Shaking off the rust

While the Oakland Raiders have never been a team to shy away from taking on a veteran player, they had not ventured into such lenngths within their coaching staff - until now.

Tom Walsh and Rob Ryan have spoken.

That's news in itself, considering Walsh had not received clearance to speak to the media since being hired by Art Shell in February and Ryan hadn't spoken about the performance of his defense since Sept. 12, 2004.

Walsh was Shell's surprise choice as offensive coordinator. He hadn't coached in the NFL since leaving the Raiders staff the same time as Shell in 1994 and hadn't coached at all since 1999.

He was doing some analysis for college football games, helping Sega design football video games, running a bed and breakfast in Swan Valley, Idaho, and serving as the town's mayor.

But Shell and Walsh had remained friends, and Shell promised that if he ever got another head coaching job, Walsh would come with him.

He is restoring an offense as one would a 1956 Chevy, getting the Raiders back to their roots of power running, play-action passing and striking with a vertical passing game.

"I don't feel like I've been in retirement at all," Walsh said to a group of reporters. "It's not like I've been in mothballs."

Walsh stressed that it was not "his" offense. Shell referred to it as the "Al Davis offense," and Walsh traced its roots back to Sid Gillman.

"My roots in this system go back to Sid Gillman, who was the head coach when Al was first coaching with the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960," Walsh said. "No disrespect to any other coach out there past, present or future, but the majority of what you see in the game today has some form or element and the same thing Al was doing when he was coaching for Sid.

"Power off-tackle, throwing the ball downfield, those traditions have come down for decades. We have to get back to that. There's no fancy way about it. We're not going to come out and finesse people."

Left tackle Robert Gallery was unconcerned about Walsh's time away from the game, given that Shell hired him.

"If coach Shell hired him, he hired him for a reason," Gallery said. "I'm totally on board with coach Shell. If he hired Santa Claus I wouldn't question it."

Ryan, entering his third year, was given a contract extension before Shell was hired.

He was reportedly being courted by the New York Jets and coach Eric Mangini, who had worked with Ryan in New England. Ryan said he was "not very" close to leaving.

"I want to be here, and I love working for the Raiders," Ryan said. "I can't wait to win for the Raiders. That's why I'm here. I appreciated Mr. Davis doing that for me, and I'm not going to let him down. This is the year to show up. We're not going to talk about doing it. We're just going to play great ball."

Ranked 32nd in scoring defense in 2004, the Raiders were only 25th in 2005. However, unlike in past years, when players often rolled their eyes at some of the coaching staff when things went bad, it never happened under Ryan.

"There were some games where he'd stand up and say, `Hey, I called a bad game,'" free safety Stuart Schweigert said. "That's really nice to see as a player to show some accountability and responsibility, that he's not putting it off on the players. He's not going to throw any of us under the bus. It's nice to have a defensive coordinator in your corner."


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