Raiders don't tender QB Gradkowski


Raiders don't tender QB Gradkowski

March 7, 2011RAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEOPaul Gutierrez

So Bruce Gradkowski tells a Bay Area newspaper he was not offered a tender by the Raiders and theres a hint of shock?

No disrespect to Gradkowski, one of the classier guys in the Raiders locker room, but its no surprise the Raiders issued protective tenders to the likes of tight end Zach Miller and running back Michael Bush (both received first- and third-round tenders) and longsnapper Jon Condo (second-round) rather than to Bruce Almighty. All you had to do was pay mind to the mounds of praise heaped upon Jason Campbell by owner Al Davis and new coach Hue Jackson since the season ended and the backhanded compliment Davis paid Gradkowski while wondering aloud about his injury history.

I also realized that as good as Gradkowski is for a single game, we cant hold up the injury factor from happening, Davis said in his memorable Jan. 18 media conference. He incurs injuries, and that worries the hell out of me.
At the Combine, Jackson said he looked forward to Campbell leading the Raiders to a division title after a season of getting acclimated to his new surroundings.

Over the last half of the season, he did a tremendous job of leading our team and making the plays that big-time players have to make in this league, Jackson said of Campbell. So Im expecting him to take that next jump. Were an 8-8 football teamthis past year, but I dont anticipate or do I look for that to happen this year. I expect him to take us where we want to go.

As such, and with the trigger-happy Tom Cable long gone, there will be no quarterback controversy in Oakland in 2011. Campbell is the unquestioned starter. And while Gradkowski was too much of a professional to be a distraction in Cables QB Carousel, the journeyman quarterback has long let it known he does not consider himself a backup.

Last year, Gradkowski was 1-3 in his four starts, though he sparked the comeback victory against St. Louis; Campbell was 7-5 in his 12 starts and came off the bench to lead the comeback win against San Diego at home.

Cable so badly mismanaged the QB situation he turned Campbell into a sympathetic figure and Gradkowski into a teachers pet -- profiles neither man deserved.

REWIND: Oakland's 2010 QB quandary

It all adds up to a seeming end to Gradkowskis tenure in Oakland -- according to the Contra Costa Times article -- unless it does not.

Thing is, the tenders might actually be worthless in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. And if so, the lack of one assigned to a player would mean less than that.

Gradkowski, who worked as an NFL playoff analyst for CSN Bay Area in January, did not immediately return a message for comment. He complied a passer rating of 73.3 in two seasons in Oakland, with 2,066 yards on 53.7 percent passing, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He will always be remembered by Raiders fans for his epic comeback victory at Pittsburgh in 2009, and for his two seasons ending prematurely due to injury.

Still, its hard to imagine Gradkowski -- a five-year pro who received a second-round tender last year -- returning to the Raiders without at least the chance to compete for the starting gig.

Plus, theres the speculation that a new CBA will set the bar at unrestricted free agency at four years, down from six. As such, Gradkowski would be free to sign elsewhere.

And that would leave the Raiders with just one quarterback under contract in Campbell as the contracts of Kyle Boller, Charlie Frye and J.T. O'Sullivan are expiring. Frye has a reputation as a coach-like backup in the QB room after spending all of last season on IR while Boller saw some reps and has a little history with Jackson.
VIDEO: Gradkowski's offseason workout

With Campbell entering the final year of his contract, could the Raiders then look at drafting a quarterback in the draft? Many mock drafts have Washingtons Jake Locker and Arkansas Ryan Mallett falling into the second round. The Raiders first pick is at No. 48, though many draftniks have them selecting Penn State offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski.

Days after signing with Raiders, NaVorro Bowman expected to play vs Chiefs


Days after signing with Raiders, NaVorro Bowman expected to play vs Chiefs

ALAMEDA – NaVorro Bowman was a sponge this week, absorbing the Raiders defense as quickly as possible.

The veteran inside linebacker signed with the Raiders Monday afternoon and did enough to play Thursday night’s pivotal home game against Kansas City.

That’s a huge plus for a Raiders team looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Bowman should be able to help right away despite being new to the scheme.

“He’s a veteran. He understands ball,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Wednesday. “We haven’t tried to install the entire playbook, but specific game plans and things. He’s had a good week. Even though it’s a short week, we feel good and he’ll play.”

He’ll probably start at inside linebacker and play the base defense as least. While many have criticized his speed and coverage skills diminished from major injuries, Bowman remains a sure tackler who can provide solid on-field leadership.

Veteran savvy and natural ability should carry Bowman while he masters a new scheme, allowing him to make the immediate impact required with the Raiders reeling at 2-4.

“He is very instinctive,” Del Rio said. "He’s a veteran guy that’s been there before. He understands what it looks like to lineup against a good football team and help us win.”

Bowman’s fresh and healthy, a step above his others at his position. Inside linebackers Cory James (knee), Marquel Lee (ankle) and Nicholas Morrow (ankle) are all questionable heading into Thursday’s game.

He has also been a willing teacher to a group of inside linebackers featuring a second-year pro and three rookies.

“They’re just soaking it up,” Del Rio said. “They’ll ask, ‘When do you lift? How often do you lift? When do you meet? When do you cover this?’ It’s good stuff to have for a really young group.”

In other injury news, right tackle Marshall Newhouse is out, leaving Vadal Alexander to start in his spot. David Sharpe should be the swing tackle in reserve.

Downing: Raiders offense off track, answers exist ‘in our scheme’


Downing: Raiders offense off track, answers exist ‘in our scheme’

ALAMEDA – Todd Downing has friends with fantasy football teams. Those faux general managers, like many across the roto world, took Raiders with high draft picks.

They would like to know why Derek Carr isn’t throwing touchdowns in bulk, Amari Cooper’s in a slump and Marshawn Lynch isn’t getting more carries.

“I have friends that have him on their fantasy team that are mad at me for that,” Downing said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s part of the business.”

Ah, the life of an NFL coordinator. Players get credit when things go right. Play callers sit over a Bunsen burner the rest of the time.

Downing understands that part of this gig.

“I welcome the responsibility that this job has afforded me,” he said. “I understand that I’m going to have to deal with negative comments and consequences when things aren’t going well. I’m looking forward to standing up here in a more positive fashion some time soon.”

Positives were expected right away. He was given the keys to a Lamborghini with a franchise quarterback under center, 1,000-yard receivers on each flank, an older back considered among the best of his generation, and the NFL’s biggest and most expensive offensive line.

The Raiders ranked No. 6 in total offense before adding Lynch, tight end Jared Cook and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency. Now they’re 30th heading into Thursday night’s game against Kansas City.

The mob is lighting torches, armed with pitchforks. After six weeks.

Everyone has an opinion on what’s wrong and how to fix this offense. More interior runs, less outside zone. More play action, please. Go deep, a lot. Have Derek hold on to the ball longer. Have Derek get rid of it quick. Do all that at once. Do it now.

Downing’s going to stick with his system. The Raiders will stick with their process, thank you very much, with faith that things will turn.

“When you look at the tape, you can see that we’re so close on so many things,” Downing said. “I know that sounds cliché and I know that sounds like someone sitting up here and trying to give you the rose-colored glasses, but it’s the truth. We know that we’re just this close to making a couple more plays each game and being able to come out on top and feeling like we put together a good product.

“…We’re looking for answers right now, but we know those answers exist in our room and in our scheme. Once we hit our stride, we’re excited to see what it looks like.”

There’s reason to believe that can happen. Take the season’s first two games, for example. The Raiders scored 71 points in that span. There’s talent everywhere in the starting lineup and behind it.

That’s why concern reigns during a four-game losing streak where the offense is averaging 13.1 points. They can’t sustain drives, come through on third down or block consistently in the run game. Their play count is dismally low. According to the Associated Press, the Raiders aver averaging 54 plays per game. Every other team has at least 60. The 2005 49ers were the last team that averaged such a sum. The Raiders haven’t had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher or a 100-yard receiver.

Offense is blamed for a dismal 2-4 start. Even the universally beloved Carr has taken some heat for lackluster performances.

“I don’t think there’s a single guy that can look back over the last few weeks and say, ‘You know what, I’m really pleased with how I’ve played over the last three weeks,’ or, ‘Called the last three weeks’ or, ‘Coached my position the last three weeks.’ We all own this together,” Downing said. “There’s no one guy that is going to save it or break it or anything in between. We need to do this as a team and everybody needs to make the plays they’re afforded the opportunity to make and I need to call the right plays when afforded the opportunity to call them.”

The Raiders can and must do better before falling further. Righting the ship too late to reach the season’s goals might hurt as much as a completely dismal campaign.

Pressing, however, isn’t the answer.

“You do have to stay patient,” Downing said. “I tell the offense this every week, but it’s never been more true than where we’re at now as an offense. We have a belief in what we’ve done this far, and the system we’ve put in place, and the playmakers we have in that room, and the coaches that are up in the room with me, and you will never see me waiver in my belief of any single one of those guys, including myself. If I did, and I started acting different or started calling games differently, then that would mean I didn’t really believe in the first place.”