Raiders

With Lynch leading the way, it’s been a long time since the Raiders were this Oakland-y

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AP

With Lynch leading the way, it’s been a long time since the Raiders were this Oakland-y

The level to which you want to be impressed by the Oakland Raiders is entirely dependent upon your valuation of the two teams they beat -- most specifically the horrifying New York Jets.

But the level to which you want to be inspired as an Oakland resident at the way the Raiders are choosing to say goodbye is not in dispute. It’s been a long time since the Raiders were this Oakland-y, and if you are patient, you will soon find out that Marshawn Lynch’s is but one face of this franchise.

That said, he was the A-clip in this week’s highlight reel, a 45-20 throttling of the relegation-worthy Jets, because of his fourth quarter sideline dance that stamped “Oakland” all over a team that is down to its last two dozen some-odd games here. It capped a thorough and scandalously easy performance in all departments and remarried this team to its town in a more visceral way than last year’s, or the year before that’s, or the Rich Gannon years, or really anything in the last 40 years, give or take a season.

And it is why Jack Del Rio, the coach who stands rigidly for the anthem while Lynch sits ands believes that body language matters in this business, said when asked about Lynch’s dance, “These are his people. These are my people.”

Well, okay, we can go with that if you want to extend the border of Oakland to include everything down to the Fremont line, absolutely.  The Raiders will take any and all comers because since they’ve gone to such an effort to reflect the area they are leaving, they may as well go all in and reflect the old-time Raider geography that reached east to Livermore, north to Vallejo, and south to Milpitas.

And in that attempt, this is a team that has something for everyone. The upstanding good citizen in Derek Carr. The aggressively quiet but subtly brilliant Michael Crabtree (who had three touchdown receptions, in case you forgot how the Raiders got to 45). The imperturbably steady rhythm section that is Cordarrelle Patterson (43-yard touchdown run when the Jets were otherwise engaged) and Jalen Richard (52-yard burst through a massive gap five minutes after Patterson’s score). The indomitable forces that are Khalil Mack and Mario Edwards. The purposeful people movers like Donald Penn and Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson.

And yes, many names get left out that will have their moments later, and will have to when the Raiders face the bite-back of their season -- the two Denvers, the two Kansas Citys, the New England and perhaps even the Baltimore game as well.

And that’s the thing to remember in all this bonding -- what the Raiders are after is harder to get than merely curb-stomping the Jets. New York is an aggressively poor team, playing for late April as Oakland is playing for early February. Lynch’s dances are not scheduled, but there are likely to be no games as comprehensively easy as this one was. There were so few things that missed the film standard that Del Rio said, “There is always stuff to correct, but we’ll do that with a smile this week.”

As for Lynch, he said little enough after the game, knowing that his sense of tough running during and gift of rhythm after his game was over did all the talking he needed to do. He chooses to speak without filters, leaving you to decide what you think he is all about, satisfied in the knowledge that the people who need to know already do.

But for the record, he said “It felt good” five times, said “we’ve got some playmakers” when asked about the offense, “give it to my mama” when asked what he was going to do with the football from his touchdown, and said he would rather see her than the gathered media.

No dispute with any of it, really, since nobody wouldn't see their mom than some yob with a recorder. Nor was there an issue with the game, nor with its effect upon a city that continues to refuse to show how much the potential departure of the Raiders will hurt.

Maybe the citizens will show more when 2019 comes to its close, or if they never achieve what they all believe is this team’s three-year destiny. Or maybe Oakland is about never showing how much stuff hurts, just as much as it is not showing outsiders what makes the city vibe itself so well.

But if these Raiders are the best metaphor for Oakland, and Lynch is the best metaphor for these Raiders, then ordering a batch while it’s on the menu is the only way to get the maximum value. After all, the Jets won’t come here for awhile, games won’t be this easy, and Lynch may not have so much time for sideline dancing in any other game this year.

Then again, it’s a wonder Lynch wasn’t flagged for excessive celebration or taunting. Now THAT would have been the full Raider experience.

Melifonwu back at Raiders practice, designated to return off IR

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AP

Melifonwu back at Raiders practice, designated to return off IR

ALAMEDA – Obi Melifonwu participated in a Raiders practice Tuesday afternoon, his first session in months.

The second-round safety has been on injured reserve all season and hasn’t done football activities of any kind since suffering a knee injury in a preseason game in Dallas.

He had arthroscopic knee surgery and was put on the shelf for the season’s first half. Melifonwu's professional career barely started and then quickly stopped. That's why Wednesday's practice was such a big deal. 

“It was awesome to get back out there, finally,” Melfonwu said. “It’s been a while. It was beyond fun to just be out there and practice with the team."

He nearing a return to game action. That’s why the Raiders designated him to return off injured reserve. Wednesday marks the start of a three-week practice window where the Raiders can decide whether to put him on the 53-roster.

He’s expected to do so when eligible. Melifonwu was first able to practice this week, and can join the 53-man roster after Week 8. His NFL debut could come in Week 9 at Miami.

He can't wait, especially because he's physically ready now. 

"I feel 100 percent," Meilfonwu said. I feel fine."

The Raiders still struggle covering the aforementioned skill players, using young linebackers or an undersized safety against those guys. The Raiders have given up the most yards to tight ends and running backs in the NFL this season. Melifonwu was drafted to help cover tight ends and running backs right away in sub packages, with a long-term eye on a full-time starting spot.

"I bring versatility, and I think I’m a guy who can fit into a lot of different spots," Melifonwu said. "Wherever the coaches need me to fit and help the team win, I’m all for it."

He has missed significant development time while out. He also missed most of training camp with an apparent ankle injury. The team hopes he can be ready to contribute when eligible despite missing so much time. The downtime was difficult, but Melifonwu now hopes to hit the ground running.

"It was definitely tough," he said. "As a competitor, you always want to be out there helping your team win. As a guy who hasn’t been hurt, it was pretty tough. It comes with playing football. I’m just glad to be out there now."

Bowman out to prove something with Raiders: 'I have a lot of juice left'

Bowman out to prove something with Raiders: 'I have a lot of juice left'

NaVorro Bowman hasn’t been a Raider long. The inside linebacker visited the team’s training complex Monday morning, signed a one-year, $3 million contract that afternoon and was on the practice field a few hours later.

Bowman’s in something of a rush. His new team plays the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. Bowman plans to face them.

That’ll take a crash course in Raiders defense. There’s new terminology to learn and roles to master, even if he hones on a specific package.

It won’t be easy. Even a perfect week might come up short with but one real practice in an incredibly quick turnaround.

It’s rational to think he won’t be ready, fair to give him two weeks practice before a Raiders debut.

That’s not the tack he’ll take.

“Hey,” Bowman said, with a wry smile. “I’m going to show you something.”

He understands the situation. The Raiders are 2-4, in desperate need of an AFC West win. A loss might put the Raiders too far down to rebound. The four-time All-Pro knows he’s needed, and believes he can help if he can get some scheme down.

“It’ll take a lot of hours, a lot of studying, a lot of repeating the same words and things like that,” Bowman said after Monday’s walk-through. “It’s part of being a good football player. You have to put the time in. It doesn’t come easy.

“I’m the guy to do it. I won’t let them down. I’ll put the work in that’s needed to be done.”

Immersing in brand new can be a cleansing process. Bowman left the only NFL team he’s ever known Friday when the 49ers cut him loose. He wanted to spend his career with one team. After seven-plus seasons, a switch was required. He didn’t like losing snaps. The 49ers wanted to go younger at the position. A trade was attempted. He didn’t like the suitor, and the 49ers respectfully pulled back. An outright cut was the decisive action.

It gave Bowman an opportunity to choose his next step. He didn’t go far. Bowman’s new job sits 35 miles north in Alameda, which offered plenty of advantages for a family man.

“My twin girls are five and my son is eight and they’re in school,” Bowman said. “They’re doing really well so you always want to keep that going as a parent. You don’t want to keep switching them in and out. That played a big part in what I was going to do. For the Raiders to show as much enthusiasm in wanting me to come here made my decision a lot easier.”

Enthusiasm was evident in two ways. The bottom line comes first. The Raiders offered $3 million to make this deal quick, adding a solid sum to the $6.75 million base salary guaranteed by the 49ers under his previous contract.

The second was clear in a Monday morning conversation with Jack Del Rio. The Raiders head coach spoke plainly, saying Bowman could make a major impact as a player and veteran leader of a shockingly young position group.

“It was really upfront, letting me know their position and how bad they want me,” Bowman said. “He let me know exactly what he wanted to get out of me coming here and being a presence for this defense. Being more vocal, getting guys to understand the urgency to be really good at the NFL level.”

His lessons start Tuesday morning. Starting weakside linebacker Cory James introduced himself in the locker room Monday and asked Bowman when he’ll start watching film. The answer: bright and early.

Bowman has a game to play Thursday. That’s possible because he didn’t have to relocate. He can just hit the ground running. He’s been constantly learning new systems during the 49ers coaching carousel, so he’d a quick learning. He also sees similar concepts between schemes.

“It’s not too different,” Bowman said. “The terminology is really the hard part. I’m a fast learner. I went out there today and I think I did pretty well. I’ll get in here early tomorrow and learn from my mistakes and try to keep getting better.”

That’s Bowman’s first goal. He also wants to show knee and Achilles’ tendon injuries haven’t sapped his effectiveness as many believe.

“I’m only 29 years old,” Bowman said. “I still have a lot of juice left in me.”