Raiders

Raiders unified in reaction to Trump's comments: 'Have to do something'

Raiders unified in reaction to Trump's comments: 'Have to do something'

LANDOVER, Md. – The Raiders planned to skip Sunday night’s national anthem all together. They were going to remain in the locker room until kickoff, as several teams across the league did in response to President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments about NFL players.

The schedule didn’t permit that. Kickoff and the national anthem was too close together. So the Raiders were on the sideline, and what they did was far more powerful.

Most of the team sat during the anthem, arm and arm together. Raiders coaches and several players stood with arms linked. Others took a knee. A few guys stood alone.

No Raider had a smile. The image was broadcast to a national television audience. A movement popularized by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to shed light on racial injustice and police brutality against minorities took another turn this weekend, after Trump said Friday night that any NFL player not standing during the national anthem should be fired. He called them sons of bitches.

Players heard what was said. They took it to heart.

The Raiders had a grand platform on Sunday Night Football. They took advantage of it.

“It hit a lot of guys. A lot of guys felt it on a personal level,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “They felt that, as role models, they needed to do something to show a sign of unity. Our country was built on equality and freedom and us having rights as human beings. We’re athletes, but we’re humans first. There were some disrespectful comments, and the guys felt like they had a duty to do something, given the stage we have as athletes. You have to do something. We talked about it, and we wanted to be together and show that freedom of speech still matters.”

Owner Mark Davis approved of his team’s reaction. He prefers players don’t protest in a Raiders uniform, but his stance changed this weekend.

“I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform,” Davis said in an interview with ESPN. “The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride. Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers. That’s the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings.”

Every Raider interviewed about this topic emphasized that their decision to sit or kneel wasn’t meant to disrespect the military, police or the American flag. It was a direct response to Trump’s comments. The Raiders felt they had to respond. Outside of Marshawn Lynch, who always sits for the anthem, this won’t be a weekly thing.

The Raiders made their point and want to move on.

“Stuff is getting out of hand,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “I don’t really want to talk about it or give him more of my time. We have disasters going on in Florida and Puerto Rico, and he’s worried about us doing a silent, peaceful protest? When the people of Charlottesville did their thing, he didn’t call them sons of bitches or assholes.

“We were all on the same page. I wish I didn’t have to do anything like that. I’ve been standing for the anthem all the time, but when you get called out, you take it personally. You have to do something.”

Inconsistency paints the picture of Raiders' underperforming offense

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AP

Inconsistency paints the picture of Raiders' underperforming offense

ALAMEDA – Johnny Holton has made dynamic plays this season. The second-year Raiders receiver has three touchdowns in nine catches, and averages 24.2 yards per reception. His straight-line speed’s tough to match, which is why he has three catches of 40-plus yards.

Holton’s still developing. Therefore, good comes with some bad. He has lost two fumbles in as many games, with four drops and two passes headed his way that were intercepted.

“I think it all kind of is a great example of how our season’s been as an offense,” offensive coordinator Todd Downing said after Thursday’s practice. “We have flashes of really good production and executing well and then flashes or spurts where we’re not exactly executing the way we want.

“Johnny’s kind of a microcosm of that and so, I would say to him and have said to him and to the team, the message that we preach is let’s look for consistency and let’s look for doing the little things right. And then the big things happen.”

Downing’s analogy works. Inconsistency has plagued a talented offense playing below potential, with just enough flashes to drive players, fans and coaches crazy. Productive victories over the Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs provide stark contrast to a new normal, where the Raiders struggle to score or produce.

The Raiders have scored 17 points or less seven times in 13 games. They’re 22nd in scoring and 19th in total offense heading into Sunday night’s home game against Dallas.

That’s a drastic drop after last year’s production, a fact that’s been dissected extensively during a disappointing season thus far. We won’t go over them all here. Everyone, from quarterback to coordinator to skill players to the line, shares some of the blame.

Ultimately, it comes down to the inconsistency Downing discussed earlier. The Raiders have three games left to get it right, and even that might be unworthy of a postseason birth.

“We know how to throw the ball. We know how to catch it. We know how to run the ball. We know how to block,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “Now we just have to do those things better and more consistent. It always comes down to fundamentals of footwork and all those kinds of timing kind of things.”

“…Sometimes we go out there and it’s great. Then sometimes we go out there and it’s crap. That’s on us as players. We have to execute better.”

Carr says little details cause big problems. Problem is, it isn’t something you can circle with a red pen. It isn’t one thing that takes one permanent fix. The mistakes are coming from everywhere, and they’re coming often. That’s why so many Raiders have said they’re close to solid execution so many times this season.

That must drive detail-oriented offensive captains Carr and Rodney Hudson nuts. The entire offensive depth chart, remains committed to the process, hoping a talented roster will realize potential before the season’s out.

“There are a lot of things in life that look good on paper,” tight end Lee Smith said on this week’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “If you don’t put it together in the right way and form itself, it doesn’t matter what the pieces are if the puzzle doesn’t come together.

“We have to keep working as a football family from the top all the way down. We have three more football games to win. We plan on winning all of them. There are three good teams left on the schedule, and it’s excited to see what we’re made of now that we’re back into a corner a little bit.”

The Raiders receivers are backed into a corner, with Amari Cooper likely out a week at least with an ankle sprain. That'll put Holton back in the heavy rotation, meaning he'll have to avoid mistakes to keep the offense going. 

"Johnny is a hard worker and a guy that I know is excited to get back on that field Sunday and have an opportunity to make some plays for us and help us win this ball game," Downing said. "We’re looking forward to that.”

Blame game: Carr opens up after taking criticism for Raiders' rough season

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Blame game: Carr opens up after taking criticism for Raiders' rough season

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr has been criticized more this season than any other time in his professional career. That includes his rookie year, when youth and a lackluster supporting cast excused tentative tendencies and poor yards per attempt. Can’t knock Carr’s hustle from 2015 or last year, when he was a legitimate MVP candidate.

Those seasons set the bar sky high. July’s $125 million contract extension put it over the moon, and Carr has limboed under.

Carr hasn’t been bad, but hasn't been as good this season. That’s tough to argue. Neither have those around him, but they’re drawing far less ire. Why? Quarterbacks and head coaches (and coordinators) take the Ls.

Carr seems fine with that, comfortable as a human shield when times get tough. He tried to set up a force field after Sunday’s 26-15 loss to the Kansas City, which put the Raiders near playoff extinction.

His message: blame me.

Carr has done that before, several times in fact. It rang hollow through the fan base this time, despite a plea uncharacteristically twinged with anger and frustration.

"I think we’re all pretty upset. If you’re not, then you’re obviously not putting enough into it," Carr said. "If you’re wanting to point a finger or those kind of things, I don’t think that that’s right either. If you’re upset with yourself and you’re upset that you didn’t win the game...I still stand by how I felt, man. I was hot, to be honest. I put way too much effort into this to go out there and not play my best." 

Fans don’t want apologies. They want to see anger lead to action. And improvement.

That hasn’t happened much during a disappointing 6-7 season falling well below expectations, despite best efforts. The mob wants answers or blood or both. Same might be said of ownership.

Offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s job is in jeopardy. Head coach Jack Del Rio’s feeling some heat, though that might be a year too early at best, unless things completely unravel down the stretch.

Carr makes a lot more than those two. He isn’t getting fired either way. The guy is a franchise quarterback. He is, however, taking flak. Common criticial refrains include a penchant for check downs and getting unnecessarily flustered in the pocket. Add deep passes to that. He's completing fewer, and was 0-for-7 on passes of 20 yards or more against Kansas City.

“Things come out when it’s not going right,” Carr said. “I think I completed more deep balls last year, throwing it times I shouldn’t have thrown it. Throwing it up, and we all high-five and clap about those things. Again, when you lose, people just have a different way of spinning things.”

Carr is immensely talented, with football smarts and leadership skills. Sometimes good quarterbacks have hiccup years before getting back to normal. He’s 26 years old, with several prime years ahead. Expect him to be a good quarterback for a long, long time.

He could use some help, but Carr isn’t one to chuck others under the bus. He generally leads with positive reinforcement, even when fans hope he’ll channel Rich Gannon.

He looks inward, knowing he must play better to get this team going right.

This is an average team if Carr is anything less that excellent. That may well have been the case last year, when seven fourth-quarter comebacks sparked an incredible 12-4 run to the playoffs.

He hasn’t been as dominant this season, and the Raiders hover around .500. No shocker, there. That fact, combined with lofty expectations, has created some hostility toward the Raiders and their typically popular quarterback.

Carr is still looking to lead the Raiders toward better days this season, even with three games left and unlikely playoff prospects. His key during dark times, doesn’t include a rah-rah speech.

“You don’t really have to say much, True character reveals itself when times are hard or it doesn’t go your way or you think something else should have happened,” Carr said. “Pointing fingers and all those things…again, true character reveals itself. That kind of stuff has a way of working itself out. When you have guys in the locker room coming together saying, ‘What if we did this? Would that be better?’ That’s how we fix things. That’s problem solving. If guys want to be part of the problem, that kind of stuff, that just airs itself out. You don’t need to ask. That stuff will just come out.”

Del Rio hopes the offense will “let it rip,” play fast and a bit cavalier down the stretch. That’s fine with Carr, someone with a Brett Favre streak. It hasn’t been out consistently this season, but Carr promises to go big down the stretch.

“That’s something I’m looking forward to,” Carr said. “We’re only promised three more and I can assure you I’m going to go out there and let it rip man, because that’s what the head coach wants. That’s what he’s asking us to do. So, I’m going to go out there and give it everything I have.”