Gannon reports for Raiders mandatory workouts

Rich Gannon looked like he was in mid-season form on Thursday as he took part in his first practice with the Raiders since the team's 2001 season ended on a snowy night in New England last January. Oakland's quarterback ran the offense smoothly, fired crisp, tight spirals to Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, casually chatted with his offensive linemen but offered no explanation -- at least to the media -- for his prolonged absence.

Gannon had refused to take part in the Raiders offseason workout program reportedly because he was upset with team management for refusing to renegotiate his contract. Though Gannon has not spoken to Bay Area reporters about the situation, he did appear on a local television show in Minnesota at one point and said the Raiders had failed to live up to promises made to him in 2001 regarding his contract.

There was speculation that Gannon would continue to skip the team's workouts but on Thursday at the start of Oakland's only mandatory mini-camp of the year, the 36-year-old quarterback was under center and running the offense. Players welcomed him back and said they were hopeful Gannon and the team could put the troubles in the past.

''Just to see him (is good),'' said right guard Mo Collins. ''That's more important for us, to see him and to let us know know he's still a part of the team.''

Gannon has been one of the Raiders most outspoken proponents of team unity and the importance of attending the offseason workouts. That's what made his decision to blow off the voluntary workouts more glaring.

Given an opportunity to explain his side of the story, Gannon refused. As the players jogged off the field following the morning practice Thursday, Gannon glared at one reporter then shook his head at a member of the Raiders public relations staff when approached about talking.

First-year head coach Bill Callahan, who said in April that he was concerned about Gannon's absence, changed his course of direction on Thursday and said he had no question in his mind that the quarterback would take part in the mandatory mini-camp.

''Not in my mind,'' Callahan said. ''He's a consumate pro and he's our team leader. I expect nothing less than his best. He's right on top of it.''

Gannon's situation aside, the Raiders went about conducting business in an organized session for the last time until the team opens training camp July 25 in Napa. With one exception, the Raiders had everyone attend the start of the three-day mini-camp. Rookie Kenyon Coleman could not attend the practices because, under NCAA rules, he has to wait until his senior class at UCLA graduates. According to Callahan, Coleman will be in town Saturday.

Left guard Frank Middleton is at the mini-camp but is being held out of workouts after having surgery on both of his feet. Doctors removed bone chips and scar tissue, Middleton said, in a process that he previously had four years ago.

''I went in and got my tires rotated,'' Middleton said. ''The longer I went into the offseason program, the worse it got.''

Middleton, who had the surgery two weeks ago, said he expects to be ready in time for the start of training camp. ''(Recovery) usually takes about four weeks,'' he said, ''and I'm at two weeks.''

Rookie tight end Doug Jolley was held out of practice with a groin injury and veteran running back Randy Jordan is still recovering from hernia surgery.

Callahan said he hopes to use the Raiders final mini-camp to lay the groundwork for what lays ahead in training camp.

''We're using the mini camp as a bridge basically to bridge the gap between this mandatory mini camp and training camp, so our players can hear the installation, they can hear the plays one more time before they get into training camp,'' Callahan said. ''What we're doing out here today is kind of a reflection and it will mirror exactly what we do the first four days of training camp.''


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