Sheppard hopes to shepherd young Raiders CBs

August 26, 2011, 11:36 pm
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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comNAPA -- Raiders fans pining for Nnamdi Asomugha might do a double-take when they look on the field and see a familiar No. 21 out at cornerback.Except Asomugha now plies his trade in Philadelphia and the Raiders DB sporting that number is 10th-year veteran Lito Sheppard, who was signed by Oakland Friday and practiced with the team on breaking-camp day.Generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 194 pounds, Sheppard gives up four inches and 21 pounds to Asomugha. But Sheppard's 19 career interceptions are eight more than Asomugha's total.For now, though, Sheppard, 30, is looked upon to provide leadership and experience to a dinged up and relatively youthful Raiders secondary."Once I get in shape, a little game shape," Sheppard said, "I'll definitely be a big part of whatever they have planned."RELATED: Camp report (826): Raiders break camp in Napa
Meaning Sheppard is a good addition why, exactly?"Whether I can be a leader in that aspect or (whatever), I'll definitely be out there and try to lead by example, so to say," he said. "It's just, wherever I'm needed, I'm going to give it my all."Sheppard, the Eagles' first-round pick in 2002 out of Florida, was named All-Pro and to his first Pro Bowl in 2004, when he had five interceptions and returned two for touchdowns, including one for 101 yards. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in 2006, with six picks and a 102-yard TD return.Chris Johnson has been out for more than a week with what he equated to an "oil change" and rookie DeMarcus Van Dyke did not practice Friday with a "nick," leaving Oakland's cornerbacks even thinner than usual."In my opinion, we would have brought him in anyway," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said of Sheppard. "What you're seeing is a guy who was sitting out there. As I keep saying, we're going to continue to improve our football team from top to bottom."The roster is still ongoing. Until we continue to turn over every rock and uncover everything we can, we're going to look for good football players and improve our team. That's all it is. Lito is a tremendous football player, and we're glad to have him."Sheppard is also comfortable playing the Raiders' noted man-to-man brand of base defense."That's what I primarily did the majority of my career," he said. "It's definitely tough on the corners but hey, that's what I do. That's what got me into this league and obviously, that's what's going to keep me around or take me out."Oakland is the former elite cornerback's fourth team in four years. He was last a full-time starter in 2007 and since 2008 Sheppard has played for the Eagles, the New York Jets and Minnesota, starting 14 of the 40 games in which he's appeared.That's why he sees this opportunity as a potential jumpstart for his career."The past couple years, I don't think I've been given a fair opportunity to do that and this is one that, hey, it's pretty open for whoever steps up," said Sheppard, who also worked out for the New York Giants this summer."I'm welcoming the challenge and, hopefully, I can make the most of it."