first unit at right guard while Middleton, Brad Badger and Matt Stinchcomb took reps at left guard.

n      The Raiders will start Teyo Johnson at tight end in place of Doug Jolley.

n      As expected, the Washington Redskins signed defensive tackle Darrell Russell after the Raiders released him once the NFL reinstated him.

 

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com

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