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.”

Raiders camp battles: Several combinations possible at safety

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AP

Raiders camp battles: Several combinations possible at safety

Editor’s note: We’ll take a look at several Raiders training camp battles leading up to the first full-squad practice on Saturday, and then we’ll update their progress throughout the preseason. Let’s get into the second one, focusing on safeties.

 

The Raiders have taken a first-round safety in two of the last four years. They still paid a veteran top dollar to join the mix their and slot corner. They extended a special teams player with some starts to his credit.

In short: the Raiders have options at safety, lots of them good.

That position will shake out in training camp, which starts this week in Napa.

This year’s No. 27 overall draft pick is already there. Johnathan Abram reported to camp Tuesday with the Raiders rookies, already in good position to snag a starting spot. Coaches love the Mississippi State alum, whom joined the first unit later in the offseason program. He carries unshakable confidence and skill into his work as a do-everything safety that seems pro ready.

He paired with 2016 first-rounder Karl Joseph during the offseason program, who should still be a factor despite the team declining his fifth-year option. The team came away impressed by his recovery from injury and a slow start, when he found his footing in a role tailored to his strengths.

Erik Harris evolved into a defensive role last season, with the size and length to play free safety. He has clearly assumed a vocal leadership role in the back, and will fight for a job either on every down or obvious passing situations. He might end up being a super sub capable of playing anywhere, a valuable commodity in the secondary.

Lamarcus Joyner is the x-factor in all this. He’s clearly the team’s best free safety, but the high-priced free agent signing focused on slot cornerback to this point. That could change during training camp. Time will tell on that front. Coaches could split his focus – he’s fully capable of switching between free safety and slot corner – right away or bring him back to safety at times should one of the aforementioned contenders flop.

Curtis Riley and Jordan Richards are also veterans in the mix, though they’re firmly on the roster bubble.

Early edge: Abram and Joseph at safety, with Joyner primarily at slot CB.

Raiders camp questions: Can Vontaze Burfict provide stability at MLB?

Raiders camp questions: Can Vontaze Burfict provide stability at MLB?

The Raiders have searched long and hard for stability at middle linebacker. They haven’t had much luck recently, no matter who has been picking players.

Let’s call it the curse of Rolando McClain, a wasted first-round pick that exemplifies the team’s issues filling an important position. Only Perry Riley and NaVorro Bowman offered partial-season respites during this middle linebacker drought, and neither player re-signed with the club.

Nick Roach, Curtis Lofton, Ben Heeney, Miles Burris and Derrick Johnson all have tried and failed to stabilize the position. Still-developing Marquel Lee, a rare linebacker drafted to play the middle, was thrust into a starting role but didn't stick and has been used on the strong side. The Raiders haven’t selected a middle linebacker before the fourth round since McClain, choosing largely to go the veteran route inside.

Vontaze Burfict enters as this year’s attempt to get the middle linebacker spot right. Brandon Marshall also is in town and capable of playing inside and out, as the Raiders hope to establish veteran leadership running Paul Guenther’s defense.

Burfict has spent most of his career as Guenther’s field general, and having him here should open previously closed chapters of an extensive playbook. Burfict was helpful running practice reps and meetings during the offseason program, already proving to be a valuable resource to his new team.

He must remain available and productive to stay that way. Burfict has struggled with injuries in recent seasons, which has hampered his effectiveness. Will he be a three-down player inside? Even two would be helpful, considering Tahir Whitehead’s lineup regularity and comfort with the defense.

Marshall also can fill the middle, proving a solid Plan B if Burfict struggles. Having veteran options playing in front of a developing corps including Jason Cabinda, Lee and Nicholas Morrow should be better than previous seasons, where the Raiders never seemed to have a backup plan.

[RELATED: Five incredibly bold predictions for upcoming Raiders season]

Burfict has been impactful already, but we haven’t seen much of Marshall. The former Bronco missed most offseason practices with an undisclosed injury.

These older veterans have been producers in the league but skepticism is fair until they show old form during the regular season. Can Burfict and/or Marshall succeed where previous players have struggled?

It’s worth keeping a keen eye on the middle linebacker spot and the position group as a whole, which must improve for the Raiders' defense to run well this regular season.