Inside Slant

INSIDE SLANT

Raiders guard Frank Middleton gets right to the gut of matters, which is why he is sought out for perspective on an almost daily basis.

He has come up with a name for Sunday's showcase game for fallen playoff teams from a year ago.

"It's the Red Cross game," he said.

The winner will be "whoever is still walking and playing."

The winner will be 3-6. The loser will be one week closer to oblivion -- if it isn't already there.

One thing it presumably will not be: The Charles Woodson Rant Part III.

Woodson and coach Bill Callahan, the target of his attack prior to and following Sunday's game in Detroit, have officially met to discuss their differences. It broke a month-long communications blackout between the two.

"It was a very positive conversation," Callahan said. "We're moving on. It was good to get an opportunity to sit down and visit with him."

Woodson did not comment on the meeting but Callahan did, without revealing what, exactly, was said. However, he cracked a joke on his way home after Wednesday's practice.

As he hauled a load of boxes to his car on a dolly, he said: "They're kicking me out of here."

Meanwhile, there was a players-only meeting held Wednesday morning. Offensive captain Tim Brown had the floor and made a plea to the team to stop the caterwauling and move on with the football season.

"I think that was the smart thing to do. All this other stuff is not going to get us anywhere," Brown said.

Callahan said he was unaware of the team meeting or the pleas to move on.

"But that's good because that's where I'm coming from," Callahan said.

Brown said it was "incumbent on us (players) to present a front as if we are a team. I think it would be different ... if we had some major issues going on in the locker room. (If that were the case) I would stand back and duck and dodge (the media). But that's not the thing.

"This can be a very divisive situation. And I have seen some divisive situations around here. At this point in my career, I do not want to be going through that kind of stuff."

The Raiders will go forward with another slew of injuries that will shelve their No. 1 and No. 2 quarterbacks. Marques Tuiasosopo was placed on injured reserve with a complete tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He is gone for the year.

Elsewhere, the news was better. Callahan said it was possible Gannon (torn labrum, right shoulder) could begin throwing next week and conceivably could be back to face Minnesota on November 16.

In the meantime, the starter will be Rick Mirer and he will be backed up by Rob Johnson (signed as a free agent Tuesday) and Tee Martin (elevated from the practice squad) -- in no particular order.

"We haven't decided yet," Callahan said.

Mirer will be handed a shortened playbook for the Jets game, but at least it will be heftier than the one he had to use in Detroit, when he relieved Tuiasosopo after his knee went out.

"You are only going to run 70 plays a game," Mirer said. "So if we have 500 passes, you don't need them all."

Johnson will have an even less extensive ream of plays but he said he was not concerned.

"Since I have been with (Jon) Gruden's offense, it is similar," Johnson said. "Tampa Bay is just the Raiders of the NFC with Gruden down there. It feels really comfortable."

SERIES HISTORY: 33rd meeting. The Raiders lead 19-11-2. New York will be playing in Oakland for the seventh straight time dating back just four years. Two were playoff games won by Oakland in 2001 and 2002, 38-24 and 30-10. The Jets have only won one of the previous six, 24-22 in the 2001 regular season. Raider starter Rick Mirer started for the Jets in the 1999 game won by the Raiders 24-23. At one time, the Jets led in that game 23-3.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--QB Rick Mirer can be forgiven if he is not exactly overwhelmed by his sudden thrust into a situation where he is being asked to replace a Pro Bowl quarterback on a team that is struggling offensively and is beset by locker room controversy.

"Believe me, this is hard," he said. "But a week ago, I was worried about my house burning down. Now it's just other stuff.

"I am going to have fun with this. It can get worse than whatever happens on the field. A week ago, I am sitting there thinking `God, I hope I don't lose everything."

Mirer's home is in Rancho Santa Fe. The raging California wildfires were 10 miles off and moving at the whim of the Santa Ana winds.

"We'd been told to be ready to evacuate," he said. "We were packed and ready to leave."

As it turned out, the winds shifted and Mirer's house survived the flames. Rob Johnson, released by the Washington Redskins, wasn't floored by the turmoil he saw upon his arrival in Oakland.

"Everything seems fine here," he said. "We had our own problems in D.C. It looks like the Brady Bunch compared to back there."

Jets' defensive lineman Josh Evans has been cleared to play by commissioner Paul Tagliabue after being suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

That sets up the possible rematch of Evans and Raider guards Frank Middleton and Mo Collins. Last year, Evans accused the pair of being "unathletic" and cheap shots, leading to a war of words.

This year the rematch may be on the iffy side but Middleton was ready with a retort even if it never happens. Evans may not be ready and Middleton may be too injured to play.

"If I come back to play and he plays, it is a total mismatch," Middleton said. "He hasn't played for a while, so he will be rusty. I don't see the Jets throwing him in the fire that quickly. You've got to get a couple of weeks of practice."

If Evans should be cleared, Middleton says it might not be the best place for the Jets' lineman to be because of the surly mood of the Raiders.

"It's hot out there right now," Middleton said. "I don't think Josh wants to be a part of that."

Defensive end Trace Armstrong said the last time he was on a team that had gone through what the Raiders were going through currently was 11 years ago when he was a Chicago Bear.

"We were 5-11 and I was a 240-pound defensive tackle," he said. "It was unpleasant. We finished abysmally."

Mike Ditka was fired after the team lost eight of its last nine.

"When you are used to success, then you encounter some adversity, it's not a big deal initially," Armstrong said. "You figure we lost that one but if we had done this and this, we'd have won. You figure you'll get it back next week.

"But when it starts to build up, it is just human nature to begin to doubt yourself, your abilities, your schemes, the system -- everything. That's when it gets dangerous."

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Number of offensive touchdowns scored by the Raiders in their last four games, one in each.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He stood behind me 100 percent. I can't stand before you and say anything negative about him. If that's what you're looking for, you're not going to get it here." -- Raiders center Barret Robbins on criticism of coach Bill Callahan.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The Raiders released kickoff return specialist Ronney Jenkins and elevated rookie Justin Fargas to the position. Coach Bill Callahan said it had nothing to do with Jenkins' comments he "didn't want to do it anyway" but everything to do with the team needing to sign a third quarterback (Rob Johnson).

Tee Martin was elevated from the practice squad and will be either the No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback for Sunday's game. Callahan said he would wait until the week's practices were complete before deciding who would be inactive between Martin and Johnson.

The Raiders do not know who their left guard will be for the Jets' game. All three possibilities -- Middleton, Matt Stinchcomb and Brad Badger -- are ailing. Stinchcomb (shoulder) was inactive last week and would seem to be the least likely to play.

Middleton (aggravated quad) could not finish at Detroit and Badger (shoulder) are both listed as questionable but Middleton is dubious about his prospects. That would leave Badger the most likely candidate.

The Raiders added two players to the practice squad -- tackle Matt Knutson and defensive back Keith Burnell.

PERSONNEL/INJURY NOTES

--QB Marques Tuiasosopo (torn left MCL) has been placed on injured reserve and is out for the year.

--QB Rich Gannon (torn right labrum) is out but could return for Game 10 against Minnesota.

--DT John Parrella (groin) received good news after being sent to Tampa to visit the doctor that operated on WR Jerry Porter's hernia earlier this year. He will not need surgery and could return to the field in two weeks according to Callahan.

--DT Dana Stubblefield (ankle) apparently played too much on the severe sprain. Inactive last week, he is listed as doubtful for the Jets. Stubblefield had hoped the bye week would allow him to return to action but even though he has not practiced since before the Oct. 26 bye, his condition has worsened.

--LG Frank Middleton (quad) was listed as questionable for the Jets but sounded less than convinced he would recover in time to play after aggravating the injury in Detroit. "I am at the bottom," he said of his condition Wednesday.

--LG Matt Stinchcomb (shoulder) is in danger of needing more surgery on the twice-surgically repaired shoulder. He was inactive last week and is listed as doubtful this week.

--LG Brad Badger (shoulder) is questionable but is probably the healthiest of the Raiders' remaining left guards.

--RT Lincoln Kennedy (calf) aggravated his tear but even a quick recovery will probably keep him on the bench except for emergency use.

--RT Langston Walker (foot) apparently has taken Kennedy's starting job. His foot injury, caused by ill-fitting orthotics, is not deemed serious and he is listed as probable.

--FS Rod Woodson (knee) is on the injury report as questionable but it is a courtesy tag. He does not practice but he has played every game since returning from arthroscopic knee surgery in September.

--RG Mo Collins (knee), like Woodson, is listed as questionable but it may also be a formality since he made it through last week's game. However, once before, he went from questionable to out as the week progressed.

--DE Sam Williams (knee) was expected to return to practice for the first time since Week 2 but it apparently is not going to happen. He has a severe bruise at the inner joint that refuses to improve.

--WR Jerry Porter (hernia) is on the injury report as probable, which may be an under-estimate. He appears to be fine.

GAME PLAN: As has been the case for weeks, both critics and some players are calling for a resumption of the Raiders running game. Oakland has fewer carries than any NFL team in spite of the coaches' claim they are attempting to be balanced. "I think the Jets have had a problem against the run and we have some backs we believe in," starting QB Rick Mirer said. "It'd be nice to get those guys going and that certainly helps me. Those guys are a quarterback's best friends. It wouldn't bother me at all if we ran the ball well." The Jets have given up 115, 194 and 169 yards -- an average of 159.3 -- in their last three outings. The Raiders are averaging only 91 yards a game on the ground. "We had a new quarterback versus Detroit and we didn't go to the run game as much as I thought we would have," Middleton said.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Raiders' DT Rod Coleman will probably move around as much as possible to escape the grasp of Jets' Pro Bowl C Kevin Mawae and an old Raider nemesis LG Dave Szott. Raiders CB Phillip Buchanon got a break when Jets WR Wayne Chrebet was declared out, but he still will face a wily veteran in Curtis Conway. Buchanon was burned by 247-pound fullback Cory Schlesinger last week for a 33-yard touchdown. RT Langston Walker will have his hands full with Jets' sack leader Shaun Ellis (9.5). WR Jerry Rice will be going for his first touchdown of the year (the longest he has gone without a score in his 19-year NFL career) against CB Ray Mickens, the Jets' leader in passes defended (6).

INJURY IMPACT: With QB Marques Tuiasosopo out for the year with a knee condition, Mirer's elevation to the starting quarterback's job probably means a less exhaustive cycle of passing choices to half a field instead of the entire field. It could also mean a reliance on the running game, however the battered status of the team's offensive line could mean the Raiders are in no position to pound the ball. But even if that is the case, the line must do a better job of pass blocking because Mirer does not have the elusive capabilities of Tuiasosopo. The continuing absence of DT's John Parrella and Dana Stubblefield means the Jets will probably try to attack the middle of the Raiders' line (Chris Cooper and Rod Coleman) with Curtis Martin runs.


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