Ellis still believes Raiders are close

Greg Ellis sees the numbers on the scoreboard and in the standings. At 1-4 the Raiders are struggling in just about every area and it shows. Yet the veteran Pro Bowl defensive lineman insists things aren't as bad as they appear. See what Ellis had to say and find out what else happened Thursday in S&BI's update.

Like the rest of his teammates in Oakland's locker room, Greg Ellis looks at the NFL standings and shakes his head. At 1-4, the Raiders are tied with numerous teams for the second-worst record in the league and are in the midst of a stretch of four straight games against some of the NFL's top squads.

Yet Ellis _ who acknowledged the Raiders have become the "laughingstock of the league" _ can't believe that way Oakland has done the last three weeks is a precursor to what the Raiders will do the rest of the season.

"I know people may see this interview and say, ‘Greg, you're crazy,' but when Al (Davis) called me about coming out here, Tom told me, ‘Greg, it's a lot of work that has to be done,' and I knew that," Ellis said Thursday. "But the talent is here, so now we've got to get that talent in gear and going in the right direction. The process isn't going to be quick, but we are working on it and guys are going to buy into it enough to start getting this thing turned around."

Ellis leads the Raiders with four sacks, nearly half of the team's total, but his presence in Oakland hasn't stopped opponents from gouging the Raiders on the ground and through the air.

Heading into Sunday's home game against Philadelphia, the Raiders ranked 31st in overall defense, 31st against the run and 15th against the pass.

"Right now we're not doing anything real well in my opinion," Ellis said. "When you're in that down cycle, you got to fight and claw to get back out of it and that's what we're doing here right now in Oakland. We got the talent to do it and that probably makes it more frustrating, that you look around and you have a talented bunch of guys, you're just not winning the games. That's frustrating."

Ellis' comments are an indication he's beginning to take on more of a leadership role on the defense, something that's been sorely lacking on both sides of the ball. Not only has he spoken up on defense but he's also taken QB JaMarcus Russell under his wing to a certain extent.

It's also an indication that the players haven't given up on the season, even though the last three weeks would appear to suggest otherwise.

Still, words don't mean anything if the results on the field remain the same.

In other news and notes from Thursday:

-- According to a report on NFL.com, the Raiders are one of several teams who have called the Cleveland Browns inquiring about Pro Bowl kick returner Josh Cribbs. Though the report didn't get much into details, it said that Oakland, Miami, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Jacksonville and San Francisco have shown interest in possibly trading for Cribbs.

In the Raiders case, it would make sense given how poorly their own kickoff returners have played this season. Oakland owns the second-lowest kickoff return average in the league and hasn't yet settled on a comfortable solution, having tried Jonathan Holland, Justin Miller, Louis Rankin and Gary Russell in the role. Holland, whose 18.7-yard average is the highest of the group, will start against Philadelphia on Sunday.

-- Wide receiver Chaz Schilens practiced without pain in his left ankle for the second straight day but may wait another week before getting back in Oakland's lineup.

"Just been running routes and doing a lot of individual work, that's about it," Schilens told S&BI as he walked off the practice field. "It's a process getting back into it. This is really the first week I've done any practice with the team. I've been feeling better every day."

The Raiders have listed Schilens as questionable but the second-year receiver sounded pessimistic about playing against the Eagles because he has been limited in what team drills he can take part in. Head coach Tom Cable also said the Raiders plan on having veteran receiver Javon Walker active for the game, which would give Schilens the luxury of sitting out another week to be sure he's back up to speed.

-- Copies of comments made by Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce earlier this week were taped up and highlighted in the Raiders locker room and on a nearby wall near where the special teams stats are put.

-- Rookie wide receiver Louis Murphy's work ethic continues to impress me. After practice Thursday, while many of his teammates were showering and heading for home, Murphy had an assistant coach put balls in a Juggs Machine to practice catching low throws, similar to the ones JaMarcus Russell throws. Murphy later had his back to the machine and worked on catching passes after quickly turning around. Darrius Heyward-Bey could learn something from this kid.

-- Fullback Luke Lawton did not practice for a second straight day. Guard Robert Gallery, tackle Cornell Green, linebacker Ricky Brown and wide receiver Nick Miller were also held out.

Miller is improving, according to Cable, while Gallery is also making significant progress, though it's almost certain neither will play this week.

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