Are these Lechler's last days with the Raiders?


Are these Lechler's last days with the Raiders?

Shane Lechler admitted this week that this, his 13th season with the Raiders, might be his final year in Oakland. And yes, the seven-time Pro Bowl and six-time All-Pro punter said the same thought crossed his mind before.


"Four years ago, I think," Lechler told reporters. "Signed the contract two days before free agency. I didn't hear anything from Oakland until then…and that was kind of a frustrating situation to be in."

Being made the richest punter in NFL history by Al Davis, courtesy of that four-year, $16-million deal in 2009, probably soothed any sore feelings. But that deal is expiring at the end of this season and Lechler will become an unrestricted free agent.

And with the new regime of Reggie McKenzie already showing it is not afraid to shed high salaries, how much would the Raiders be willing to pay a 37-year-old (next August) punter coming off a relatively so-so season? Even if Lechler and placekicker Sebastian Janikowski, both of whom were part of the same 2000 draft class, are favorites of owner Mark Davis.

Lechler, who underwent surgery on his left (non-kicking) leg this offseason and was slowed early, has only recently shown flashes of his booming punts that have made him the NFL's all-time leader in gross punting average as he entered the season with a career mark of 47.6 yards.

But his current gross average of 47.3 yards per punt is just 11th in the NFL and his net average of 38.3 is 23rd and his lowest since 2006.

Then there's the specter of the Raiders keeping highly-touted but raw undrafted rookie punter Marquette King on injured reserve after a weight-room accident
resulted in his left foot being placed in a boot late in camp. If Oakland is truly changing the culture, what makes more sense going forward -- a $4-million a year all-world punter who would probably not make much difference on a rebuilding team, or a malleable punter making basically minimum wage, which would free up money for other signings, who could grow with said rebuilding team?

"It was frustrating for a little while because this is my job, and it has been mine for 13 years," Lechler told the Oakland Tribune, referring to King's presence. "I took it a little bit personal early, but after that I was like, 'You know what? I can only worry about so many things around here.'

"That was one of them I needed to stop worrying about."

Besides, the first time he punts Sunday against Kansas City in the Raiders' home finale will be the 1000th punt of his career. And after playing in the AFC title game as a rookie, the Tuck Rule game his season season and in the Super Bowl his third year, Lechler has not experienced a winning season since. He has, though, seen his share of head coaches, from Jon Gruden to Bill Callahan to Norv Turner to Art Shell to Lane Kiffin to Tom Cable to Hue Jackson to Dennis Allen.

And yes, Lechler thinks his old recruiting host at Texas A&M, Allen, deserves to return, even with the 3-10 Raiders in a six-game tailspin.

"Yeah, I do," Lechler said. "I think D.A. is good for this job. He's got my full support. I think somewhere in here we're going to have to let that guy coach for a few years to figure it out. You know, I mean it's not much different than college football.

"You give a guy four years, you let him recruit players, let him develop his players and see how they are, instead of change and change and change. But this is Oakland, so…"

So, should the Raiders retain Lechler, or is King the future in Oakland?

Injury report: Murray rebounds well after return to Raiders practice

Injury report: Murray rebounds well after return to Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Latavius Murray will spend this practice week testing himself to see if he can play after a debilitating bout of turf toe sidelined him the last two games.

He returned to action on a limited basis for Wednesday’s practice, and needed to respond and rebound well to continue his quest back to the playing field.

Early returns have been positive.

"I think he got a handful of plays out there (on Wednesday)," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said before Thursday’s practice. "I think he’s looking to get better each and every day and hopefully it’s good enough by the time the next game arrives."

Murray practiced a second straight day on Thursday, strengthening his case to play against the Jaguars. That’s extremely likely, barring a setback.

That would certainly strengthen a Raiders running game that has slumped the past few weeks.

“Latavius has his own skill set,” Musgrave said. “Had some explosive runs for us last year. We’ll look forward to getting him back at some point. Hopefully it’s this week.”

Right tackle Menelik Watson practiced for a second straight day and seems in line to re-claim his starting spot against Jacksonville.

Special teams player Brynden Trawick and offensive lineman Vadal Alexander remain out.

It’s possible that Perry Riley will start at middle linebacker over rookie Cory James on Sunday.

Check back for complete participation reports for the Raiders and Jaguars.

Norton: Raiders 'have the right people,' scheme; execution lacking

Norton: Raiders 'have the right people,' scheme; execution lacking

ALAMEDA – Ken Norton Jr.’s defense hasn’t been good all season. It’s only been a hindrance twice in six weeks, allowing the Raiders to brush it under the rug while compiling a 4-2 record.

The Raiders were exposed in Sunday’s 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving many to wonder whether this defense has fatal flaws.

The team’s defensive coordinator believes these problems can be fixed without a radical reconstruction.

Norton trusts his scheme. He believes in his personnel. He has faith there are better times ahead.

“It depends on what you believe in,” Norton said before Thursday’s practice. “If you believe in the players, you believe in the coaches and believe in yourself…

“Obviously you’d like the stats to be better. But we are 4-2, in a good place record-wise. The stats need to be better. We need to continue to understand who we are, what we are and get better at what we’re doing.”

“We have the right people. It’s just a matter of getting it done on game day.”

Coaches have cited eye violations (a.k.a misreads) as communication issues reasons why the Raiders give up chunk yards. Their 6.9 yards per play allowed is the league’s worst.

Edge rusher and team captain Khalil Mack said opponents are challenged the Raiders defensive discipline. Misdirection, bootlegs, wacky formations and the like have given the Raiders fits, and will continue to do so until they repair what’s broken.

“It’s all about discipline,” Norton said. “It’s all about angles. It’s all about leverage and tackling and the fundamentals of the game and getting down to the nitty gritty of playing smart and sharp. It’s the ultimate team game. …Everybody’s connected to a successful play. That play has to be successful consistently over a period of 70 plays. Everybody’s watching every single play, so you need consistency and have guys playing together. It will pick up.”

Communication is the latest buzz word attached to defensive miscues. Norton said it’s been corrected, just not consistently enough.

“It’s been fixed, but it will come up some times, at the worst times,” Norton said. “We are continually practicing. There are 16 games, and you need to be obsessed with improvement, and we are. Guys care a lot. They show up early and stay late. The communication, the playmaking, the coaching, all of it will continue to improve.

“Everybody wants to talk about communication but it’s guys consistently playing well over a duration of a game. You have to be sharp.”

The Raiders have used different coverage schemes at times this season and made two lineup changes – it’s also possible Perry Riley starts at middle linebacker this week – to no avail.

“You see things going wrong with missed tackles or balls going over our head, the little things and details need to get taken care of,” Norton said. “There aren’t a lot of differences between us and the good defenses, but they make a lot of plays they’re supposed to make.

“We have the right people. It’s just a matter of getting it done on game day.”