Millard Appreciates Madden's Contributions

Former Vikings defensive lineman Keith Millard, now a defensive line coach with the Oakland Raiders, said recent Hall of Fame inductee John Madden was instrumental in elevating the career of good linemen, Millard included. Plus, we check in for notes from the Raiders as the Vikings prepare to host Oakland on Monday night's preseason opener.

Raiders defensive line coach and former Vikings defensive lineman Keith Millard grew up in Pleasanton, played high school football with John Madden's son Mike and considers his three trophies for the All-Madden team among his most cherished possessions.

He also considers Madden, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, responsible for his first trip to the Pro Bowl, which came the season after he had a breakout playoff game in 1987 against New Orleans.

"I'd had a good year, but it was until John Madden said it that people seemed to know it," Millard said. "It wasn't just me, but linemen in general. A lot of offensive linemen never got recognition until he did the game. He pointed out the good things that offensive and defensive linemen do. He gave us exposure."

  • No word yet on how ticket sales are going with the Raiders taking over the sales and marketing of their own product for the first time since they returned to Oakland in 1995.

    CEO Amy Trask said the club would have some sort of announcement between Aug. 27 and Aug. 31 She would say only that the Raiders were "significantly ahead" of their pace at this time last year.

    Oakland's season-ticket base shrunk to less than 30,000 last season, the last year the sales were handled by the Oakland Football Marketing Association.

    Owner Al Davis, who maintains he was promised a full house every week if he returned to Oakland, said, "I am not encouraged or satisfied . . . unless we sell out," Davis said.

  • Running back LaMont Jordan believes he was being too nice last season in his first year as a feature runner. He attempted to deal with that weakness by working out in the offseason with Roger Leonard, the brother of boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.

    "The best thing I did was take up boxing," Jordan said. "That helped me out so much, just the cardio and getting myself focused. I've been a little bit too nice. My agent and a couple of my (friends) told me when I was in New York, I ran a lot angrier."

  • Kevin McMahan, the Maine wide receiver honored as Mr. Irrelevant in honor of being the last person taken in the draft, doesn't mind his designation.

    "People look at it different ways, but I look at it as motivation to have been taken last," McMahan said. "So many guys were taken before you, especially at the wide receiver spot, you look and think, `Man, I could have been taken there or there or there. Look at this team and this staff. I've got Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, coach (Fred) Biletnikoff and I'm going against Willie Brown's defensive backs. I think I am in a good situation."

    McMahan is having a solid camp, but his odds of sticking would seem to be slim unless Porter is traded.

    Oakland's last two Mr. Irrelevant picks, current Vikings wide receiver Ryan Hoag (2003) and linebacker Andre Sommersell (2004), did not make the roster.

  • With Charles Woodson gone to Green Bay in free agency, defensive tackle Warren Sapp considers himself the leader of Oakland's defense. He was hesitant to seize that role the past two seasons.

    "I didn't want to step on anybody's toes. In Tampa, I had been there since Day 1 building it. When you are there building a house from Day 1, it is easier to yell and scream and enjoy the day," Sapp said. "But when I walked into somebody else's house that was already built, it was different. Now I have been here since we got into this (Rob Ryan's defense) so it feels a lot more like this is my team."

  • WR Will Buchanon, son of former NFL cornerback Willie Buchanon, has been catching everything in sight -- and some of his receptions have been spectacular.

  • LB Danny Clark, replaced as a starter by Kirk Morrison, got to work with the first unit for three days while Morrison nursed a hamstring strain. There are no indications he could reclaim his starting job.

  • SS Derrick Gibson, who never became an established starter after being a first-round draft pick in 2001, is playing well enough that he could make the roster again.

  • DT Anttaj Hawthorne, a smallish and soft-looking tackle, is nonetheless getting snaps with the first goal line defense and could stick as a fourth defensive tackle behind the primary rotation of Tommy Kelly, Warren Sapp and Terdell Sands.

  • RB Rod Smart, based on team sessions, is evolving into a third-down back. He has caught several passes over the middle and broken them for big yards.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Aaron's making big strides. The light bulb's going off. He's saying, ‘Oh, OK.' You know he understands what we're trying to do." — Raiders coach Art Shell, who probably meant to say the light bulb was going "on."

  • Viking Update Top Stories