Raiders could be better without Moss

There has been a prevalent thought that Randy Moss has been a cancer and brings down the team's he plays for. Could Sunday be a sign of the future?

If there's a story behind Doug Gabriel's exit from New England and return to Oakland, he's keeping it to himself.

Gabriel was waived by the Patriots on Tuesday and claimed by the Raiders the next day. The Raiders traded Gabriel to New England on Sept. 2, the day of the final roster cut-down to 53 men.

Gabriel had no comment for reporters Thursday before going out to practice in a brand new white No. 80 jersey.

On the surface, it's a good deal for the Raiders -- they essentially leased Gabriel to the Patriots for a year and got a fifth-round draft pick in return.

But Gabriel's exit was strange in both places. Teammates were perplexed at the time of the trade because Gabriel was a starter opposite Randy Moss. With Jerry Porter engaged in a running feud with coach Art Shell, Alvis Whitted became the starter and Ronald Curry the slot receiver.

"I don't know exactly what happened or why he's back, but we're happy to have him, and he's always been a part of this family," Whitted said.

Curry was also confused.

"I was surprised they traded him," Curry said. "Maybe they felt like they made a bad decision and it was an easy way of getting him back home. Maybe it worked out for the best."

In New England, Gabriel caught 25 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns. The high point came in a 31-7 win over Minnesota when Gabriel caught five passes for 83 yards with a long of 45 yards.

But in a 17-14 loss to the Jets on Nov. 12, Gabriel lost a key fumble, was removed from the game and didn't return. In his final four games for New England, he caught only one pass for 12 yards before his release.

Gabriel's role with the Raiders over the season's final three games is not clear. Shell said he expects wide receivers coach Fred Biletnikoff to work Gabriel in, and Gabriel also worked Thursday with the kickoff return team.

Moss is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and there is no way of knowing how hard he will push to get back in the lineup, given his dissatisfaction with his role this season.

Porter is doubtful with a mysterious hip flexor injury, and even when healthy, he has been a non-factor this season because of his conflicts with Shell.

Curry, productive as the slot receiver, flourished in Moss' absence against Cincinnati with eight receptions for 99 yards. All eight catches came after Moss left the game early in the second quarter.


He has battled through numerous injuries to play in 204 consecutive games including 20 in the playoffs. But unless a minor miracle happens, it appears the streak will end Sunday if guard Adam Timmerman can't play because of three cracked ribs.

Since the injury occurred against Carolina on Nov. 19, Timmerman has split time with Adam Goldberg. But after Monday night's physical game against Chicago, and with a short week to prepare for Sunday's game in Oakland, Timmerman's prospects don't look good.

"If we do something different, it's whatever coach (Scott) Linehan thinks is best for the team, and I'm OK with that," the classy Timmerman said. "I don't want to do anything, either, to hurt the guys that are out there. I have a lot of respect for them, and I don't want to put them in a bad situation ... put myself ahead of the team or anything like that.

"I just want my fellow offensive linemen to know I'm not quitting on them, no matter what the record is or how it's going."

Talking about how the last few weeks have gone, Timmerman said, "San Francisco, the first week back after (the injury), I thought it went well, and Arizona (the next Sunday) went pretty good. I wasn't as happy this past week. It takes me until about the end of the week to feel good after the game. And this week's shorter because of Monday night. It's hard to get the feel of driving somebody and staying low when you haven't done anything all week. ... So, we're thinking about a different approach."

Last year, before a game against Arizona, it appeared the streak would end because of a back injury. But Timmerman woke up the morning of the game feeling good and ended up playing. So, no one is ruling out the possibility he could still contribute against the Raiders.

"You never know," Timmerman said. "The body's kind of a weird thing. Hopefully, we can just get back to 100 percent and headed in the right direction."

Even though it has been Goldberg who has alternated with Timmerman the past three games, if Timmerman doesn't play Sunday, a different combination is possible. Center Richie Incognito has practiced at right guard this week, with Brett Romberg working at center. That has a good chance of happening because coaches believe Incognito's future is at guard, and he could be the eventual permanent replacement for Timmerman, 35.

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