Raiders welcome back backup


Raiders welcome back backup

ALAMEDA -- Expecting some major blowback from teammates after the way Rolando McClain tossed the Raiders under the bus with his purported Facebook posts after getting tossed from practice two weeks ago?

Keep waiting.

McClain was welcomed back after his two-game suspension and a morning meeting with coach Dennis Allen.

"I laid out exactly what the expectations are for him moving forward," Allen said. "Really that’s about it. We’re moving on from there. Rolando’s part of this team and we’re going to move on."

Time and again, Allen said he would not get into "specifics," not about the suspension itself, what preceded it or what the post-suspension conversation entailed.

Really, the only newsy nugget to emerge was Allen saying McClain had been told he would no longer start at middle linebacker, rather, play a larger role on special teams.

"That’s where we’re at," Allen said, "and we’ll see what happens come game day."

General Manager Reggie McKenzie said on Dec. 1 that McClain had to be "apologetic" before being welcomed back. Allen, though, would not get into specifics.

Still, you'd have to think he'd have some bridge-building to do in the locker room with what he posted on Facebook: "Officially no longer an Oakland Raider!!" "Well technically I am. But I'm mentally done. Just waiting on my papers." "It's out of my hands right now." "I'm gonna weigh my options. Looking forward to playing for an actual 'team.'" And finally, "I'd like to be anywhere besides here."

And how does it not become a distraction?

"Our guys are professional," Allen said. "We move forward. Things get said in the heat of the moment and we’ve got to move on."

McClain did not make himself available to reporters following practice, leaving it up to his teammates to speak for him, so to speak.

"It’s not going to distract us," insisted team captain and quarterback Carson Palmer. "It hasn’t distracted us for the past two or three weeks, whatever it’s been. This team is completely focused on beating the Kansas City Chiefs and that’s all we’re going to worry about."

Is it hard, then, to maintain a focus like that, considering what's been reported about McClain?

"Not for me, and if anybody has a problem with it I’ll help guys through it, but it’s no issue for us," Palmer said. "We’re focused on Kansas City and that’s it."

Fullback Marcel Reece came to McClain's defense.

"Personally, I love Ro'," Reece said. "I think Ro's a good teammate. I think Ro's a great player and what happened with all that, us as players, we can't worry about it because we have no control over it. So as far as welcoming him back, he's our brother so we're going to welcome him back. We never want to lose someone to any reason, especially something that can be prevented.

"So welcoming him back is the easiest part of the game. Being without him is the hardest part."

And about his purported Facebook rant?

"People say a bunch of things, sometimes that they don't mean," Reece said. "Sometimes in the heat of the moment, sometimes out of anger. I don't know what was said, I don't know if he truly said it. It's all speculation. And to be honest with you, I could care less with what is on a social media site. You take it with a grain of salt because I'm sure Ro's not Facebooking from his phone. I guarantee that."

Still, many observers wondered, when the Raiders have cut purportedly solid citizens and decent players, salary-wise, like Pat Lee, Ron Bartell and Owen Schmitt, why not simply cut McClain, who has left much to be desired on the field, and be done with him?

"Just different circumstances," Allen said.

How so?  

"I'm not going to get into the specifics," Allen said, with a smile.

Notes: 'Carr to Crabtree was special' in Raiders win

Notes: 'Carr to Crabtree was special' in Raiders win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree was a non-factor in last week’s loss to Kansas City, an aberration of the highest order this season.

It proved to be just a one-game lull.

Crabtree was an offensive catalyst yet again Sunday in a 33-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown, including a long bomb that changed the game.

Quarterback Derek Carr went big on 3rd-and-5 late in the second quarter, sending a perfectly-arched ball down the right sideline that Crabtree caught over his shoulder at full gallop for a 56-yard gain that set up the Raiders’ second touchdown in five minutes.

Crabtree got it, again on third down, using a quick slant just beyond the goal line.

He refused to speak with the media again, but those around him were again wowed by his impact on the game, especially when Jaguars corner shadowed and largely shut Amari Cooper down.

“Michael Crabtree made some incredible plays today for us,” Del Rio said. “…Throughout the game he came up big for us and I thought he play really, really well for us. Obviously our quarterback is a good player. He did a good job for us hooking up with different receivers, but today Carr to Crabtree was special.”

King shows speed: Raiders punter Marquette King doesn’t have to run much. Players at his position usually don’t, except as a last resort when chasing a return.

King ran forward this time, prompted by a uncharacteristically poor Jon Condo snap. He didn’t have room to punt so he took off running, converting a 4th-and-24 with a 27-yard run down the sideline. It was a move that showed great athleticism, one he

“I just picked the ball up and started running,” King said. “After I passed the orange sticks, I got a little light-headed and realized ‘I’m really running the ball right now.’ It’s been since high school that I ran from the punting formation. I came in as a wide receiver for Fort Valley State and was really good at punting so they stuck with me.”

King ran out without getting hit – a plus in the coaches minds – and extended a drive that ended with a game-icing touchdown from Latavius Murray.

Too many field goals: Sebastian Janikowski had four field goals on Sunday night, which isn’t always a positive sign for the Raiders offense. They let too many touchdown-scoring chances escape, which bothered offensive players despite the fact they scored 33 points.

“When we’re in the red zone, we want points,” Murray said. “That’s most important, but we need touchdowns over field goals. We have a lot of work to do and we’ll keep striving to get seven points over three.”

Winning turnover battle: The Raiders forced three turnovers against Jacksonville and didn’t give up any.

David Amerson had an interception. So did Reggie Nelson. Andre Holmes recovered a punt muffed by Rashad Greene. That’s a recipe for success, something that’s become common for this Raiders team.

They’ve forced three turnovers without coughing it up three times this season. They’ve ended up with a plus turnover ratio six times in seven games.

Notes: Raiders LB Bruce Irvin recorded his fourth forced fumble of the season against Jacksonville, which are the most by a Raiders since Nick Roach equaled that total in 2013. …DE Khalil Mack had his second sack in as many games, and now leads the team with three. … Nelson nabbed his second interception this year and has 32 since 2007, a total that leads all active safeties. …RB Latavius Murray has five touchdowns in seven games, the highest total in that span since 2005. … The Raiders are 4-0 on the road, a mark that hasn’t been matched since 2000.

Del Rio gets a game ball in triumphant return to Jacksonville

Del Rio gets a game ball in triumphant return to Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jack Del Rio spent nearly nine full seasons as Jacksonville Jaguars head coach. He had three winning seasons and two playoff appearances in that time, before he was fired during the 2011 season.

He hadn’t been back to Jacksonville in a professional capacity since, but returned Sunday with a new team ready to face his old one.

The Raiders head coach publicly downplayed the impact of this return, and did so again Saturday in a speech to the team. He wanted players to locked on the game, not storylines surrounding the head coach.

“Jack said to focus on being a great teammate and having each other’s back,” Raiders cornerback David Amerson said. “With him coaching here before, we definitely wanted to have his back. We wanted to get him this ‘W,’ it was big for him and our team.”

As much as Del Rio wanted to turn attention away from his return, coming back to Jacksonville was a big deal.

His family united at EverBank Field on Sunday, a place where they had so many memories as the children grew up. He has friends in town and within the organization. He brought the Jaguars back to relevance, and it has fallen on hard times since he left.

The Jaguars are 18-57 since Del Rio left, mark set after the Raiders’ 33-16 victory on Sunday afternoon.

His players understood the moment and honored it once victory was secure. Quarterback Derek Carr gave Del Rio a game ball after his triumphant return to old stomping grounds.

Jacksonville’s a place Del Rio will remember always fondly.

“(There were) a lot of great memories here,” Del Rio said. “It was a great place to spend nine years raising the family and being blessed with the opportunity to lead the Jaguar franchise. I was very appreciative of that time. I met a lot of good folks here; a lot of good memories, a lot of good friends. It is good to come back here and get a good effort in this stadium.”

That’s as reflective as Del Rio would openly get during this process, which comes as no shock to the players who work with him every day.

“Coach is cool, calm and conservative,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “The motto is the same each week, even here (in Jacksonville). We want to come out and dominate. That was the whole focus for him. He didn’t worry about coming back. Everybody knew he had history here, but we were concentrated only on getting that win.”