Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quick hits after a day with the Raiders

I dropped by Raiders headquarters for a few interviews Thursday, and yes, coach Lane Kiffin still had his job. These days, you can never be too sure. Kiffin even made it though an entire post-practice interview without anyone asking about his job status and reports that Al Davis is just waiting for the right moment to fire him. Even Kiffin seemed surprised and amused by that development.

Kiffin acts as if he doesn’t have a care in the world. Then again, he’s actually in a no-lose situation. If Davis fires him, then he’ll escape this silver and black craziness and be in line for some ridiculously high-paying college coaching job. Or at the worst, an NFL coordinator’s position. And if Davis holds off on the ax, then Kiffin will continue being one of just 32 NFL coaches and will be lauded by many for publicly standing up to his boss.

A few more notes and thoughts after my day with the Raiders:

*File this under adding injury to insult.

It wasn’t bad enough that Raiders rookie running back Darren McFadden was caught from behind by a safety of all people - not even a cornerback - Sunday at Kansas City and had to settle for a 50-yard run instead of what looked to be a sure 75-yard touchdown.

But it was when Bernard Pollard caught him and dragged him down that McFadden injured his right big toe, he said Thursday after practice.

“I guess he fell on the back of my heel and kind of jammed the foot into the ground,” McFadden said.

Turf toe is the official diagnosis. And if you don’t think a big toe injury is a big deal, think again. A few years ago, former Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson battled turf toe for an entire season in Oakland. He barely practiced. Although some would say that even when he was healthy, Woodson took the Allen Iverson approach to practice.

Asked if his toe was a little painful, McFadden said, “Little ain’t the word for it. Sunday and Monday, man, it was killing me.”

McFadden was in a protective boot Wednesday. But he returned to practice Thursday with a metal plate in his right shoe to keep his big toe from bending too far.

“It’s going to take getting used to running on it,” McFadden said of the plate. “I felt like I was running flat-footed on it. I’ll take these next couple days, try to get used to it and be good to go Sunday.”

*On Monday night, McFadden watched his former Arkansas teammate, Felix Jones, return a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in Dallas’ victory over Philadelphia. Jones was a rocket in cleats. No one came close to catching him.

So did McFadden catch any good-natured heat from his ex-mate for getting caught from behind?

“No, he didn’t say anything to me about it,” McFadden said. “I was watching it. … I was happy for him. He’s a great guy. I loved playing with him in college. He’s still a best friend of mine.”

McFadden had plenty of highlights in his own breakout game, rushing for 164 yards. At Arkansas, he and Jones formed one of the most explosive backfields in college football.

“It’s great to see, to come from the same college. Everybody back home, I’m sure was watching both games. It’s just a great thing to see.”

*As a former New York Giant, Raiders strong safety Gabril Wilson was well prepared for the turmoil that surrounds his new team.

Last year Wilson and the Giants dealt with a multitude of controversies during a Super Bowl season. There were barbs from by ex-Giants running back Tiki Barber, uncertainty over coach Tom Coughlin’s job and just the general over-the-top media hype surrounding a Super Bowl run in New York.

“You know what? Guys just have to get closer together,” Wilson said. “That stuff in New York made us get even tighter as a locker room. We have to do the same thing over here. Honestly, I don’t even know what’s going on outside of this locker room. We’ve got to just stick together and come closer as a team. We did that last week with all the circus.”

Wilson sat at his locker in a room that had just a handful of media members. Not exactly New York-esque.

“This is nothing,” Wilson said. “This is nothing right here. Imagine about 10 different personalities and about 20 more media people around. This is nothing compared to New York.”

*The Raiders beat Kansas City 23-8 last week with JaMarcus Russell throwing just 17 passes and completing six of those for 55 yards. Russell threw a number of passes away intentionally to avoid making big mistakes. He spent most of the day handing off to Raider running backs who combined to gain 300 yards.

Russell admitted that he’d like to throw more often.

“Deep down inside, yes,” Russell said. “But the team player part of me says whatever it takes to win. If I have to go out there and hand off 100 times in a game and we win, I’ll hand off (100) times. No matter what it is to win that game, I’m going to be that team player and go out there and help out.”

At some point – probably as soon as Sunday against Buffalo – the Raiders are going to need Russell to do more than just hand off in order to win. They’ll need him to chip in with a few key passes downfield.

We’ll find out if he’s ready.

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