Inside Slant

Bouquets in May don't necessarily translate into fragrant Novembers in the hothouse that is the NFL, but the Raiders are tossing out plenty of them this spring.

Following the team's mandatory minicamp April 29-May 1, there were more optimists running around than a team coming off a last place finish could hope to assemble.

"The sky is the limit," wide receiver Jerry Porter said when asked what the freshly tooled Oakland offense can become this fall.

Ask the players and you'd think the Raiders were good enough to be 11-5, not the 5-11 they were.

"If you look at us on paper, we're as talented as anybody in the league without question," quarterback Kerry Collins said. "But the most talented teams don't always win. It's the team that's playing best on Sundays."

"On paper, we're going to be hell to deal with," Porter said. "We've just got to go out and produce, that's all it boils down to."

Paper is one thing. Reality is another. This Oakland team is unafraid to put pressure on itself.

"It's not like if we only had this or we only had that ... we have the pieces in place now," Porter said. "So it's basically in our court now."

Asked if there was any excuse for not being in the playoffs given all the self-proclaimed talent, Collins said there was a difference between an excuse and a reason.

"But to answer the question, no, there is no excuse from a talent standpoint," he said.

So is what is going on right now genuinely deserving of excitement?

"I tell our guys, there are 32 teams who are excited right now," coach Norv Turner said. "It's who can sustain it and grow and get better. That's what we want to do.

"Our guys are excited for a good reason. We've worked very hard. We've got a good start to our off-season program. we've had a lot of good things happen for us.

"But I think the real excitement comes from the guys who have been here, have been in the system for a year. There is a comfort level going out there. When you know what you're doing, it's a lot easier to go out and practice and have fun and understand what's happening."


Randy Moss' first official workouts with the team saw him working frequently in the slot and running shorter routes than he was most frequently seen running in Minnesota.

Asked if he expected the team to tailor the offense to him, Moss showed off an unexpectedly humble side of his personality.

"I think that I'm going to have to adjust," he said. "When I was back in Minnesota things got out of control with them trying to tailor the offense around me.

"They took me out of the short game. I just want to learn (in Oakland). That's one of my weaknesses probably ... the short game. I'm just happy they're letting me learn that right now. I'm happy where things are at right now."

--The opening drills at the Raiders' mandatory minicamp had to feel a little strange for third round pick Andrew Walter. It was his first day as a pro quarterback with a chance to play some pitch and catch with the likes of Randy Moss.

Check that. The 6-foot-6 Walter lined up as a tailback. He lined up as a slot receiver. There were even times he lined up at quarterback, which is a good thing since that's presumably why the Raiders drafted him.

But he never got to throw a pass to Moss.

There was no need to feel badly about being asked to line up at those other positions. Five-year vet Marques Tuiasosopo took roes as a slot receiver. David Rivers was a blocking back. Even Kerry Collins did a little of his best tight end impersonation.

Call it necessity ... or scheme.

"When ... we're spread out all over the place, they (the quarterbacks) can service each other," coach Norv Turner said. "You find out who knows what real fast when you ask them to do somebody else's job."

Besides, Walter is on a bit of a diet when it comes to throwing. He suffered a Grade 3 shoulder separation in Arizona State's regular season finale, underwent surgery and has only recently begun to throw again.

"The trainer was talking about throwing once a day and keeping it limited," Walter said. "But they're not asking me to start this week, so I don't have to be ready."



--CB Charles Woodson (tendered at $10.541M).



--RB Chris Downs (not tendered as ERFA).

--RB J.R. Redmond was a virtual unknown until the Raiders favored him as a third-down receiver this year. He still flies under the radar of most clubs and is likely to be back.

--OT Chad Slaughter is a long-time deep sub with virtually no action. He's stuck due to his 6-8, 340-pound build but has never really come into his own. Figure he returns only under minimum salary conditions.

--SS David Terrell isn't a major need assuming the return of injured SS Derrick Gibson although he could get a sniff if '04 starter Courtney Anderson is given his release.

--RB Amos Zereoue showed little aside from a 60-yard touchdown run in Week 4 at Houston. He will not be a priority to re-sign and probably will only be of interest to other teams as a backup.


--SS Marques Anderson (tendered at $656,000) served as a last-second September starter with season-ending injury to Derrick Gibson and on occasion showed why Green Bay was willing to let him go back in August with occasional erratic play. Also got involved in an embarrassing public intoxication incident along with Charles Woodson late in the season.

--LB Tim Johnson (tendered at $656,000) served the club well as a stopgap starter when injuries struck, but has never engendered outside interest in the past and will probably wind up in Raiders camp again with another shot at making the roster.


--WR Ronald Curry (tendered at $380,000) is a must-tender former seventh-round pick who developed last year into a big-play wide receiver before tearing his Achilles in the 12th game.

--S Keyon Nash (tendered at $305,000) has been around for several years and will probably continue to do so because of his uncommon size (6-3, 215).

--WR John Stone (tendered at $305,000) showed some promise late last year after Curry's injury and shows promise as a deep threat. PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--S Jarrod Cooper: UFA; terms unknown.

--LB DeLawrence Grant: FA, had been released by Raiders; terms unknown.

--DE Bobby Hamilton: UFA; terms unknown.

--FB Chris Hetherington: UFA; $690,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2005 cap: $455,000.

--WR Jerry Porter (Potential UFA; $20M/5 yrs, SB unknown).

--QB David Rivers: ERFA; $230,000/1 yr.

--OG Ron Stone (FA, had been released by Raiders; $12.6M base salaries/5 yrs, SB unknown).


--DE Derrick Burgess: UFA Eagles; $14M/5 yrs, $6M bonuses.

--CB Renaldo Hill: UFA Cardinals; terms unknown.

--RB LaMont Jordan: UFA Jets; $27.5M/5 yrs, $7M SB; 2005 cap: $1.95.

--WR Randy Moss (trade Vikings).

--DT Kenny Smith: UFA Saints; terms unknown.


--CB Ray Buchanan (released).

--CB Phillip Buchanon (traded Texans).

--LB Napoleon Harris (traded Vikings).

--TE Doug Jolley (traded Jets).

--OG Frank Middleton (released/failed physical).

--DT John Parrella (released).

--RB Tyrone Wheatley (released/failed physical).

--TE Roland Williams (released).

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