Saturday, April 30, 2005

Moss gives Oakland a Thumbs-up

Associated Press, from
Randy Moss stopped briefly to answer to coach Norv Turner.

"How was it?" the Oakland Raiders coach asked his new star receiver after the team's first minicamp practice Friday.

Moss just smiled and gave the thumbs up sign as he walked off the field, his long braids swinging and shining in the California sunshine.

Acquired last month in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings, Moss looked sharp in a short practice Friday in his new No. 18 uniform and oversized gray shorts.

With no defenders on the field, he caught a 15-yard out from quarterback Kerry Collins, tiptoeing the right sideline before going out of bounds. Moss and fellow receiver Jerry Porter, re-signed to a five-year deal in February, squatted together on the field and motioned with their hands to diagram plays.

"It was cool," Porter said on his way to the locker room.

The Raiders didn't make any veteran players available to reporters, opting to formally introduce their new draft picks instead.

"The organization wanted to present its rookies," senior administrator Artie Gigantino said, "because during draft day we didn't have them in and we had mini-camp right after the draft. Why bring them in twice? That's always been the policy."

Four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson, whom the Raiders are still seeking to trade, practiced and socialized with teammates all while spitting sunflower seeds.

Woodson is the Raiders' franchise player for the second straight season and he signed a $10.5 million tender in February -- a 20 percent raise over last year's salary of nearly $8.8 million. So far, the Raiders haven't found a team willing to give Woodson the lucrative long-term contract he wants.

Woodson spent Friday's session providing advice to two rookie cornerbacks, first-round pick Fabian Washington out of Nebraska and second-rounder Stanford Routt from Houston.

Washington, who ran a 4.29 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, wasn't ready to call himself the fastest player on the Raiders just yet.

"I don't know if I'm the fastest guy on this squad," he said. "Randy Moss is on this squad. That's a pretty fast guy."

Moss' arrival was minus the fanfare surrounding him last month for his introductory news conference. He showed up at team headquarters that day in a stretch limousine escorted by seven police officers on motorcycles.

Then Moss was greeted by fans and the franchise's three Super Bowl trophies.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

On the Radar

The Raiders always see themselves as Super Bowl contenders. This year is no different, even though they went 5-11 last season. But to make a run at the playoffs, they need to upgrade the defense. The team has added DE Derrick Burgess and DT Kenny Smith, but it also cut FS Ray Buchanan and traded LB Napoleon Harris.

Selecting a safety such as Michigan's Ernest Shazor in the second round would make sense. Shazor is a consistent playmaker who could make an immediate impact. He has impressive size and speed for a strong safety and is a big hitter. He could challenge incumbent Derrick Gibson and Marques Anderson and turn a problem area into a strength. He has the size (6-3, 224) to match up against the division's monster tight ends, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates.

Oklahoma State's Darrent Williams would be a nice selection in the third or fourth round. He's a polished cornerback who could provide immediate help in the nickel or dime. Williams (5-8.5, 176) is considered too short and too slight to be a shutdown corner, but he is one of the fastest players in the draft and can make big plays. Drafting Temple LB Rian Wallace in the middle rounds would help fill the void left by Harris' departure. Wallace is a dependable tackler who makes plays in the backfield.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Defensive Additions

The Raiders bolstered their defensive line by adding DT Kenny Smith. He is a fast, agile player who could help add depth behind Warren Sapp and Tommy Kelly. He isn't projected as a starting-caliber player, though he figures to carve out a spot in the overall rotation. The Raiders kicked off their offseason workout program Monday, with just about every key player at full strength. Turner was pleased with the turnout and what he got accomplished last year in his first season coaching the Raiders. However, this time he has the added benefit of knowing the majority of his players and his assistant coaches, so he intends to get even more out of this year's offseason workouts. Look for Turner to refine the wide-open offense he installed last season and for him to oversee a reshaping of a defense that floundered for most of last season.