Routt wins early battle, Raiders win the war

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Routt wins early battle, Raiders win the war

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KANSAS CITY -- They tried to say the politically correct things."I don't care," said Darrius Heyward-Bey. "It's about the Raiders and the Chiefs.""It's not about Stanford Routt," barked Brandon Myers."It wasn't anything deeper than what you all are trying to make it out to be," said the man himself, Stanford Routt.Except, the subplot of Routt, a Raiders cornerback for the first seven years of his NFL career, playing against his first team for the first time since it cut him in a cost-cutting move was the most delicious of the day. Especially after Carson Palmer went after him on the first play of the game with a bomb down the left sideline, and Routt picked it off -- after his twice pushing off Darrius Heyward-Bey was not called by the officials.Yes, Routt won that battle, but the Raiders won the game, 26-16, before a silenced and stunned Arrowhead Stadium crowd.INSTANT REPLAY: Raiders 26, Chiefs 16
Palmer, though, was not into much subterfuge on this day."We tried to set the tone early," Palmer said, "let him know what kind of day it was going to be."We were going to come in and attack him. Later, they did a good job clouding his side and double-covering with the safety on some plays. We had a specific game plan and stuck to it."And there it is. Palmer was not being boastful, mind you, merely taking off the PC filter and breaking it down. Because after Routt's initial interception, the Raiders went right back at him. And went at him some more.Both of the Raiders' touchdowns occurred with Routt in the vicinity, if not outright covering the play.The first time, Palmer threaded the needle between Routt and Brandon Flowers and hit Denarius Moore in the back of the end zone with 49 seconds remaining in the first half to give the Raiders a 13-6 lead.The second time, Palmer hit Heyward-Bey on an out pattern on the left sideline. Heyward-Bey easily shook Routt, who attempted to tackle him by the feet, and was gone for a 32-yard touchdown catch and run that put the Raiders up 23-9 with 5:40 to play in the third quarter."I figured they'd try me," said Routt, who also picked up an illegal contact penalty on 3rd and 7 late in the first quarter to give the Raiders a first down."But you think about that with every quarterback and every team you go against as a corner."Earlier in the week, Raiders safety Mike Mitchell joked that he wanted Palmer to go after Routt, to make him earn his money after Routt had told him he'd be getting paid by half the AFC West this year.Two offseasons ago, Routt was re-signed by Al Davis to a three-year, 31.5-million deal, with 20 million guaranteed, before re-structuring to a five-year, 54.5-million contract in 2011 training camp with the same 20 million guaranteed. Due a 5 million base salary for 2012 new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie cut Routt, on Feb. 9, the day before a 5 million "signing bonus" was to kick in.Perhaps this was one of the "out-of-whack" contracts of which McKenzie spoke?Eleven days later, Routt with the Chiefs a reported three-year, 20-million deal with 4 million guaranteed.Yes, Mitchell had a point.So, honestly, were the Raiders targeting Routt specifically, or was it all just one big coincidence?"I mean it was just part of how the game played out," insisted Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "We wanted to be able to take a couple of shots over there. But I think the game just dictated, based on what they were playing, the ball went over there a little more often."It was the right thing to say, even if it wasn't completely forthcoming.

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

Donald Penn: Raiders players trust McKenzie will add right pieces

The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.

They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.

Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.

“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”

While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.

The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.

“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.

"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Raiders LT Donald Penn: QB Derek Carr 'almost 100 percent'

Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.

Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.

Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.

“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”

Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.

“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”