INSIDE SLANT

As if things weren't bad enough, the Raiders may have lost three starters in their 31-26 loss to New Orleans.

Left guard Frank Middleton is definitely gone for the year after tearing his right quadriceps muscle. He will require surgery.

Cornerback Charles Woodson was awaiting results from MRI exams. His injury was listed as a hip pointer. No mention was made of the bruised left knee he also suffered and which was shown being treated in a Monday photograph that appeared in the Oakland Tribune.

Nose tackle Ted Washington suffered bruised ribs and given the position he plays, is likely to be a doubtful participant Sunday at San Diego.

Meanwhile, non-starter Carlos Francis, a rookie wide receiver, definitely is through for the year. He tore his left ACL and will undergo surgery.

That leaves the Raiders, already struggling for answers, searching for players as well.

The guard situation is the one most fraught with doubt. Right guard Ron Stone has been out for nearly a month with a knee injury.

"We're close to getting Ron back," coach Norv Turner said.

If that is true, it would mean Stone's fill-in at right guard, Brad Badger, could be moved to Middleton's left guard spot.

But Stone may not be as ready to return to action as the coach believes. He has been seen limping badly. If Stone is unable to play, the Raiders could stay with their game-day solution, long-time practice squad/inactive backup Chad Slaughter.

Another option would be to force a third move involving rookie No. 1 draft pick Robert Gallery. Gallery has been the team's starting right tackle since Week 2 after sending Langston Walker to the bench.

Gallery started out at left tackle, did not take Barry Sims' job away, was shifted to left guard behind Middleton and finally landed at right tackle. Would the Raiders risk further tampering with their No. 1 draft pick by moving him back to guard?

NOTES, QUOTES

--Raiders players and denizens of the infamous Black Hole are butting heads these days.

After boos reined down on them following a 28-point loss to Denver last week, tackle Barry Sims said the fans "sucked."

Then after the New Orleans loss Sunday, QB Kerry Collins pretended to be an orchestra leader, encouraging louder boos from the teeming masses. Wide receiver Jerry Porter, who had hinted he wanted out of Oakland three days earlier, also got an earful.

"On any given day the Raiders can say to hell with me and go in a different direction," Porter said. "I have to think of me first and think of my family rather than think about this team. (If) they don't like the fact that I have to look out for me and my family's best interests ... well, sorry to hear it.

"If that is how you feel, I appreciate you. You make me feel like I am on the road. Sometimes I play real well on the road, so bring it."

Collins sheepishly laughed about his demonstration.

"I guess it's the competitor in me," he said. "I get fired up. People are down on you, calling for you to get pulled and all that kind of stuff.

"It gets my juices going. I guess I just wanted to show them that they can boo loud as they want, it isn't going to bother me."

Porter defended Collins from the boo-birds.

"It's sad when a guy thinks if he spends X-amount of dollars on a ticket he has the right (to decide) who should be in at quarterback," Porter said. "We're at home. This is supposed to be a home field. Cheer him on, give him a little pat on the (butt) to get him going rather than booing and bringing his confidence down."

PLAYER NOTES

-- LG Frank Middleton (torn quad) is through the year and will have surgery. The recovery time is expected to be up to six months -- or until May.

-- WR/KR Carlos Francis (torn ACL) faces surgery and his rookie season is over.

-- CB Charles Woodson (hip pointer/bruised left knee) expressed confidence he would be "all right," but MRI results were still pending that will determine how long it will take him to achieve that.

-- DT Ted Washington (bruised ribs) is not likely to practice this week and his status for the San Diego game is in doubt.

-- RG Ron Stone (knee strain) has missed three games but will be counted on to play this week and patch up the guard situation.

-- RG Brad Badger would shift to LG if Ron Stone is able to return from a knee strain.

-- CB Denard Walker would replace LCB Charles Woodson if Woodson's hip and knee injuries do not permit him to play in San Diego.

-- NT Terdell Sands would replace Ted Washington if Washington's bruised ribs do not permit him to play in San Diego.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. SAINTS

PASSING OFFENSE: B plus -- Kerry Collins took a leap forward after three lackluster weeks, throwing for 350 yards and two touchdowns. He had nearly flawless protection (no sacks) as RT Robert Gallery held NFL sack leader Charles Grant to just one tackle. Collins threw 45 passes with only one interception, but it was a costly one as Tebucky Jones brought it back 55 yards to set up a Saints touchdown. WR Jerry Porter had six catches for 113 yards and his first touchdown of the year. TE Doug Jolley also caught his first TD pass.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C plus -- Amos Zereoue's longest run was only eight yards but he still managed to gain 70 yards, albeit in 21 carries. The Raiders were on their way to having the kind of offensive game they spent the off-season designing, one that consists of 35 to 40 carries. At halftime they had 18 rushes. In the second half, they had to play catchup. The team misses Tyrone Wheatley's battering ram style, however.

PASSING DEFENSE: D plus -- Until the Raiders put together a pass rush, their secondary will continue to be victimized. Saints wide receivers caught 18 balls for 253 yards, aided by a half dozen or so illegal picks that back judge Phil Luckett consistently whiffed on.

RUSHING DEFENSE: B plus -- For the first time since Week 2, the Raiders looked like the run defense unit they spent so much time building. Deuce McAllister gained just 42 yards on 24 carries. Those were the numbers, but there was also a negative side. McAllister scored twice from inside the 3-yard line and the Raiders weren't able to stop the Saints and get the ball back for their offense in the waning moments.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Sebastian Janikowski's 4-for-4 day on field goals and his two kickoffs into the end zone were as good as it gets but Carlos Francis' decision to run sideways on a kickoff was disastrous. He fumbled and the Saints picked it up on the Raider 6 and took the ball into the end zone to nail down the win.

COACHING: B -- The problem areas from last week's debacle were addressed. The team played quite well except for one interception and one fumble. It was not a coaching issue. It should have been a 26-17 win.


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