Raiders

Tom Cable happy to be back with Raiders, 'this is where I belong’

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AP

Tom Cable happy to be back with Raiders, 'this is where I belong’

ALAMEDA – Tom Cable had options choosing his next coaching job after leaving the Seattle Seahawks. The respected offensive line coach wasn’t initially sure if the Raiders were the right fit.

After all, he and the franchise had a history.

The former Raiders head coach, and position coach before that, was fired and then shredded by late owner Al Davis in an hour-long press conference held to announce Cable’s successor.

Honestly, it was a mess.

Cable took Jon Gruden’s call anyway, and agreed to meet him in Alameda. Skepticism remained, however until he formally landed at Oakland International Airport.

“Once I got off the plane, it was like being at home,” Cable said Thursday. “I really think from the car ride over from the airport to here, it was great peace. Then when I went through the gate, it was like this is where I belong.”

Cable didn’t know Gruden well before this winter’s meeting, but bonded quickly over a shared old-school football mentality, shared experience of being a head coach under Al Davis and dueling impressions of the late Raiders owner.

Davis traded Gruden to Tampa Bay in early 2002 for a king’s ransom. Davis fired Cable after two-plus seasons, the last of which was an 8-8 campaign in 2010 and the Raiders first non-losing season since the year Gruden left.

“When I left here, I left here and I didn’t want to. That’s just the truth,” Cable said. “I put that team back and got it up off the mat. Dusted itself off, got to .500 and then we’re going to change. It was like unfinished business. It was really kind of natural and a comfortable decision to be back and wear these colors again.”

Cable could’ve held a grudge. Davis fined him $120,000 to cover potential legal costs, then publicly explained why while new head coach Hue Jackson and family sat in awkward silence.

Davis brought up a 2009 incident in Napa, where Cable allegedly punched then lower-level assistant Randy Hanson and broke his jaw. Davis unearthed allegations of physical abuse by multiple women first reported by ESPN, including a lawsuit brought by an ex-girlfriend who named the Raiders as a co-defendant. Davis also brought up Cable violating team rules by bringing his girlfriend with him on the road.

The lawsuit was settled, and no charges were filed in aforementioned legal incidents. Cable was not punished by the NFL.

Cable, a Modesto native and longtime Raiders fan, didn’t let a relationship strained impact how he thinks of Al Davis and the Silver and Black.

“All the great things that Al Davis had done; to me, those are valuable,” Cable said. “Did we always get along? No. There are not a lot of people that probably got along with him all the time. My respect for him is unblemished. I think that’s where people would say, ‘Why aren’t you bitter?’ Well, because you see for me it’s different. He’s a teacher to me. He’s a mentor to me. Whether I get along with him or not, wasn’t the issue. I took so much from him.”

Al Davis orchestrated several eras of Raiders greatness. Cable believes Gruden can drive the next one. Cable wanted to get there as Raiders head coach, and that dream hasn’t died.

“I think for guys like he and I, at least as I get to know him, it’s more personal. You know?” Cable said. “This has been my team since I was a little boy, so it’s not like it changed because I got run out of town. It probably just made it a little bit deeper for me, which is cool. That’s why I’m here.”

Cable is here to get a hulking, expensive offensive line playing to vast potential. He is here to help Marshawn Lynch run strong and resurrect Doug Martin’s career.

Cable’s a tough guy, a good teacher and more diverse than he reputation as a zone-schemer suggests.

“With Cable it’s definitely one of those things where it’s a challenge and a strain, mentally,” left guard Kelechi Osemele said. “He kind of wants to ‘dick with you,’ as he would say. Like kind of mess with you a little bit. Kind of see if he can catch you with some trick questions and stuff like that. Make sure that you’re actually studying. … It’s just tough coaching with Cable, so that’s been good.”

Returning to the East Bay as been a positive experience thus far, working with old friend Marshawn Lynch, an established interior line and rookie tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker.

Getting the offensive line right will be key to Cable’s ultimate goal of helping the Raiders sustain success. His unceremonious exit from the Raiders early this decade won’t change that.

“To have the opportunity to come back and help make this right, like the vision I had earlier was and to help Jon see this though the right way, that’s pretty powerful to me,” Cable said. “I don’t really think there’s any place for bitterness. I think this is a chance to really go back and say, ‘This is where I belong, this is where I’m supposed to be.’ And I look forward to it.”

Four Raiders players to watch in Saturday's preseason game vs. Rams

Four Raiders players to watch in Saturday's preseason game vs. Rams

LOS ANGELES -- The Raiders will face the Rams on Saturday in their second preseason game, and then again roughly three weeks later when it really counts.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden isn’t thrilled about it.

“I don’t understand it, honestly,” he said. “I really don’t.”

Exhibition No. 2 typically is an event where starters work deeper into the action, nearing closer to halftime. It’s a time to refine some and get in some good work.

That might not happen in the Silver and Black’s return to L.A. Coliseum. Even if action for the regulars increases over last week’s preseason game, coaches will provide a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

“It’s a preseason game, and we have a lot of really tough evaluations to get through before we start thinking about what play we’re going to call,” Gruden said. “We’re going to really continue to use this as an evaluation, period. You’re going to see a lot of players playing a long period of time that are going to get a chance to show us they belong here. That’s how we’re looking at this game.”

We won’t see regulars for long, but two important debuts are in the cards. Another pair is looking to impress. Here are four players to watch against the Rams.

CB Gareon Conley

Conley was supposed to miss four weeks with a hip injury he suffered during training camp’s first full-squad practice. That might’ve cost him the entire preseason. Conley and the Raiders were thrilled he made it back in two weeks.

Conley expects to play Saturday for the first time in nearly a year, after missing the last 13 games in 2017 with a shin injury that required surgery. He might not stick around long, but he could support the praise heaped upon his potential, athleticism and ball skills.

Showing well this preseason would inspire confidence that he can become a top-flight cornerback.

Conley, for his part, isn’t stressing over another injury issue.

“If you think about it, it’s going to happen. You have to put it out of your mind,” Conley said. “If you don’t, it becomes more mental than physical. Once you think about it, you get hurt again. You can keep going down and down. You’ve got to stay (positive).”

DE Arden Key

The former LSU edge rusher missed last week’s preseason game with a bum ankle, but he's set to make his professional debut in L.A. He should get some solid snaps in this one, and many are anxious to see if he can translate excellent practice work into games.

He has a wide variety of pass-rush moves -- he’d be wise to keep some in the arsenal -- and tremendous agility working against offensive tackles. He’s long with unreal bend, and many within the organization are expecting him to make an immediate impact.

QB EJ Manuel

Connor Cook was the first quarterback off the bench in last week’s preseason game against Detroit, and the Michigan State alum took full advantage. A solid performance didn’t earn Cook the right to back up Derek Carr. Gruden insists that job remains competitive, and that Manuel would get more work against the Rams.

Manuel must capitalize on it to get back in a race he might be losing at this stage. He has worked mostly with the third team in recent practices, and has had an issue with fumbled snaps. Cook had an uneven week of practice, so the window’s still cracked for Manuel to earn the No. 2 job he had last year.

WR Griff Whalen

The Stanford product got more run than anyone expected against the Lions. The slot receiver played 14 snaps of offense with the first and second units, and had a chance to return punts and kickoffs. His work came before Ryan Switzer, who had been the primary slot guy in practice.

That order changed during this practice week, when Whalen continued to work with top units.

“Whalen has stepped up,” Gruden said. “He earned that right. He’s doing some great things.”

He has to keep doing them, because a roster spot is not guaranteed. He was believed to be on the outside looking in prior to the Lions game, and he must prove on offense and special teams in these preseason games to earn a job in a competitive position group.

Khalil Mack, Raiders still not close on contract two games into preseason

Khalil Mack, Raiders still not close on contract two games into preseason

Khalil Mack will not play in the Raiders' preseason game Saturday against the Rams as his contract holdout continues. 

The edge rusher missed all of the Raiders' training camp and will be a no-show for the team's second preseason game. Sources continue to tell Insider Scott Bair the sides are not close to an agreement, although Oakland does not plan on trading the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The Raiders can fine Mack a game check with every preseason game that he misses, as ESPN recently pointed out. That doesn't mean that they will do so, however. Typically, once team and player come to an agreement, those fines go away. 

The Raiders dealt with a similar situation during Donald Penn's holdout from training camp and preseason games last season. The offensive lineman did not report to the team until late August, but the Raiders never made Penn pay the accumulated fines.

It's clear Raiders head coach Jon Gruden wants Mack on the team for the 2018 season.

“It has obviously, for me, been disappointing,” Gruden said Wednesday. “You want to have your best player here. This guy is really a great guy, too. I’m disappointed we don’t have him here.

“We’re going to try to get him here as soon as we can. In the time being, you got to move on. You’ve got to get up and go to work. That’s one thing I’m very proud of what we’ve done here.”

Mack currently is under contract, set to make $13,846 million on a fifth-year team option of his rookie contract applicable only to first-round draft picks.