Rival Report: Raiders

Rich Gannon is out for the year, but he isn't the only big-name Raider unable to contribute. Oakland has players on both sides of the ball that will be in street clothes Sunday.

This was supposed to be Rich Gannon's two-week homecoming/grudge period. First a home game against the Minnesota Vikings, his first place of employment. Second, a road game at Kansas City, his most recent team prior to becoming an Oakland Raider.

But instead of practicing for Minnesota Wednesday, as his coach had hinted might occur, he was in Minnesota conferring with doctors. His season is over. He has been placed on injured reserve.

"He's gone back home to Minnesota to talk to the surgeon that did the previous surgery on his shoulder," coach Bill Callahan told members of the media in a surprise announcement.

"We believe at this point the shoulder is going to necessitate surgery. So that made the decision."

A source told VU he had that surgery Thursday and would likely return to Oakland today, beginning rehabilitation as soon as this weekend. Gannon did attempt to throw a football on Tuesday. The results left no doubt as to the situation.

"He did not have the ability to throw or show the ability to throw," Callahan said. "He got the ball above his head but could not actually throw the football."

Gannon lost a season when he was in Washington with the Redskins due to shoulder surgery. He not only came back, he eventually became a starter in Oakland, went to three Pro Bowls, was the MVP in two and was the league's MVP last year.

No date has been set for Gannon's surgery.

"I'm glad he's having the surgery done now so that he'll be ready to go for mini-camps and for the spring," Callahan said.

Gannon turns 38 next month. From what Callahan said, he is welcome back in 2004.

Although Gannon was having by far his least productive season in Oakland with a 73.5 passer's rating and only six touchdown passes in 225 attempts, Callahan said his loss would definitely be felt.

"I think it's extremely tough to lose a player of this caliber and what he provides for this team, not only (with) his play, but his leadership and preparation and everything," the coach said.

"To have the MVP of the league miss almost half a season is really disappointing. I know he feels bad. If there is anybody that would want to get back on the field as soon as he can, it's Rich Gannon. Unfortunately this is going to take a little time to get him back out."

Gannon had started 78 consecutive games for the Raiders when he was injured late in the second quarter of the Kansas City game when hit from behind by Chiefs' linebacker Sean Barber.

His loss means Oakland's first two quarterbacks are both on injured reserve. Marques Tuiasosopo was placed on the reserve list last week with a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

With the team in the midst of a five-game losing streak, the burden of finishing the season now falls on third-stringer Rick Mirer, backed up by Rob Johnson, who was claimed off waivers last week.

The team has already lost linebacker Bill Romanowski (injured reserve) to a bout of concussions, lost their key pass rusher defensive end Tony Bryant (retired) to a career-ending neck injury in July and is playing without both defensive tackles (John Parrella and Dana Stubblefield) and left guard Frank Middleton (quadriceps tear) and could be without their leading ball-carrier, Charlie Garner (bruised tailbone).

How many more blows can the team take?

"I don't know," Callahan said. "It's devastating, the situation we're in right now. We're trying to do the best we can to keep everybody healthy and to practice and prepare to field a quality team. But when you miss as many people as we have, it really disrupts your continuity."

By contrast, the Vikings are in great shape. Although they have lost three straight games, they are 6-3 and have a two-game lead in their division.

Bad as things are, the Raiders are looking for just one win. But they need four in their last seven games to avoid finishing 5-11 or worse. The significance of 5-11 is that the lowest a Super Bowl participant has sunk the following year was the 5-11 by Atlanta in 1999.

SERIES HISTORY: Oakland leads 7-3 and won the last meeting, 22-17, in Gannon's first year with Oakland (1999). The teams also met in Super Bowl XI with Oakland winning 32-14. The Vikings have only won once in Oakland, a 16-13 overtime victory in a downpour in 1996.


NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
  • Center Barret Robbins has been selected as the Raiders' winner of the Ed Block Courage Award.

    "It's awesome," Robbins said, noting that the award is voted on by teammates. "That is definitely nice. It made me feel really good and it reassured me that all the work I've put into it was not only necessary, but that there were positives at the end instead of negatives."

    Robbins' controversial disappearance from the team on the eve of the Super Bowl last January resulted in off-season treatment for bi-polar disorder and alcohol abuse. When it happened, there was doubt he would be accepted back by teammates. Some made disparaging remarks and hinted they could not trust him ever again.

    When the season started, Robbins was unable to contend to get his starting job back because of a badly swollen knee that required off-season surgery. His weigh ballooned to 370, making for a slower recovery.

    However, in the fourth game of the season, having shed 30 pounds, he was able to win his job back and has played well — if not at the Pro Bowl level he attained last year for the first time.

    The team's 2-7 start has been particularly hard on him because he had hoped, after returning, to cap off his comeback with a triumphant season as well.

    "It hurts, it really does," he said. "It's so disappointing for me. I just hurt ... deeply. I wanted so badly for this team to be what it could be instead of what it is right now because of what happened to me last year.

    "It hurts because you want to do more ... but you don't quite know what to do or say and you are in position where you are kind of handcuffed (not knowing) what (to) say and how (to) handle it."

    Furthermore, Robbins hoped desperately that the team could make another Super bowl run — not just for vindication but because this year's Super Bowl will be played in his home town of Houston.

    Still, he said, there have been the positives he has been waiting for.

    "I've been working for those," he said.

  • The Raiders have gone without a sack for two straight games and have just 11 on the season. A year ago, reserve defensive tackle Rod Coleman had 11 by himself.

    "The last several games, we haven't had a lot of third and long situations," defensive end Trace Armstrong said. "There have been a lot of third and 2 or third and 3s where you are in more of a short yardage mode, playing the run first. That makes for limited opportunities."

    Armstrong is the team's sack leader with 3. Coleman, though he is now starting due to injuries to John Parrella and Dana Stubblefield, has 2.

    "In Rod's behalf, he has played extremely well and unfortunately, the rotation at tackle hasn't been the same as it has been in the past," coach Bill Callahan said. "Last year there was a three-man rotation and we subbed Rod in situations where we could generate a pass rush in an obvious pass situation.

    "He came off the bench fresh and gave us a great changeup. Now he's an every down player and people begin to pound and double-team ... it takes a little off your edge. Rod is a very quality player."

  • Jerry Porter harbors no jealousy toward Minnesota wide receiver Randy Moss, whose leaping abilities have made him the league's premiere big wideout. Porter is an inch shorter but has pretty good hops himself, having won the Washington, D.C. slam-dunk contest as a high schooler.

    But although Moss gets the publicity, Porter does not resent it.

    "None of that stuff has anything to do with football, much as I'd like to think it does," Porter said. "Yeah, my vertical is higher than his. He's taller. And that's got nothing to do with football.

    "I've got no beef with Randy. He does things to get his publicity, whether it be positive or negative. I don't need it. I'll just be quiet and only talk stuff when dumb people say stuff against me ... like Lance (Schulters of Tennessee).

    "I played against Randy in college when he was at Marshall. He had about 70 receiving yards but probably had 300 all-purpose yards against us. He had a good day on punt and kickoff returns and had about a 35-yard reverse and got two touches (touchdowns)."

    BY THE NUMBERS: 45 — The number of times in 62 career games Shane Lechler has finished with a higher average on punts than the opposing kicker. He was 10-7 last year when he was kicking with a bad quadriceps but in the 2001 and 2003 seasons, his "record" is 24-3.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm still trying to figure out who that guy was. I think he snuck out of the stands. Didn't he have on a Curtis Martin jersey?" — Raiders wide receiver Jerry Porter, on the Jets' meager coverage on his first touchdown catch of the year, an end zone jump ball (it was nickel back Derek Pagel).


    STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
    In addition to placing QB Rich Gannon on injured reserve, the Raiders have reserved guard Matt Stinchcomb with a shoulder injury.

    Like Gannon, Stinchcomb will require surgery, the third he has had on his left shoulder since college. Stinchcomb started the season at center, lasting three games before Barret Robbins replaced him.

    According to Callahan "in some games he played essentially with one arm."

    With Frank Middleton still unavailable, that means Brad Badger will continue to start at left guard. However, backups are a problem — both are essentially tackles (Langston Walker and Chad Slaughter).

    Callahan said Lincoln Kennedy has reassumed the starting right tackle position over Walker.

    Replacing Gannon and Stinchcomb on the roster are two defensive linemen — defensive end Shurron Pierson (activated from the practice squad) and 6-7, 339-pound defensive tackle Terdell Sands, (recently released by Green Bay).

    PERSONNEL/INJURY NOTES
    --RB Charlie Garner (tailbone) did not practice Wednesday due to stiffness in the bruise area. His availability for Sunday's game is uncertain. The team is reserving judgment on a day-to-day basis but downgraded him to doubtful.

  • DT John Parrella (groin) did not practice Wednesday and is listed as out for Minnesota.

  • DE Sam Williams (knee) did not practice and has been declared out of the Minnesota game.

  • DT Dana Stubblefield (ankle) rejoined practice Wednesday and has been upgraded to doubtful after missing the last two games.

  • RG Mo Collins (knee) practiced Wednesday and has made two consecutive starts.

  • RT Lincoln Kennedy (calf) practiced Wednesday and is expected to start against Minnesota.

  • FS Rod Woodson (knee) continued to be held out of daily practices, as has been the case since September. He has not missed a start.




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