Porter has had the chance to learn from the best in Tim Brown and Jerry Rice but both are no long wearing silver and black as of Tuesday when the Oakland Raiders traded Rice to the Seattle Seahawks. Brown has since joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the Raiders released him in training camp.
For the past few seasons, the Raiders have viewed Porter has the heir-apparent in terms of being the go-to man. Porter passed through the Raiders locker-room during the media access period Wednesday but quickly bolted out and did not speak with reporters. Porter, however, faces a crucial year if he wants Oakland to reward him. Porter, who is in his fifth season, is in the final year of his rookie contract.
"I think he needs to (be the man)," Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins said of Porter. "He's a guy who has been here the most. He's a guy that we're going to count on to be that kind of a leader and I think he'll do it. I think he's really growing as a receiver. I think he's taken a lot on himself to be the kind of player he can be. I think Jerry and other guys will step up."
The Raiders drafted Porter in the second round from West Virginia in 2000. Porter played a variety of different positions in college such as quarterback, receiver and safety. Then Oakland head coach Jon Gruden, however, saw a player of stunning ability at 6-2, 220 – not a project. Gruden and Porter feuded as the former felt the latter was a little too sure of himself and did not have the necessary work ethic.
Porter played mostly special teams as a rookie but was a little more of a factor as a second-year player in catching 19 passes for 220 yards. After the Raiders, in effect, traded Gruden to Tampa Bay, the Raiders went to more three-receiver sets under Bill Callahan. Porter proceeded to have a breakout season in catching 51 passes for 688 yards and nine touchdowns. Brown and Rice had greater production but opponents feared Porter more than Brown as Oakland advanced to the Super Bowl.
Like many teammates in a 4-12 season in 2003, Porter had an injury-plagued campaign in missing seven games. Porter caught 28 passes for 361 yards and one touchdown.
Through six games in 2004, Porter has caught 21 passes for 269 yards but no touchdowns. Third-year man Ronald Curry leads the Raiders with 24 catches for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"I think when Tim left I think JP took on a leadership role," Curry said. "They kind of handed it over to him and he hasn't looked back. He's more vocal on what we need to get done. When things are not going well he's one of the first guys to stand up. I think he's been doing a great job. Every one has a fun personality. They might not always show it to you guys but we have fun among each other."
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com