Training camp notebook, July 25

Hanging onto the ball is a key theme for the Raiders this year but the team still has a long way to go, as evidenced by the numerous fumbles and botched snaps that highlighted Friday's morning practice.

A day after going through the entire practice without a fumble, the offense took a serious step backward on Friday. Five times balls were fumbled, three during the center-quarterback exchange. That was a big problem for the Raiders in 2007 and something the team is trying to get a handle on this year.

"We went through practice one with no problems and I didn't say anything, and (offensive coordinator Greg) Knapp says something to the offense about what a good job and he jinxed us," Kiffin said. "So we came out today and two of them were on the ground right away within 10 plays. We do it before practice, we keep them out after practice at times. We make them lose reps because of it. We put it both on the center and quarterback. You see them come out, they lose their next rep."

Backup quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo had two fumbles while Andrew Walter had one. Wide receiver Javon Walker also fumbled as did running back Joe Echemandu.

The Raiders are also sending their players on laps around the field for every offsides or false start penalty they incur. Oakland was the AFC's most penalized team in 2007 with 120, second in the NFL only to Arizona's 137.

"We're just looking at every different avenue we can to improve the penalty issue here," Kiffin said.

·Defensive tackle Terdell Sands joined practice late after doing some extra individual work on the side. Sands remains third on the depth chart behind starter Tommy Kelly and backup Josh Shaw.

· Defensive end Greg Spires (hamstring), safety Greg Wesley (back spasms) and H-back Marcel Reece (hamstring) were held out of practice. Tommy Kelly did not work out in the morning but is expected back on the field for the evening session.

· Linebacker Robert Thomas was back working with the starting defense after working in a backup role on Thursday. The Raiders plan on continuing to rotate Thomas and Ricky Brown at the strongside position until settling upon a full-time starter.

· Hall of Famer Willie Brown had the defensive backs working on the blocking sled in an effort to improve their techniques for jamming wide receivers at the line of scrimmage.

· Quarterback Andrew Walter has been struggling to find his touch. Walter missed several receivers in skeleton passing drills and badly overthrew two other targets during the team scrimmage portion of practice.

· Second-year player Jay Richardson looked strong during the morning practice, at one point extending both his arms to take on two blockers and disrupt a running play that resulted in a fumble.

Richardson will continue to play primarily on run downs while the Raiders try to find a pass-rushing end to complement him.

"It's the second year for a guy and his confidence and his ability line up," head coach Lane Kiffin said. "Last year at this time he was just trying to get lined up. Now he's recognizing things and seeing different things come at him. We've added some competition around him with Spires and Kalimba so it's just going to make him better."

· Second-year fullback Oren O'Neal had a good day, drilling Sam Williams during a blitz pick-up drill matching linebackers against running backs. Later, O'Neal took a short dump-off pass from JaMarcus Russell on a misdirection play and turned it into a 20-yard gain.

· In the same LB vs. RB drills, Justin Fargas did a good job holding off Malik Jackson but Michael Bush wound up on his back after trying to block Thomas Howard. Fargas is Oakland's best blocking running back but Bush and rookie Darren McFadden have the better hands, so the Raiders are likely to rotate their backs on third down rather than sticking with just one.

"We'll have special plays, especially now with Darren, where they'll be tagging the personnel on the call sheet and everything," Kiffin said. "So you won't see a situation, most likely, where every third down, this is the back, and every first down, this is the back. I just don't really do that in general, because I think there's too many good things each guy can do to take it away from a guy."

· Wide receiver Johnnie Higgins made a nice leaping catch in front of cornerback Chris Johnson to highlight the receiver-DB drills. Undrafted receiver Jay Watkins also had a good catch despite being interfered with by Stanford Routt. Drisan James, a longshot to make the roster, didn't help his chances when he pushed off against Michael Waddell and then dropped the pass from Marques Tuiasosopo. James later redeemed himself with a sliding sideline catch in front of cornerback John Bowie.

· Cornerback DeAngelo Hall went down briefly during a team scrimmage and clutched at his left knee before walking off the field. He was replaced by Stanford Routt but eventually returned and showed no lingering effects.

· Outside of McFadden, defensive end Trevor Scott has been the most visible of Oakland's draft picks. Working as a backup to Derrick Burgess, Scott excelled during individual drills and held his own in team scrimmages.

· Another rookie, safety Tyvon Branch, made a nice play to come over the top and break up a pass from JaMarcus Russell to tight end Zach Miller. Branch, who is taking reps behind Gibril Wilson at strong safety, made a last-second adjustment and tipped the ball into Hiram Eugene's hands but Eugene was unable to hold onto it.

· Right tackle Cornell Green had a tough time against undrafted free agent Greyson Gunheim. Twice during a team scrimmage head coach Lane Kiffin had to shout out encouraging words to Green when he lined up against Gunheim and lost both matchups.

It wasn't any better for left tackle Kwame Harris, who was easily beaten by defensive end Kalimba Edwards during one drill then was called for a false start when the two lined up for a rematch.

"If there's a system that's going to help (Harris), this is it," Kiffin said. "We won't really know until we get to the games and see him and get to those third downs on the road and see how he handles all those situations but he's doing as much as we can ask him."

· Linebacker Kirk Morrison absolutely drilled running back Justin Fargas during a team scrimmage then came back a few plays later to break up a screen pass intended for Darren McFadden.

· The night practice is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. PDT with a single afternoon workout slated for Saturday.


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