'Certain amount of pain' keeping Raiders CB Gareon Conley sidelined


'Certain amount of pain' keeping Raiders CB Gareon Conley sidelined

ALAMEDA – Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley missed his second straight game Sunday against the Ravens. There’s no certainty when this year’s first-round pick will play next.

Conley’s still dealing with a shin injury that has plagued him since June. It caused him to miss training camp, the entire preseason slate and the regular-season opener.

His debut came against the New York Jets. He looked like a first-round pick. The encore occurred the next week in Washington. Conley looked a bit slower.

Head coach Jack Del Rio slowed him down after that, saying he looked sore despite never complaining about the ailing shin. He missed the Denver game and wasn’t ready against Baltimore.

Del Rio isn’t sure when the next appearance will come.

“There’s a certain amount of pain that’s involved that keeps him from doing what he needs to do,” Del Rio said in a Monday press conference. “When he gets it under control and ready to go, we’re going to have him. Until that is under control and he’s able to do what he needs to do, he’s going to be on the sidelines.”

That the shin injury remains an issue is troubling for a Raiders secondary in need of healthy talent.

“I hope that it would be resolved in some time in the near future,” Del Rio said. “It’s an issue we’re doing the best we can to manage.”

Smith getting beat:
Veteran cornerback Sean Smith got beat deep twice against Baltimore. The first one came on the game’s initial play and went for 52 yards. The second salvo came in the second quarter, when Smith got beat for 54 yards.

Del Rio had a different take on each play.

“Well, the very first play, nobody can help him on that one,” Del Rio said. “He’s got a buzz player coming underneath him, he’s got to stay on top. You just can’t start the game that way, but the second one, Reggie [Nelson] should have intercepted that ball. That ball’s thrown inside the numbers told the middle of the field, we have to go make a play on that and give him some help there. Either way, he’s got to be on top, that’s his job to be on top on both of those plays. But, the second one he should have had more help.”

Smith allowed three catches for 114 yards on three targets in Sunday’s game, and could be counted on again next week with David Amerson and Conley uncertain to play the Chargers.

Losing at the line:
The Raiders spent significant funds and draft capital securing dominant offensive and defensive lines. Del Rio believes the Ravens took control at the line of scrimmage. He expects better from those groups and didn’t get it in key moments.

The Raiders gave up three sacks and didn’t notch any, frequently giving Flacco too much time to work. The Raiders also had problems slowing the Baltimore run game, which created issues getting off the field in crucial spots.

“I thought they were a little more physical yesterday, which is unusual,” Del Rio said. “We have really good offensive and defensive lines, but they were more physical than us yesterday. They sacked us. We didn’t sack them. They threw some long balls over the top of us. We didn’t throw any over them. They got a turnover for a touchdown. We didn’t get a touchdown. They got us yesterday.”

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice


Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Several defensive players were upset about Norton's firing, but Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.” Defensive stars declined comment Wednesday or didn't appear in the locker room when the media was present. 

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing


Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio put out a statement Tuesday explaining why he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

He went into greater detail Wednesday afternoon, his first time facing the media since a change was made

Specifics will be discussed further down this story. We don’t, however, want to bury the lede.

Del Rio’s main message wasn’t about Norton. It applied to all in Silver and Black. This season has not met lofty expectations. That is unacceptable.

“I know one thing,” Del Rio said. “Nobody should feel comfortable, because what I’ve been watching is not good enough.”

Del Rio didn’t absolve himself from blame. Norton got fired, but everyone has played a part in this disappointing 4-6 record.

“It’s always shared,” Del Rio said. “A change was made, obviously. We all share in it, all of us, starting with me. It’s coaches and players. It’s a team game, and we’re all in it together. And nobody is coming to help us.”

The Raiders must look inward to start a prolonged winning streak they’ve shown little evidence they can create.

The seat will be warm under players and coaches alike, even if only one change was made. Expect further shakeup on the coaching staff after the season, if vast improvements don’t come down the stretch, possibly with several position coaches being shown the door. More than a few higher profile players could be cut or allowed to leave, especially on defense.

While Del Rio has taken more heat the past month than at any other time in his Raiders tenure, expect him to be around a longer term. He was given a contract extension in February, and has significant capitol built after changing the culture in Oakland and re-teaching this team how to win. One bad year, even if this season continues heading downhill, shouldn’t erase that.

Del Rio was looking to shake things up, and Norton was the obvious move. Experienced play caller John Pagano was on staff – he was Chargers defensive coordinator from 2012-2016 – and firing the popular Pagano’s style could create some new waves and looks that any offensive Norton would make an impact in the locker room and prove this story’s opening quote, that no one should feel comfortable.

Del Rio hopes firing Norton will be a shock to the defense’s system.

“I really felt like I needed to shake things up,” Del Rio said. “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.”