Buchanon learning on the fly

Eric Allen's decision to retire might have opened the door for rookie Phillip Buchanon to move into the Raiders starting lineup, but Oakland's first-round draft pick doesn't see it that way. If anything, the absence of Allen has forced Buchanon to work even harder.

''No one's going to give you a thing,'' said Buchanon, sitting quietly in front of his locker during a break in the Raiders mandatory mini-camp. ''I just looked at (Allen's retirement) as I still have to work to be a starter. We've got some great corners on this team. Whoever starts, we can have two or three guys ready to step in right behind him.''

The Raiders surely didn't draft Buchanon with the idea of having him learn from the sidelines. On the contrary. Oakland worked two trades on draft day to move up four spots in the first round in order to get Buchanon, the highly touted cornerback out of Miami, specifically with the intent on pairing the youngster with Charles Woodson to form what many believe can be one of the NFL's top cornerback tandems.

But before that plan comes to fruition, though, Buchanon must first prove to the Raiders coaching staff that he can make the adjustment from college to the NFL. He also has to beat out established veterans like Tory James and Terrance Shaw, who have a combined 15 years experience at the NFL level.

Though he has been with the team less than two months, Buchanon has impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic on the practice field and in the class room. Defensive backs coach Ron Lynn has repeatedly praised Buchanon, citing the rookie's attentitiveness and methodical note-taking during meetings.

''They always say the dumbest question is the one not asked,'' said Buchanon. ''Both of the Woodsons (Rod and Charles) have told me that anytime I have a question, don't be scared to ask. I'm approaching it with an open mind and I'm hoping to get to that point where I know where everyone is.''

Buchanon is getting extra work in during the Raiders mini-camp thanks to an injury to Shaw. Shaw, who signed with Oakland in the offseason after winning a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots, hurt his ankle during practice Friday and was held out of the workouts. That left just James and Buchanon to work at the right cornerback slot.

Defensive ends Regan Upshaw and Trace Armstrong were also held out of Friday's practice. Upshaw hurt his knee during Thursday's afternoon practice and was attended to by team trainers while senior assistant Bruce Allen, who was watching the workouts from afar, walked over to survey the situation. According to Callahan, Upshaw 'tweaked' his knee but the injury isn't thought to be serious.

The decision to hold Armstrong out of the workouts was more precautionary than anything else. Armstrong, who led the AFC in sacks two seasons ago before missing nearly all of 2001 with an Achilles injury, is close to being full strength and is expected to be ready to take part in all workouts when the Raiders open training camp in Napa next month. Callahan said the Raiders didn't want to push Armstrong in the mini-camps, choosing instead to give him another six weeks to rest before training camp begins.

The Raiders will conclude their three-day mandatory mini-camp with a morning practice on Saturday.


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