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NAPA -- A new and just-as-intriguing training camp battle has emerged in the wake of nose tackle Travis Ivey getting cut over the weekend.Yes, Tommy Kelly is listed at the starting nose tackle in a 4-3 defense on the Raiders' depth chart, but he is followed by a practice squad refugee in Jamie Cumbie and an undrafted rookie free agent in Dominique Hamilton. And sixth-round draft pick Christo Bilukidi is listed as third at defensive tackle behind Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant."I think there's opportunities there," said coach Dennis Allen. "We're looking for who's going to step up and take that role as the fourth interior defensive tackle. Cumbie, Hamilton, Bilukidi, we're looking for one of those guys to kind of step up and take that position."That will be interesting to see, how that plays out through preseason games."Of course, it would seem that Bilukidi has the upper hand in an apparent three-man race for one position, given that he is the only one drafted, meaning the Raiders already have a vested interest in him. But that does not mean the competition is wrapped up after just eight training camp practices.Far from it."Definitely a little added pressure because you know he was drafted," said the 6-foot-5, 313-pound Hamilton, who played at Missouri. "But I just feel like I'm going to go out there and work my butt off no matter what. And when I get the few snaps that I do get, then I'm just going to go out there and give it my all."Said the 6-7, 291-pound Cumbie: "You know, it is tough and I understand him being a drafted guy there's a preference for his spot, but I know how to work and I show up and I know what I'm capable of and I know myself and I watch film, just like everybody else does. To see yourself improve daily and to not make the same mistakes twice, it's all I can do.
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"And I feel like with this staff here we've got this year, they're not playing favorites. I think people are going to do the job, they're going to see it so my mentality is to show up, work hard, not make mistakes and it will play out itself."Both players have found a mentor, of sorts, in Kelly, who refers to Hamilton as "sasquatch" and Cumbie as, well, "some things I shouldn't say," Cumbie said with a laugh.Of course, playing nose tackle in a 4-3 defense is much different from doing it in a 3-4, when you line up more traditionally directly over the center."You can just feel the difference," Hamilton said. "I played in both in college in my senior year and there was definitely a huge difference. You can do it. It's definitely possible. It's doable for me. They can have T.K. in the middle; they can have anybody in the middle. It's doable for anybody. You've just got to go up there and dominate every time you're up there."Which, of course, is any player's plan when they're on the field, right?"Obviously, there's a difference as far as what gaps you have and whatnot, but I feel if you get off the ball with good pad level, you get off the ball first with good steps, it's going to play out itself," Cumbie said. "You play out of technique, 3-4, you play backside, head up, but it starts with the get-off and that's what we work and that's what we preach and that's what I've been working on -- get off pad-level hands. The rest plays off by itself.'It's always a constant battle with pad level being 6-(foot)-7, obviously, but it is what it is, and I'll do anything. I'm willing to work and I'm just blessed to be a part of this opportunity and this organization so there's just good things to come."But for which player?