Raiders look to answer questions in camp

As camp opens, the Oakland Raiders are looking to answer several questions, the least of which is the quarterbacking situation. The defense has its own troubles and the offensive line is an area that must be settled for them to have a successful 2006 NFL season.

--DT Warren Sapp: No one expects Sapp to be the player he was with Tampa Bay, but the fact is he was a different man in 2005 after moving back inside in a 4-3 defense.

Sapp had five sacks in 10 games, his best per-game rate since getting 16.5 with the Bucs in 2000. The Raiders were 0-6 once he went out with a torn rotator cuff.

The improved play brought about an effusive, positive teammate, rather than the sullen, angry man who brushed off questions with a scowl in the 2004 season in which he was miscast as a 3-4 end.

At age 33, what does Sapp have left?

"Warren showed me in the minicamps that if can stay healthy he is going to be an impact player for us and I am looking forward to it," Raiders coach Art Shell said.

A Sapp with the ability to split a double-team and destroy offensive continuity is something the Raiders sorely need. A faded star who loses his enthusiasm as his skills erode could be a problem.

--C Jake Grove: The next great center of the Oakland Raiders has been shuttled back and forth between center and guard in two injury-plagued seasons.

No more. Shell promises Grove is a center and will stay there.

Problem is, Grove has played in 19 of 32 games his first two years because of injury, with a knee problem ruining his second season.

The Raiders took it easy on Grove during non-contact mini-camps, allowing him to sit out some workouts to get his surgically-repaired knee back in shape. But the Raiders are counting on Grove -- along with fellow 2004 draft-class member Robert Gallery -- to establish a physicality that has been missing in recent years.

Grove needs to stack good practices together and remain healthy. If he winds up spending time in the Napa Marriott swimming pool with trainers, giving way to veteran backup Adam Treu, the Raiders may need to rethink their future at one of their most tradition-laden positions.

--WR Jerry Porter: Word has it that Porter isn't all that thrilled with the Raiders new regime. Ex-Raider Lincoln Kennedy said as much on a local radio show, citing Porter as the source.

According to another report, Porter had words with Shell in an office confrontation. Porter has not addressed the issue directly, and likely won't. Shell said there is no problem.

"I've got a good relationship with all my players," Shell said in response to a question about his relationship with Porter.

When asked if he had ironed out problems with Porter, Shell said, "There's nothing to iron out. You sit down, you talk to players ... sometimes you don't see eye-to-eye. You move forward. That's what I've done."

Where that leaves Porter and the Raiders is anybody's guess. His contract almost assuredly leaves him on the Raiders. Porter has $6.45 million in acceleration and would cost the Raiders more than $5 million in dead money should they cut him.

Considering the Raiders were just $1.8 million under the cap and hadn't signed their draft picks, cutting Porter seems unlikely.

More likely is that Porter, a moody sort, will continue to blow hot and cold, and the Raiders will deal with it. But he has been a much better player when healthy and enthusiastic during training camp -- especially in the first post-Jon Gruden year of 2002 -- and Shell would do well to find a way to make that happen.


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