Pro Bowl provides silver lining for Raiders stars

Pro Bowl provides silver lining for Raiders stars
December 30, 2010, 1:58 am
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Dec. 29, 2010RAIDERS PAGEGUTIERREZ ARCHIVEPaul GutierrezCSNBayArea.com

ALAMEDA And now, for the latest swig from the cup of bittersweet goodness flowing down the main canal in Silver and BlackdomThe Raiders beating Kansas City this coming weekend to go 6-0 in the AFC West, yet becoming the first team since the 1970 merger to fail to qualify for the playoffs after being perfect in their division, is so 2010.The postseason-less Raiders having three Pro Bowlers (Oaklands most so-named to the original team since 2002) and four more alternates tabbed for the NFLs annual all-star game? Pass the shot glass, but after raising them up to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (his fourth selection), punter Shane Lechler (sixth) and defensive tackle Richard Seymour (sixth overall, first in Oakland).I think that people are recognizing that were better, said Raiders coach Tom Cable. I think that people recognize that were a more talented team. Obviously, that shows that guys went out and performed at a pretty high level. Would like to see more, but that will happen as you start to win more and you become a playoff team."VIDEO: Tom Cable on the changing of the Raiders standards
Placekicker Sebastian Janikowski, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, running back Darren McFadden and tight end Zach Miller were the Raiders alternates.Im proud of all of them, Cable added, but I just think it says, Hey, were better and we have guys playing better.It just didnt translate into enough victories. Consider: the Raiders (7-8) have just as many Pro Bowlers on the AFC team as the playoff-bound Kansas City Chiefs (10-5), New York Jets (10-5) and Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4).First and foremost, having played in a lot of big games, its an ultimate honor to be recognized as a Pro Bowler, Seymour said. More importantly, we would like to play in the postseason a little bit more than playing in this game. Thats really going to be the next step for us and this football teamgetting over the hump, having a great offseason, a great draft, a great workout.Really just taking the next step as a football team and everybody on board taking that step together.Wait a minute. Seymour is due to become a free agent, the lack of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the looming threat of a lockout by the owners be damned. Sure sounds like he wants to return to the Raiders, right? Might he even do a little recruiting at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii?I definitely invite anybody to come in, to Oakland, said Seymour, acquired in a trade from New England for a first-round draft pick on the eve of the 2009 season. Its a great place to play. The fans are unlike any others in the league; theyre definitely committed and they want the same type players to play in this organization. The history of being here, the mystique of putting that Silver and Black on and representing the Raiders, its been a lifelong dream for me and, hopefully, it continues.Seymour, whose 5 sacks rank fourth on the team despite missing two games with injury, was slapped with the Raiders franchise tag last offseason.Obviously, you always want to be where youre wanted, Seymour added. If Im wanted (by the Raiders), Im definitely open for anything.RICHARD SEYMOUR PROFILE RAIDERS STATS
The Raiders two other Pro Bowlers, Asomugha and Lechler, have known nothing but Oakland as their NFL home since entering the league in 2003 and 2000, respectfully.Despite his relative lack of interceptions he has none this year, and just one in each of the previous three seasons Asomugha is still seen as one of preeminent shutdown corners in the game.You always want to have those numbers, he said. But two of the three corners going in dont have any interceptions (Asomugha and the Jets Darrelle Revis). So it says a lot about the respect that you have around the league.Ive been measured a little differently from other guys just because I dont get as many opportunities as they do. So, theres other factors like, what were the completions, and that sort of thing. Ive still been able to hold my own pretty well, so it means a lot.Lechler, despite an off year, is still leading the AFC in punt average (47.0, his lowest since 2005) and net average (40.6).What tweaked him, though, was his 2000 draft-mate Janikowski being passed over. Janikowskis 135 points lead the AFC and are 25 more points than those scored by Pro Bowler Billy Cundiff. But Baltimores placekicker has missed just three of his 27 field-goal attempts, compared to Janikowski going 32 for 40 on field goals.Not to have SeaBass after the year hes had, thats very disappointing, Lechler said. I know hes disappointed. Im disappointed for him. There would be a whole lot of head coaches around the league I guarantee would take him.They wont say it to their guys face, but they would take him over their guy right now. Thats just how it is. Thats just how good he is.Enough of the bitter. How about some more sweet in seven players recognized, so to speak?That just shows were headed back in the right direction and weve got this thing turned around, Lechler said, and were no more the laughing stock of this league.Asomugha agreed, pointing to the teams woeful 29-83 (.259) record from 2003 through 2009 as a cautionary tale. The Raiders have a chance to finish .500, though they let games against Arizona, the 49ers and Jacksonville slip away.Its great to see progress in the team, he said. Where weve been in the past to where were at now, its beautiful to see that, to see the guys still into it and still wanting to win games and us being capable of winning games.Progress is a beautiful thing. Its something that you can build off of. We have that.The Raiders as a team will take it with them to Kansas City this weekend. A select few will tote it to the Islands for the Jan. 30 Pro Bowl.