Raiders all smiles after week off

For a team still seeking its first touchdown of the season, not to mention its first win, the Raiders are a pretty loose bunch. On Thursday, defensive tackle Warren Sapp engaged reporters in a 30-minute, off-the-cuff conversation filled with laughter. A few feet away, Jerry Porter and Stanford Routt shared a chuckle. Worried about an 0-2 start? Not these guys.

Even head coach Art Shell was in a light-hearted mood, joking with reporters during his daily briefings with the media.

Maybe it's because the team had a brief respite from the onslaught of criticism. Maybe it was the prospect of playing a Cleveland team that offers Oakland its best shot at winning so far this season.

Quite possibly it was because of the news that despite all that's gone wrong with the Raiders, Oakland has managed to sell out Sunday's game against the Browns. A year after getting slightly more than 40,000 for the Cleveland game, the Raiders officially announced this year's game is sold out.

That, Shell said, is an encouraging sign for a team in desperate need of one.

''It means a lot. It says the fans are behind us,'' Shell said. ''But as I said many times we have to give them something to hang their hats on. We have to give them wins. Let me tell you, I don't think there's anybody better than Raider fans. They are very loyal. They understand the game of football and I truly believe if we just go ahead and take care of our part of the bargain, the fans will continue to come. We just gotta give them a product on the field that they can be proud of.''

The Raiders also got good news on the injury front.

Tackle Robert Gallery worked out and practiced without a problem Thursday and will be in the starting lineup against the Browns barring a setback, Shell said. Same goes for injured cornerbacks Fabian Washington and Nnamdi Asomugha, both of whom have been nursing minor ailments.

''The week off helped,'' Gallery said. ''I got a lot of treatment (on) the days I missed. And I want to be out there with the guys, for myself, for this team and this line. After the first couple of weeks I have a lot to prove and we as a line have a lot to prove.''

Quarterback Aaron Brooks and linebacker Grant Irons were the only two Oakland players held out of practice Thursday.


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