Raiders

Remember Louis Murphy?

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Remember Louis Murphy?

At first, the trade was met with a bit curiosity. Even if it made sense.

After all, Louis Murphy, it could be argued, was the Raiders' most productive and dependable wide receiver over his first three NFL seasons, a stretch that included JaMarcus Russell under center.

But 14 games into his trade to Carolina for an undisclosed conditional draft pick on July 23 -- reportedly a seventh-round selection -- both the Panthers and Raiders see it as a win-win deal. The Panthers have a speedy threat to come off their bench and the Raiders have a draft pick to continue their re-build with a slew of young pass catchers.

"Louis Murphy has done a great job for us, he really has," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday. "He’s really helped us in terms of our deep ball threat. When Brandon LaFell went down with an injury, he stepped in and became our No. 2 receiver and he has been a good vertical threat. He's made a couple clutch catches for us the last few weeks. It’s good to have him here."

Murphy has played in all 14 games for the Panthers thus far, starting five, and has 21 catches for 274 yards (13.1 yards per catch) and a touchdown. Officially, he is listed second on the Panthers' depth chart, behind five-time Pro Bowler Steve Smith.

"He likes it," said Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, selected in the same 2009 draft as Murphy, who is from Florida.

"It’s closer to his hometown, so that’s good. They won three games in a row, right? There you go. So, I guess he’s happy."

Actually, the Panthers have won two in a row, and three of four. But the point is made.

In three seasons with the Raiders, Murphy, a fourth-round draft pick, averaged 30 catches for 457 yards and three TDs.

A freak collision with teammate Marcel Reece at Denver in 2010 resulted in a bruised lung and seemed to alter his fate in Oakland. Before the injury, Murphy had 55 receptions for 858 yards (15.6 yards per catch) and five touchdowns in 23 games. In his ensuing 18 games, Murphy caught 35 passes for 513 yards (14.7 yards per catch) and did not have a TD. Sports hernia surgery following the 2011 NFL lockout also slowed Murphy, as did an injury during offeason activities this past spring.

Perhaps a change of scenery was necessary, especially with the Raiders drafting another wideout in Juron Criner last April and finding a diamond in the rough in free agent Rod Streater.

Because who could have seen Streater becoming just the seventh undrafted rookie to catch at least 33 passes in a season since 2000?

"I talked to (Murphy) last night for about an hour," said Heyward-Bey. "I talk to him every other week, every couple of weeks.

"It was weird at first, but it’s been awhile so you just adjust. It’s just like high school; you’re friends in high school and then you go to college. You don’t see them as much. But we keep in touch."

Obviously, the Raiders would prefer to not see him making plays Sunday. Or the other guy the Raiders traded to Carolina this offseason -- offensive lineman Bruce Campbell, for running back Mike Goodson.

"We’re not going against each other personally, so it really doesn’t matter," Heyward-Bey said of Murphy. "It’s just going to be good to talk to him before the game, talk to him after the game and stuff like that."

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.”