Raiders

Raiders' Zach Miller added to Pro Bowl roster

Raiders' Zach Miller added to Pro Bowl roster

Jan. 19, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVERAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEOPaul GutierrezCSNCalifornia.com

Whathad been a year of pain and frustration for Zach Miller has turned intoone of success and recognition more than two weeks after the seasonfinale.Imagine how much more productive the Raiders tight end would have beenhad he not had to deal with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, orbeen hobbled with an injured leg?Miller was officially added to the AFCs Pro Bowl roster this afternoonafter initially being a first alternate and will join Raiderscornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler in Hawaii (defensive tackle Richard Seymour was also voted in but had to pull out due to his nagging hamstring injury). RELATED: Seymour out for Pro BowlSan Diego tight end Antonio Gates was forced to withdraw from the Jan.30 game due to injury, also plantar fasciitis, opening the door forMiller. Jacksonvilles Marcedes Lewis is the only other tight end on the AFC roster.
I was hoping but there was no official word so when coach (Hue)Jackson called, it was a relief, Miller said in a phone interview fromhis Bay Area home.When I came in the NFL one of my goals right away was to get to thePro Bowl. Its one of those achievements that really mean something.Gates was put on the Chargers season-ending Injured Reserve list on Dec. 30, so Miller sort of saw the honor coming.It would be great, Miller said that day. Its always been a goal ofmine. Im just happy that I was still voted as high as I was, eventhough I was playing through a lot of injury, missing a lot of timewith the torn plantar fascia.With the injuries this year and missing time, I feel like I ended up with a pretty good season.Despite missing one game and being limited most of the seasons secondhalf, Oaklands second-round draft pick in 2007 out of Arizona Stateled the Raiders in receptions (60 for 685 yards and a career-high fivetouchdowns) for the third straight season.
RELATED: Pro Bowl provides silver lining for Raiders starsThe 6-feet-5, 255-pound Miller was a Pro Bowl alternate last year, butcircumstances did not allow him to play in the game, held in SouthFlorida the week before the Super Bowl.The game is back in Hawaii, where its been every year but one since 1980.Miller has been to the Islands once before, when his ASU team played inthe 2006 Hawaii Bowl. It was there that his then-roommate, Sun Deviloffensive lineman Brandon Rodd, took him surfing for the first time.Rodd grew up near Pearl Harbor.Miller will have more time to experience the local flavor this timearound and has already picked the brains of Asomugha and Lechler aboutPro Bowl week.They talk about it and how cool of an experience it is, Miller said.Once you make it, youre established in the NFL and guys recognizethat. You get a lot of recognition.In four seasons, Millers 226 catches are third-most by a tight end infranchise history. The potential free agent whether he is restrictedor unrestricted depends upon the language in a new collectivebargaining agreement and former player rep to the union has 2,712career receiving yards and 12 TDs.The Raiders also have Pro Bowl alternates in placekicker Sebastian Janikowski, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and running back Darren McFadden.Guys arent going to vote for guys that are on losing teams, Miller said of the Raiders relative breakthrough season at 8-8.So, just having more success, as we did this year, and well have evenmore in the future, well have even more guys that deserve going to thePro Bowl.What's your take? Email Paul and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

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.”