"New beginning" for Brooks

Aaron Brooks is either cool under pressure or aloof and disinterested.

He is strong-armed and mobile or error-prone and susceptible to sacks.

He is "Kerry Collins with legs" or just the man to lead the Oakland Raiders out of a 13-35 wilderness and back into relevance in the AFC West.

The truth is, the Raiders have no idea what they have at this point and won't until the season starts playing itself out Monday night against the San Diego Chargers.

The Raiders raised more than a few eyebrows with their decision to make Brooks their quarterback. Fair or not, he earned the reputation as a quarterback that will make the killer mistake instead of as a man who compiled a pretty respectable 43-43 overall record through the 2004 season with one of the NFL's worst franchises.

The Raiders, in the off-season, parted ways with Kerry Collins after what amounted to a charade in terms of renegotiating a contract. Collins -- perhaps unfairly considering his 20-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio -- was targeted as the reason the Raiders were 4-12, along with coach Norv Turner.

Both the quarterback and coach had to go to appease a dwindling ticket base. Coach Art Shell's return has been met with mostly approval from Raider Nation. Brooks has been mostly a wait-and-see proposition.

The Raiders' stayed on the sidelines when it came to available quarterbacks such as Drew Brees, Daunte Culpepper and Steve McNair.

There is a faction of the fan base that is convinced second-year quarterback Andrew Walter is the answer.

Instead, the Raiders pounced on Brooks when the Saints cut him loose. The Walter camp has been quieted somewhat by their man's shaky play plus a troublesome throwing shoulder.

Brooks said he has grown out of attempting to argue with the critics regarding his stay in New Orleans or his potential in Oakland.

"I correct people and all of a sudden they're coming back and they've got some more fuel to throw on the fire," Brooks said. "So I'm not going to get into proving points to people or having confrontations through the media. I don't need that in my life right now. This team doesn't need it either. New place, new start, new foundation, new beginning. Everything is great for me. I don't want to do anything to bring all that craziness here."

In the pre-season, Brooks recovered from a terrible start in his first two games to look extremely sharp in the next two. He made a brief, ineffective appearance in the Oakland's 30-7 loss to close out the pre-season against Seattle.

Under new offensive coordinator Tom Walsh, the Raiders have gone back to a power-running, vertical-passing system similar to the one they ran during Shell's last tenure in Oakland from 1989-94.

It puts pressure on the quarterback to hold the ball for longer periods of time than normal and stress on the offensive line to keep defenders away. If the Raiders, 32nd and 29th the last two seasons in rushing, continue on that road, it will be a long year for whoever quarterbacks the Raiders.

Shell promises the Raiders will run effectively. Which means Brooks must be the man to keep wide receiver Randy Moss happy. Whispers of a chemistry problem between the two were temporarily quieted when they connected for touchdown passes of 67 and 25 yards in a 21-3 win over the Detroit Lions.

On the first play, Moss blew past single coverage and was in the clear. On the second, Brooks threaded the ball between three defenders who had their backs turned.

While Brooks has said all the right things regarding Moss and his ability, he refuses to get into discussions about force-feeding the ball to the Raiders top talent.

"I'm not concerned about that," Brooks said. "I have to do my job, and I have to throw the ball in the right places at the right times. I can't be concerned about the Randy Ratio. I think Randy understands that. I think Randy understands that his touches are going to come. It's not about satisfying what people want to see. It's not about satisfying egos. It's about team concept and being productive as a unit and really just trying to get victories."

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