Raiders notes: Ford sets return record


Raiders notes: Ford sets return record

OAKLAND -- Jacoby Ford had an inkling he was going to break a long kickoff return against Cleveland.One hundred and one yards later, Ford had his franchise-record fourth return for a touchdown, giving the Raiders a lead they would not relinquish after the Browns tied the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter."Yeah, special teams had a good week of preparation this week and I also got to say that Rock Cartwright actually called that," Ford said. "He actually said it in practice, as soon as we got done running that exact return, he said, 'You're due to break one this week.'"According to Ford, who also had a 37-yard return, it was all about the blocking scheme employed by the Raiders.

"That blocking scheme is great and is definitely something that's hard to defend," Ford said. "And if they try to defend it, it's like there's another way to defeat it."Ford, who had been slowed by a strained right hamstring suffered in the season opener at Denver on Sept. 12, initially came out of the end zone to the left hashmark before bouncing out to the right sideline. He walked the tightrope down the stretch and the play was reviewed to see if he had stepped on the line. He did not."I didn't know how close I was when I first got to the sideline," he said, "but I knew I didn't step out when I started tight-roping."Making his debut -- Two days after his first and only practice with the Raiders, linebacker Aaron Curry started at weak-side linebacker.Curry, acquired from Seattle, had three tackles."I'm going to watch the tape, but I thought he was out there flying around, trying to make plays," coach Hue Jackson said of Curry. "As I told you when I traded for him, I traded for him for a reason, to stick him in there."And while Curry did not have a statement play, he said his defensive calls were not limited at all."I feel like this is a defense that allows me to utilize what I do best, which is run," Curry said. "They blitzed me one time but I think my best attribute is when the ball is snapped, who has the ball and go and get it and play smart."It's amazing. It's exactly what I saw on film. It's the same exact defense I saw on film. Nothing new, nothing surprising."Straight outta L.A. -- Rapperproducerdirector Ice Cube was at the game and held an impromptu press conference before the game.His 2010 documentary on the Raiders' years in Los Angeles and their influence on rap music was critically acclaimed. He was one of the last to be granted a one-on-one sit-down with the late Al Davis."Al, I don't know if he would condone this, but to me he's the original gangster," said Ice Cube. "He did it his way. I call him the Frank Sinatra of football. He really showed that you could be yourself and you still could be the best. You dont have to conform to be the best. That's what I got from Al."That's what we took, that you could be yourself with your flaws and all that and still make it to the top. With NWA we took on that philosophy. We said, 'Yo, we're not going to conform. We're just going to be ourselves and we're still going to win with it.' That's still the Raiders' philosophy."Ice Cube said the passing of Davis shook him. "It was a shock ... really unbelievable," Ice Cube said. "You always know that some days your heroes are not going to be with you but you never expect to wake up in the morning and not have him. When I heard that Al was gone, it's like youre losing an era. You're not just losing a person. Youre losing an era."You're losing, to me, one of the best football minds that we've ever seen. Without Al Davis, we've got three yards and a cloud of dust out here and that's it. With Al you've got the bomb, you've got speed, you've got the passing game. Al brought all that into our league. It's a sad day. He'll definitely be remembered."

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 open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no 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 guys were given a day off, one scheduled earlier in the day. 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.

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

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

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.”

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.”