Raiders look to give Flutie AFC West greeting
Doug Flutie admits he's not sure what to expect when his San Diego Chargers come to Oakland this Sunday but it probably won't take him long to find out. If the Raiders are to avoid their first two-game losing streak in two years, they'll have to set their sights on stopping Flutie. Signed in the offseason to bring stability and maturity to the Chargers' quarterback position, the 39-year-old Flutie has been a nomad of sorts during his professional football career. He spent eight years in the Canadian Football League, one with the Chicago Bears, three with the New England Patriots and three with the Buffalo Bills before signing with San Diego. In that time he's played three games against the Raiders but none as an AFC West rival. ''Everybody has said to me how this is a huge rivalry and it's an intense game and all that,'' Flutie said. ''It's all new to me right now. It's just a big game. It's a very important game.'' The Raiders (6-2) will be looking to pad their lead in the AFC West while the Chargers (5-4) are trying to inch closer to the division lead, an idea in itself that seems implausible considering San Diego's 1-15 finish last season. The Chargers have rebounded from their horrible season a year ago by retooling and revamping. New general manager John Butler essentially cleaned out, sending out troubled quarterback Ryan Leaf and bringing in Flutie, with whom he had known from their days together in Buffalo. Flutie has made a big difference, throwing for 1,789 yards and eight touchdowns through nine games. He has eight interceptions, though four of them came in San Diego's loss to Denver last week. And though he is making his first appearance against Oakland as a member of the AFC West, Flutie does have some history against the Raiders. Flutie guided the Bills to a 44-21 win over Oakland in 1998 but was on the losing end of a 20-14 decision a year later. It was in that 1999 game where the Raiders had defensive end James Harris shadow Flutie to cut down the quarterback's passing lanes. Oakland also employed linebacker Travian Smith as a spy on Flutie, following him wherever he went. The plan worked, as Flutie was harrased into three interceptions while completing just 19 of 41 pass attempts. The three interceptions were a career-high for Flutie until his four picks last week against the Broncos. The Raiders expect Flutie to come out gunning for them Sunday, though. ''He finds a way to do things that are maybe a little unconventional but they work,'' said Oakland linebacker Eric Barton. ''We've just got to keep the rush coming at him equally. It's not just the defensive line. The linebackers and secondary have to stay on their man because he can scramble around back there and as soon as you let off for one second, he'll loft a pass over you to his receiver. He's a very, very good player. Both teams enter the game with length injury lists. Oakland will likely be without three-fifths of its starting offensive line, while the Chargers won't have the services of safety Rodney Harrison and cornerback Alex Moulden. Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson did not practice on Thursday, leaving him questionable to play against San Diego. Likewise left tackle Barry Sims also was held out of practice and isn't likely to play. More promising was the progress of right guard Mo Collins and strongside linebacker Elijah Alexander. Collins practiced in a limited fashion Thursday and head coach Jon Gruden said that although Collins would not start against San Diego, he could be available in a back-up role. Gruden was even more encouraged by Alexander, who has sat out the last two games with a knee injury. ''I walked away today feeling better about him,'' Gruden said. NOTES The NFL granted the Raiders a 24-hour extension to sell out Sunday's game with the Chargers. According to team spokesman Al LoCosale, 3,200 tickets remained available by mid-afternoon Thursday. The team now has until 1:05 p.m. on Friday to off the rest of the tickets in order to have the local television blackout lifted ... Running back Tyrone Wheatley missed his second day of practice with what Gruden deemed strep throat. It's unlikely Wheatley will play against the Chargers ... The injury bug didn't take long to catch cornerback James Hasty in its web. Signed just last week, Hasty suffered a jammed toe in practice Thursday. His status for Sunday's game is unknown ... David Dunn will probably be back in his role as punt returner for the Raiders, but Gruden indicated Terry Kirby will likely remain as the team's kickoff returner. INJURY REPORT Raiders: Tackle Barry Sims (foot) doubtful, linebacker Elijah Alexander (knee) questionable, guard Mo Collins (leg) questionable, cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) questionable, fullback Jon Ritchie (groin) probable, linebacker William Thomas (hamstring) probable, running back Tyrone Wheatley (knee) probable. Chargers: Cornerback Alex Moulden (ankle) out, linebacker Carlos Polk (shoulder) out,wide receiver Tim Dwight (pneumothorax) doubtful, safety Rodney Harrison (ankle) doubtful, tight end Freddie Jones (ankle) questionable, running back Todd Fletcher (ankle) probable, tight end Steve Heiden (hamstring) probable, running back Ronney Jenkins (neck) probable, linebacker Orlando Ruff (neck) probable.
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