Kerry Collins assumes leading role

Even though Rich Gannon's retirement press conference Saturday afternoon is somewhat anticlimactic, the Oakland Raiders show is officially in Kerry Collins' hands.

In one respect, however, the Raiders braced themselves for this day when they signed Collins as a free agent last year during the offseason. In terms of performance, the Oakland Raiders have a player who is clearly ready to assume the role of No. 1 quarterback.

It stands to reason, however, that even though Gannon's retirement was expected, his leadership will be missed despite the fact that the Raider players and coaches are saying all the right things about Collins' ability to lead.

The Raiders went into last season not knowing whether Gannon could sufficiently recover from his season-ending shoulder injury and decided, unlike 2003, to have a viable backup. So, in came the talented but enigmatic Collins.

Gannon then was placed on injured reserve for the second consecutive season with a cracked vertebra suffered in a Week 3 contest against Tampa Bay.

Collins entered that game and looked solid in completing 16-of-27 passes for 228 yards and one touchdown. The next seven games, however, Collins had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 4-11 before rebounding over the next six contests with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. He struggled, however, in the season finale with three interceptions in a 13-6 loss to Jacksonville.

Collins, however, expects himself to be better and more consistent this season if for no other reason than he has had two seasons in head coach Norv Turner's offense.

"My approach in everything is for us to execute the offense and big plays are going to come," Collins said. "If I make good decisions and good throws big plays are going to be there."

Collins has never been long on consistency throughout his career, which began in 1995 with the Carolina Panthers. The Raiders, however, have surrounded Collins with plenty of weapons by re-signing Jerry Porter, trading for Randy Moss and signing running back Lamont Jordan to go along with fortifying the offensive line in last season's draft with center Jake Grove and tackle Robert Gallery.

"Even though we've got as much talent as anyone, we need to work hard and do the things day in and day out that will give us a chance to be successful," Collins said. "All of the pieces are there. It's just a matter of us coming together but just because we have talent doesn't mean it's going to happen. We need to come out here and build chemistry."

With Turner coming aboard as the Raiders head coach last season also meant that the team would tailor the offense around the strong-armed Collins.

"The ball is coming out faster and he's seeing things quicker," Turner said. "It helps that he had a full offseason."

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

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