A solid rookie year on the Gallery

There is seldom a way for casual football observers to quantify an offensive lineman's performance. Unlike running backs, quarterbacks and receivers, there are no individual yardage totals. Nonetheless, the feeling about Oakland Raiders starting right tackle Robert Gallery is that he has quietly enjoyed an outstanding rookie season.

The Oakland Raiders thought so highly of Gallery that they made him the second overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft from the University of Iowa one season after winning the Outland Trophy.

Gallery has been a bright spot in a 2004 season that has too much resembled last year's 4-12 campaign for Oakland. The Raiders are 2-5, the same record through seven games as last season, heading into Sunday's road game against the San Diego Chargers. In the Raiders 31-26 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Gallery drew the matchup of going against defensive end Charles Grant, who entered the game as the NFL's leader in sacks. Gallery held Grant sackless and to just one tackle. Just don't expect Gallery to sprain his wrist patting himself on the back.

"I won't do anything until the end of the year, I'll look at it and probably be the same that I am right now," Gallery said. "I'm not one for patting myself on the back. When I deserve it I'll probably do that. I'll keep learning from my mistakes. I'm just trying to be the best player I can be right now. I'm just trying to learn on every snap I take."

The Raiders initially drafted Gallery on the premise that he would replace Barry Sims at left tackle, paving the way for Sims to slide to guard. Sims, however, played well enough to keep job and the Raiders began to look at Gallery as a left guard. Gallery played both left guard and right tackle in the Raiders season-opening 24-21 loss at Pittsburgh. Oakland then put Gallery at right tackle one week later in a 13-10 win over Buffalo and he has stayed there.

"I learn new stuff every week," Gallery said. "If I get beat by a move or something, I'll try and learn from it and not let it happen again. I still want to be farther ahead than I am."

As expected, Gallery has had his ups and downs learning the nuances of his new position. He also had three false start penalties in a 30-17 loss at Houston.

Gallery is also adjusting to the different length between seasons of college and the NFL. College football is about 12 games and the NFL is 16.

"It's a long season," Gallery said. "It's getting to a point where it's time to bear down. We have a lot of games left. Every week you've got to come to work."

Nonetheless, opponents have fazed Gallery very little. That includes veteran defensive ends uttering their verbal barbs, of which there are plenty of opportunities: long hair, farm boy, big contract, first round draft choice.

"Everybody is like, ‘Hey, Rook,'" Gallery said. "I'm going to do this or that. I didn't hear much after a while. I let them say what they want."

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

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