When the Oakland Raiders signed the 31-year old Collins, whom the New York Giants released after acquiring the University of Mississippi's Eli Manning, speculation ran rampant that the Raiders would release the 38-year old Gannon. The 2002 NFL MVP is due to make $7 million dollars and has repeatedly said he would not take a paycut. The Raiders began their three-day voluntary minicamp Tuesday.
"I've seen Rich from the other side of the field numerous times," said first-year head coach Norv Turner, who replaced Bill Callahan. "Seeing him on this side of the field, he's throwing the ball extremely well. He's one of the more accurate guys I've ever been around."
Like most of his teammates, Gannon fell flat last season after leading the Raiders to a Super Bowl appearance in 2002. Gannon then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in a 17-10 loss to Kansas City.
The Raiders, it appears at the moment, signed Collins if for no other reason than to be a safety net in case Gannon cannot rediscover the form that made him one of the NFL's most productive quarterbacks from 1999-2002. Gannon, however, felt that he was unfairly scapegoated for the team's problems last season.
Gannon and Collins are likely to get about a 50-50 split in terms of repetitions during both the minicamp and training camp, which gets underway on July 30.
"Rich is certainly capable of running this offense and running it well," Collins said. "All I know is what the situation is right now, and I don't think the situation is going to change any time soon. I certainly feel that I'm a starting quarterback in this league, but that's not my role here. But that's not going to keep me from working hard in practice and competing in practice with the young guys."
Both players were also asked about the dreaded "C" word that associates with teams having two quality quarterbacks – controversy. Granted, quarterback is unlike any other position in football. If a team has, say, two good middle linebackers it's looked at as a competition. If a team has two good quarterbacks, it is viewed as a controversy from fans and media alike.
Not so with these players.
"I don't know what people think, but I do have some intelligence," Gannon said. "You know, I am 38 years old. I think that they looked at what happened a year ago when I did get hurt and they probably felt like they needed to continue to try and improve that position. And, so, it made a lot of sense to me. It didn't surprise me at all."
Added Collins: "People will try to make something out of it. I'm just going to hammer home that Rich is the starter. There is no controversy. I know my role here and until they tell me different. That's how it will be."