Raiders warn Broncos about cut blocks

Raiders defensive end Regan Upshaw says he's willing to go as far as the Broncos are if it comes down to it.

The Broncos have been castigated over the years for the way their offensive linemen block, but the Raiders have a message for Denver heading into Monday night's critical AFC West showdown: Keep it clean or else.

That was the word sent along by Oakland defensive end Regan Upshaw, who on Wednesday warned the Broncos that the Raiders won't tolerate cut-blocks or shots to the knees, as Denver has been known to do.

‘'If a team's going to play at a certain level, you just have to match it,'' Upshaw said. ‘'If they want to play nasty, you have to play nasty. That's the nature of the game. If they're going to be gentlemen, we're going to be gentlemen. If they're going to be wild, we're going to be wild.''

For quite some time now the Broncos have been criticized widely by defenders who accuse Denver's offensive linemen of cheap tactics when it comes to blocking. Raiders defensive tackle Darrell Russell has complained about it almost from the day he stepped into the league, for one. New England linebacker Bryan Cox suffered a broken right leg after a low block by Denver's Dan Neil.

‘'If I ever play football again and I play against that guy, he's going to have a blown-out knee,'' Cox vowed this past Monday. ‘'I had a couple of experiences with (Neil) before. I'm going to get him. I don't care how long it takes. I'm going to get him.''

Cox later backed off his statements, but it's clear the Broncos tactics are questionable at best and dangerous at worst.

That should add even more hype to a game that is already rich in drama to begin with. The Broncos (4-3) have beaten the Raiders seven straight times and 11 of the last 12 meetings between the two teams. Oakland (6-1) is looking to bury its long-time nemesis even further into the AFC West cellar while Denver will be trying to stay in contention for the division title. The game is a sell-out and it will be televised across the country on Monday Night Football.

So there will be sub-plots aplenty when kickoff begins at Networks Associates Coliseum on Monday evening.

‘'We have to beat them just for the simple fact that we want to have a good record and go to the Super Bowl,'' said Upshaw. ‘'That's why we have to beat them. That's it. I don't feel like this week is any bigger than last week. I just feel like we haven't beat these guys, but we can.''

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden cautioned his players to not look too deep into the game, nor to get caught up in the controversy surrounding the Broncos' blocking methods.

‘'I'll say this about Denver: they're going to finish blocks,'' Gruden said. ‘'When the whistle is blown they're going to go back to the huddle. I admire the effort with which they play. I admire that. Are some of their techniques unorthodox? Maybe somewhat. But I'm not going to get involved in (that). They're going to throw a blow to the knees and that's just part of how they operate. They're very athletic and they're able to do that and you have to understand that.

‘'Their offensive line isn't as big from a pound standpoint as some of the lines in football, therefore they do a lot of different things in terms of technique. I remember years ago in San Francisco under Bobb McKittrick they had some linemen that were very athletic and were able to do some things from a technique standpoint that were perceived to be a little bit different. We're going to try and work on, the best we can, what they've shown on film. Now we're not going to go out there and cut our defensive linemen during the week but I think our defensive linemen are well aware of how they're going to play us and we're going to do the best we can do to combat that with physical play of our own.''

The game is the Raiders first at home on Monday night since 1997, when they were stunned in the final seconds by Kansas City and lost 28-27. In their franchise history, the Raiders have lost only twice in 15 games while playing at home on Monday night. The other loss came to the Broncos, 22-21, in 1996.

NOTES: Linebacker Elijah Alexander, right guard Mo Collins, left tackle Barry Sims, running back Tyrone Wheatley and back-up quarterback Bobby Hoying were all held out of practice Wednesday with a variety of ailments. Hoying and Wheatley are all but certain to miss the game, while Collins is doubtful at best. Alexander could also miss the game, which would push Travian Smith into the Raiders starting lineup. On the plus side, Frank Middleton -- who has started in place of Collins the last two weeks -- did practice. Middleton suffered a sprained right knee during Oakland's win over Philadelphia and had been questionable earlier in the week.

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