Here's to every empty seat in NFL stadiums, may their numbers multiply


Here's to every empty seat in NFL stadiums, may their numbers multiply

Both the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers play exhibition games this week at home, and it is safe to say that each will outdraw the Los Angeles Chargers’ first glorified scrimmage for live people. I mean, how hard is it to exceed 21,054?

But I come not to condemn the 5,946 fans who did not buy tickets to see the Chargers lose to Seattle in the teram's new stadium-ette, but to praise them. Theirs is the truer statement.

If those seats went unsold because exhibition football is a contemptible scam that more and more people are understanding as such, good that they didn’t go. If those seats went unsold because Chargers fans are still upset at losing their team, good that they skipped it. If those seats went unsold because the in-game experience is clearly inferior to the on-couch experience, good on that, too.

Whatever the reason (and we know it wasn’t Michael Bennett’s decision to sit out the anthem), here’s to every empty seat. May their numbers multiply.

And why, you ask, is this a good thing? Well, an absent fan is making a statement about being a smart consumer, about fan dissatisfaction, about not being a sheep, about not buying into the myth that only bad fans skip games.

Good fans skip games because they are saying, “Your job is to entertain me, not the other way around. You have failed to meet your burden. Do better.” Whether it means more wins, shorter lines, cheaper prices or superior customer service, those chairs convey the message that whatever is being sold isn’t being bought, and football has always sold the notion that it is the event that cannot be missed when clearly, it can. Why else would they now declare that a stadium capacity that is 85 percent sold out is officially “sold out.”

Or maybe this is the message that the in-house attendance is no longer so important except as an ancillary revenue source. That is certainly part of the message behind the Raiders going to Las Vegas – the introduction of the regional franchise whose audience streams from home rather than schleps to a publicly-extorted stadium.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s just America’s way of parroting the old Mark Cuban line, “Pigs get fed and hogs get butchered.” We can only hope.

Either way, every empty seat at the Coliseum or the Palais du Jed this weekend is to be feted as the customer statement it actually is. And if there are no empty seats (an unlikely notion but still), then that will be a statement too.

A statement that for games that don’t matter, there’s one born every miunute.

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain


Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Raiders are remarkably healthy heading into Sunday night’s game against the Washington football club.

The entire 53-man roster practiced fully on Friday, before heading to the nation’s capital.

That includes veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who missed the previous game with a neck injury. A shoulder ailment cropped up during the week, which prompted the Raiders to label him questionable heading into Week 3. Smith’s the only Raider on the injury report, and even he’s in decent shape.

“I mean we put it on there because there’s still a little bit of a question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You don’t have probable’s anymore. Given the choices, I just left him that way.”

That means the Raiders are going to have some healthy scratches a week after Smith was the only injured player sitting out.

Washington has some impact players on the mend. That included tight end Jordan Reed, who is questionable with a rib/sternum injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 246 pounds and is the type of receiving tight end that gives the Raiders fits. He has 1,638 yards 17 touchdowns the last two seasons, using good hands and a large frame to create mismatches in the secondary.

It’ll be key for the Raiders to defend him well if he’s active, with Nicholas Morrow as a primary coverage option.

“We’re prepared to face him,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a good player. We’ll approach it that way and adjust if he doesn’t go.”

Washington also lists starting inside linebacker Mason Foster and running back Rob Kelley as questionable.

Raiders Injury Report
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report

TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Monate Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder)

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph notched his first career forced fumble in Week 2’s blowout victory over the New York Jets. It came on his first sack, where he bent around a tackle into the pocket and devoured his pray.

Joseph recovered the ball, and the Raiders quickly scored a touchdown. The second-year pro enjoyed that moment, but left the game with regrets.

"I should have definitely had more sacks than I did,” Joseph said. “I feel like I should have had three.”

Joseph had quarterback Josh McCown in the crosshairs three times, and feels like he should’ve finished each one. The game plan provided opportunity. Joseph blitzed six times – fellow safety Reggie Nelson attacked thrice – and pressured the quarterback four times.

It was a relatively new responsibility, considering he blitzed nine times all last year. Joseph will be first to say he was a different player then. He was less explosive, more tentative and a smidge less confident, lingering effects from an ACL tear during his final college season. Joseph was cleared to play as a rookie but wasn’t all the way back, doubly hampered by missing an offseason program where rookies grow quick.

"I wasn’t completely myself,” Joseph said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California. “I feel a lot more like myself this year. I obviously feel better physically, and the year of experience in the system has definitely helped. So has adjusting to the NFL life. That’s been an easier transition for me.”

Joseph is playing more like his highlight reel from West Virginia, where he proved a heavy hitter and a solid cover man worthy of last year’s No. 14 overall draft pick. The Jets game isn’t the only evidence of that.

Joseph had an excellent training camp, flashing an aggressive style and solid timing making plays in practice. That translated to the regular-season opener at Tennessee, when he saved a touchdown on consecutive plays. The first came on an open-field tackle. The second was a leaping pass breakup in the end zone, proof positive that Joseph was ready to make a big impact.

"He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”

The Raiders recognize that, and are using him like a queen on the chessboard. He can move back or forward, as an attacker or the last line of defense. He’s a rover at times, with an ability to create havoc at all levels of the defense.

Joseph is an excellent fit for the defensive scheme, bring a tone-setting physicality to the secondary. He is learning, as part of his development, that the nuclear option isn’t always best. There are times when it is, and Joseph enters those scenarios without fear.

"You can’t play worried about getting hurt. That’s not the way I play,” Joseph said. “It’s about being smart. I had to adjust my game coming into the NFL. Every hit can’t be a big hit. Sometimes you have to be smart and just wrap people up, but you can’t ever play scared.”

He isn’t afraid to take risks or attack when asked, and is already making a major impact on this year’s defense. That isn’t a surprise. It’s expected of first-round picks.

"That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to make plays,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well. There are still things, like I tell you all the time, that have cleaning up to do, work to do, things to improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously it follows up from a good offseason. Healthy, a lot of good work and confidence that he’s gaining as we go.”