Second Chiefs-Raiders contest boasts new look


Second Chiefs-Raiders contest boasts new look

ALAMEDA -- Two months may not seem a long time in the real world, but in the NFL it can be an eternity.Back on Oct. 23, the Raiders still had Darren McFadden as their lead running back. Jacoby Ford was rounding back into form as their electric kick returner and playmaking receiver and Carson Palmer was still picking the cobwebs out of his ears.Kansas City, meanwhile, had Matt Cassel under center and Todd Haley as its coach.With so much turnover and turmoil as a backdrop, it will be as though the Raiders and Chiefs will be meeting for the first time this season on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium. Kyle Orton is the Chiefs quarterback now and Romeo Crennel is their interim coach.
"It's two totally different teams because it's later on in the season and these teams have already seen each other once," said Raiders fullback Marcel Reece, who did not play in that first game between the two teams either as he was still recuperating from a sprained ankle suffered in Week 3."I think teams are going to have to come out with their adjustments and go after's going to be a different game, but not because I didn't play (the first time) or Carson wasn't familiar with us, or anything like that. It's just going to be two different games by two different teams."The Raiders, of course, would like a different result. The Chiefs beat the Raiders that day, 28-0, at the Coliseum and the week leading up to the game was one of self-imposed and ultimately futile cloak-and-dagger gamesmanship.With Jason Campbell suffering a broken collarbone the previous week and the Raiders trading for Palmer during the week, coach Hue Jackson played coy as to who would start at quarterback -- Palmer or Kyle Boller.Turns out Boller got the start, but was not told of it until the day before. But after a rough outing, Palmer got in on the action in the third quarter and threw three interceptions.Now, Palmer is acclimated and coming off his most efficient game as a Raider in completing 80 percent of his passes (32 of 40) for 367 yards and a touchdown without an interception in the 28-27 loss to Detroit."We look at the first game because the system is still the system," Crennel said. "Carson now is more established in that system, he understands the players that he's working with better, he understands his weapons better and he's using those guys to his advantage. So, it will be a different type game than it was the first time we played them."So what, if anything, does Palmer glean from the first encounter with the Chiefs, when he was essentially thrown into the fire?"I'm not taking much from that game," he said. "They're a different team. We're a different offense now. Personnel-wise, I guess it helps a little bit, but they're playing a little bit differently now, and we're definitely playing a little bit differently. And it's in their environment."It's going to be a hostile environment. It's going to be wild. There's going to be a lot of energy from last weeks game, the new head coach thing. They're all fighting for him, and the fans, I'm sure, are fighting for him. It's going to be a much different game than the last time we played them."By the time Palmer entered that game, the Raiders trailed 21-0.And the nine-year pro has also been in situations where the "return" game is between two markedly different teams."A lot of times those divisions games, not every year, but there are a lot of coaching changes that shake things up," Palmer said. "Or you play a division team early in the year and you don't play them again (for a while), kind of like this situation. It's happened before."You watch the film and you kind of digest what they did to you last time. Then it's kind of a guessing game. Are they going to do the same thing or are they going to completely change it up? Were preparing, really, for everything. Don't know what we're going to see, but we're going to have to adjust on the fly and make plays when it comes down to it."

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

There was no perceived 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 Irvin and Mack were given a practice off. 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.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

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

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

Several defensive players were upset about Norton's firing, but 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.” Defensive stars declined comment Wednesday or didn't appear in the locker room when the media was present. 

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.”