Raiders trade of Gabriel a shock to players

The Raiders parted ways with Doug Gabriel on Saturday, shipping the third-year receiver to New England in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick, Oakland team officials announced.

Gabriel, a fifth-round pick in 2003, caught 37 passes for 554 yards and three touchdowns last season.

It was the second trade in two days for the Raiders, who also released 20 players in order to get down to the 53-man regular season roster limit.

''All I know is that there was an interest for Doug Gabriel and we had enough receivers that we felt we could part with him,'' Raiders head coach Art Shell said. ''He's been a big part of this organization for many years. That was tough, to let him go. But we have some people that we feel we can win with.''

Gabriel, who had just four receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown this preseason, was made expendable when Ronald Curry returned to the roster after missing most of training camp while rehabbing from an Achilles injury in his left leg.

''He showed that in the short time he worked. We always knew he could play. That was not the question. The question was, when will he be healthy enough to show us that he has the ability to play for us. During the practices the last few weeks and into the last couple of games he showed that he's still capable of playing so we felt very good about that.''

Curry was one of few Oakland players who were aware of the Gabriel trade. As word trickled throughout the Raiders' locker room, the reactions varied from stunned silence to disappointment to outright shock.

There had been speculation that the Raiders were shopping disgruntled wide receiver Jerry Porter before the news of Gabriel's trade was announced.

''Everybody came in thinking he was going to be a big part of the offense so it was definitely surprising,'' Curry said. ''I didn't see him but he's a very strong-minded guy so he's going to land on his feet. He got traded to New England, the best team in the league, playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the league. It's going to be a good situation for him.''

''Oakland also cut quarterback Jeff George, cornerback Duane Starks, linebackers Danny Clark, Ryan Riddle and Ricky Brown, defensive end Bryant McNeal, tight end O.J. Santiago, running back Rod Smart, fullback Zach Tuiasosopo, wide receivers Will Buchanon and Kevin McMahan, center Chris Morris, guard Kelvin Garmon, tackles Jabari Levey and William Obeng, defensive tackles Donnell Washington and Rashad Moore.

In addition, the Raiders placed tight end O.J. Santiago, wide receiver Carlos Francis, linebacker Darnell Bing and safety Alvin Nnabuife on injured reserve.

''It's an emotional day for me, it really is,'' Shell said. ''We let some people go that I felt really close to and it was tough. I think all players, they understand that day might come for every one of us. That day comes. It's an unfortunate thing. You still have to make decisions based on what's best for the team right now. If you become sentimental you won't let anybody out of here.''

* Center Jake Grove returned to practice Saturday after sitting out the final two preseason games with a shoulder injury. Defensive end Lance Johnstone (bruised) shin was also held out of practice.

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