Surprise cut survivors helped their cause

If you were hedging your bets on the 2005 Oakland Raiders opening day roster, chances are it included tight end Teyo Johnson but not wide receiver Randal Williams, tight end Zeron Flemister, cornerback Chris Carr and tight end/fullback John Paul Foschi. That's exactly the scenario at hand as the Raiders visit the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots Thursday night.

Williams joined the Oakland Raiders about a week into training camp in large part because Jerry Porter (hamstring), Carlos Francis (hamstring) and Ronald Curry (Achilles) were recovering from injuries. Williams, however, had an impressive preseason in catching 10 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. That's pretty impressive considering he was a fringe player joining the team late, typically one strike against someone trying to make the team.

"The minute I stepped in the door, my goal was to make the team," Williams said. "I just had to have the determination that I was going to do what I had to do open up the coaches eyes whether it be receiver, special teams. They mentioned tight end and I was going to do whatever I could to open up their eyes to get a spot on the roster."

The idea of the 221-pound Williams playing tight end was one that head coach Norv Turner proposed since Oakland is chock full of receivers.

"They had a lot of receivers that were banged up so they brought me in to take some of those reps," Williams said. "I just tried to do the best I could. I maximized my opportunities and made the plays that came my way. I spoke to my agent and he basically said it's going to be tough to make this team as a receiver."

Williams said he was in the process of adding possibly 10-15 pounds to withstand the pounding of being a blocker.

"They have their strengths and I have my strengths," Williams said. "Mine is speed. I just try to get off as soon as possible and to the leverage point. Then, it's a matter of using whatever strength I have."

The fact that Johnson had an icy relationship with Turner coupled with Courtney Anderson recovering from knee surgery opened the door for both Flemister and Williams.

Foschi's development, meanwhile, made projected starting fullback Chris Hetherington expendable. The 6-4, 270-pound Foschi is listed as a tight end but Turner is planning on using him as a hybrid tight end/fullback. Foschi caught five passes in four exhibition games. Foschi is also on all of the special teams units.

"I caught a fair amount of balls at fullback in the preseason," Foschi said. "I have good hands. I wouldn't say I have great speed. I think the team is going to use me more as a blocker than anything."

The fact that Foschi spent the second half of last season on the Raiders practice squad also helped him.

"I think it was good to get familiar with the team and the system," Foschi said. "It helped being here the whole offseason."

NOTE— The Raiders goes as follows: tight end James Adkisson, wide receiver Cedric Bonner, guard CJ Brooks, running back DeJuan Green, defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne, offensive tackle Brad Lekkerkerker and defensive tackle Michael Quarshie.

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


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