Players get a bye, the coaches get....To Work

The noon whistled barely stopped blowing before the luxury cars and SUVs raced out of the parking lot behind the Raiders practice facility Thursday. A four-day break for the bye is a welcomed respite for Oakland's players, but the coaching staff remained at work trying to rectify the team's 1-3 start.

''We got a lot done,'' Raiders coach Norv Turner said, shortly after dismissing his players until Monday. ''We had two good practices in pads. Today we had a good two-minute session and a good plus-20 session. We need to continue to work hard on third down and the red zone. But we got three good days of work in.''

Oakland spent most of this week nursing injuries and watching film from its 19-13 win over Dallas on Sunday that was the Raiders' first win of the season.

They also got an early start preparing for San Diego. The Chargers host Pittsburgh on Monday night before a short turnaround lands them in Oakland a week from Sunday.

The game will mark another test for the Raiders' run defense, which is significantly better than it was a year ago when teams averaged 125.8 yards a game. This season Oakland is giving up just 99.3 yards a game and has not allowed a single back to reach 100 yards.

San Diego will try to break that string with LaDainian Tomlinson, arguably the best running back in the NFL today.

''If we come out and match them up and play the game that we know we can play, it's going to be a dogfight,'' Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. ''It's tough to get yards on any defense, I don't care what you do, especially ours now that we've got us a four-man line and we're playing run real well.

''We owe this team. This team manhandled us a year ago. They just handed it to us anyway they wanted. We've got to come out and have that on our minds and start fast. Start fast and finish fast.''

Tommy Kelly, the unrestricted free agent who led Oakland with four sacks as a rookie and whose performance this season has been lauded by coaches and teammates alike, could be the difference in the game.

The Raiders have been using Kelly both at end and at defensive tackle, moving him around to take advantage of different match-ups. It was Kelly's tackle of running back Julius Jones for a two-yard loss that set the stage for Oakland's goal-line stand against Dallas last week.

''He is a year further along in learning how to play,'' Turner said of Kelly. ''There is a process in terms of a guy growing and maturing as a player and Tommy is doing a real nice job. He's grown a lot in everything in terms of the meetings, the weight room, his work habits, his study habits. He's becoming a very consistent football player.''

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