Raiders-Broncos notebook

The future of two Oakland Raiders (quarterback Rich Gannon and wide receiver Jerry Rice) who together were keys to the team's success in 2001-2002 remain like the conditions their teammates played under Sunday in a 31-3 loss to the Denver Broncos – cloudy at best.

First, let's start with Gannon, whose career appears to be over. Gannon, who enjoyed a career revival upon joining the Oakland Raiders in 1999 after being a journeyman for most of his career, sustained a cracked vertebra in his neck in a Week 3 win over Tampa Bay.

The 39-year old Gannon has been receiving mixed signals on whether or not he would be in jeopardy if he continued his career. The fourth doctor he visited, however, reportedly stated, according to an ESPN.com report, that his career is all but finished. The third doctor, however, was referred to by the Raiders and said Gannon could be OK after 6-8 weeks.

In a not-so-shocking revelation, the Raiders have been publicly tight-lipped about their stance regarding Gannon's future. Gannon could either retire or be placed on injured reserve for the second straight season.

As for Rice …

He remains unhappy with his reduced role in head coach Norv Turner's revamped offense. The Raiders' position with Rice is essentially this – if you can find a taker, you are free to go.

The Raiders have given Rice's agent, Jim Steiner, permission to shop the wide receiver before Tuesday's trade deadline, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported. Whether or not it actually comes to fruition remains to be seen.

Seattle and Detroit are rumored possibilities for Rice, who could still be granted a release if he is not traded. That rumor is largely because Rice played for both coaches as a San Francisco 49er. Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren was a 49ers offensive coordinator from 1986-1991. Detroit head coach Steve Mariucci was the San Francisco head coach from 1997-2002.

The 42-year-old Rice asked the Raiders for a trade last week, but said he did not ask owner Al Davis to release him. On Sunday, Rice, who owns every receiving record known to man in NFL history, failed to catch a pass for the third time this season -- he didn't even get one thrown his way.

Rice has 20 years worth of Bay Area ties as the first 16 years of his NFL legend was built as a San Francisco 49er. When his former team released him, the Raiders picked him up and Rice experienced something of a revival.

Rice does not want to leave the Bay Area but also does not want to be a fourth or fifth option on a losing team, which both Bay Area teams are. The Raiders are 2-4 while the 49ers are 1-5. However, Rice will probably retire a 49er at some point.

Last week, Rice said he expected to be traded before the deadline. He said the Raiders never told him to expect a diminished role.

Like many athletes who don't get to choose the terms of their departure from their sport, Rice clearly is searching for a dignified way to end his career. During the summer, he predicted this would be his last season -- but has since wavered from that statement.

Still getting run over

Remember all that talk about how the Raiders defense would be better than the one that finished dead last in 2003? Well, more specifically against the run. After the Raiders lost 31-3 to the Denver Broncos, they look just like the sieve of last season.

The Raiders have yielded 162, 150 and 254 yards rushing over the course of the last three seasons in losses to Houston, Indianapolis and Denver. Granted, Indianapolis and Denver are adept at running the ball but when the defense makes wholesale changes that include acquiring top-flight defensive tackles like Warren Sapp and Ted Washington, some kind of resistance should be offered.

The Raiders entered Sunday as the 11th best defense against the run. One bad game, maybe two, could be considered an aberration but three is a definite pattern.

More evidence, the Raiders no better than last season

New players and new coaches brought out optimism that Oakland would be much better than the 4-12.

Well, through six games, the Raiders are 2-4 – just like last season. The equally ineptitude argument even runs a little deeper. In fact, the Raiders are worse from a points perspective. In 2003, opponents outscored the Raiders 144-115 through six games. Over the same number of games in 2004, opposing teams have outscored Oakland 150-98.

Sideline slants

-- Linebacker Sam Williams suited up for the first time this season and made two tackles on defense and one on special teams.

-- Safety Marques Anderson led the Raiders with 16 total tackles.

-- Punter Shane Lechler had seven punts for a 47.7 yard average.

-- Sunday's 31-3 loss to the Broncos tied the second-worse for the Raiders in the history of the series. Denver beat Oakland 31-3 in 1997. The largest margin of defeat the Raiders have suffered against Denver came in 1962, which was a 47-7 setback.

-- Raider inactive players were Gannon, WR Johnnie Morant, RB Tyrone Wheatley, G Ron Stone, TE Teyo Johnson, DT Tommy Kelly, and DT Grant Irons.

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


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