AFC West: Jon Condo

NAPA, Calif. – The moment Shane Lechler left the Oakland Raiders for the Houston Texans last year, long snapper Jon Condo knew Sebastian Janikowski would have a “down” season.

Even if he was coming off his best season.

The only holder Janikowski had known since entering the NFL as a first-round draft pick in 2000 was headed to the Houston Texans, and the place-kicker known as "SeaBass" had not handled change well in his career. As least, that’s what Condo found.

[+] EnlargeSebastian Janikowski, Marquette King
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsSebastian Janikowski and Marquette King are developing better chemistry after a rocky 2013.
Condo took note that in two of Janikowski’s worst field-goal kicking seasons in terms of misses, the Raiders’ all-time leading scorer dealt with foreign territory. Janikowski missed 10 field-goal attempts in his rookie season and nine in 2007, Condo’s first year as the long snapper.

So with his security blanket gone to Houston and a newbie taking over Lechler’s holding duties in Marquette King, it made sense that Janikowski would struggle again.

Indeed, a year after converting a career-high 91.2 percent (31 of 34, with misses coming from 51, 61 and 64 yards), Janikowski missed nine field-goal attempts in 2013.

“Bass, he’s mentally tough and all that,” Condo said, “but it’s a comfort thing and it’s a trust thing.”

Janikowski, who signed a four-year contract extension last summer, still has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, and much of the blame last season fell on King, who grew weary of the talk. Even a few weeks back, on the day the Raiders reported to training camp, King said he could “not really remember” when asked about the purported issues between himself and Janikowski.

Janikowski made just 70 percent (21 of 30) of his field goals in his first year with King as his holder after converting 89.9 percent (62 of 69) in his previous two seasons with Lechler holding. The left-footed Janikowski even missed two attempts from inside 40 yards last season, a distance from which he had only missed one kick since 2007.

The way Condo put it, all it would take to send his kicker down a doubtful path would be just one bad hold from King. Even if everything else went perfect the rest of the game.

Condo’s advice? “Trust yourself,” he said was his counsel to Janikowski. “Trust your steps.”

To the surprise of many at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, Janikowski showed up two months early this offseason to get in extra work with King. Two weeks into training camp, and before the Raiders’ exhibition opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night, the two seem to be connecting.

“Timing,” Janikowski told Associated Press, when asked what the issue was with King in 2013. “Our timing was off. Marquette, me and Condo, we hadn’t worked much … just timing, the confidence. Just the trust.

“You stay with the same guy for (13) years, the trust is there. You don’t have to think about it going on the field.”

And now?

“It’s much better,” Janikowski said. “Marquette’s been working his (behind) off. He’s holding every day -- 50, 100 times -- so hopefully it shows up on the field.”

New assistant special teams coach Chris Boniol, himself a former NFL kicker, has helped bridge the gap between kicker and holder.

“Chris has a way of being able to relate to those guys and talk to them on a level where they can understand what he’s trying to get accomplished,” said coach Dennis Allen. “To (Janikowski’s) credit, he’s taken to all of that and done everything that we’ve asked him to do.”

Janikowski, 36, also holds personal goals.

He is within striking distance of the NFL record for most field goals of at least 50 yards -- Jason Hanson had 52 for the Detroit Lions from 1992 through 2012; Janikowski has 45.

And after tying the record for longest field goal with that 63-yarder in Denver in 2011, the Broncos’ Matt Prater booted a 64-yarder last season to set a new standard.

“It’s a challenge,” Janikowski said.

Though maybe not as challenging as King attempting to truly break into the inner sanctum of Janikowski, who has twin girls, and Condo, who became a father seven months ago.

“Hey, you want to hang out?” Condo said he told King. “You’ve got to have a kid.”

The 25-year-old King’s response, per Condo: “What if I just got a dog?”

Condo laughed.

“The relationship is starting to develop a little bit,” he said. “The trust factor, so far in camp, we have a good rhythm going right now.”
NAPA, Calif. -- Marcel Reece was about to be presented with the Oakland Raiders “Commitment to Excellence Award” in March and NFL free agency was about to begin.

The two-time Pro Bowl fullback wanted general manager Reggie McKenzie to make “Raider-ass moves” with his signings, fearless moves, though Reece, who has been in Oakland since 2008, was also leery

“I’m not expecting them to come in and set the tone on how to be a Raider; they don’t know how to be a Raider,” Reece said that evening. “I’m looking forward to setting that tone and whoever comes in that locker room is going to work like us.”

[+] EnlargeJustin Tuck
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsJustin Tuck is one of a handful of new Raiders who has been to and won a Super Bowl.
Paging the likes of Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, James Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Kevin Boothe and Donald Penn, while summoning the acquired-in-a-trade Matt Schaub .

Together, the eight tote a combined six Super Bowl rings and 10 Pro Bowl appearances. Yeah, they know how to win.

The likes of Reece, Darren McFadden, Tyvon Branch and Jon Condo, meanwhile, know what it means to represent the Raiders, but they have never experienced a winning season in Oakland.

“In years past, the leadership was not the best,” Condo said. “Guys that are coming in…the young guys are looking at them and the vets are showing them, this is how you practice. This is how you study. This is how you prepare your bodies for the 16-game season. The way people go about their business, you see true professionalism on and off the field, doing the right things.

“Not to rag on what’s been here in the past, but it just seems like there was just a cycle with how veterans would act and young guys would look at that and think, ‘That’s what it takes to be a pro.’ And it wasn’t really the right way to be a pro.

“Now, you bring in the right guys and they are teaching the young guys how to be a pro and they’re going to carry it on three, four, five, six seven, eight, 10 years … to the draft classes.”

According to Tuck, there has been no push back from the older Raiders players.

“It’s not like we’re coming in here acting like we know everything; we don’t,” Tuck said. “We’re still learning ourselves. It’s never going to be a situation where, ‘Oh, y’all doing this wrong.’ We’re trying to work together

“At the end of the day, it has to be the Raider way … all the guys that they brought in know the history of the Raiders. … You found yourself fascinated by the silver and black and all the great players that played here and Al Davis and all the characters in Raider history.

“Now, it’s just a work in progress.”

Jones-Drew grew up in the East Bay a Raiders fan. So his coming home carried extra meaning, even if it meant playing for a team that has not been to the playoffs or won more than eight games in a season since 2002.

“The Raider way has always been winning,” he said. “But I think every franchise goes through some tough times. The guys they brought in had that Raider mentality already … doing whatever it takes to win. It was a great mix of guys, the correct mix of guys.”

And it’s not just the longer-tenured Raiders or youngsters who are paying attention to the new silver and black Jedi in town.

“We won one year in Jacksonville, so if Tuck comes in and says something, I’m going to listen … regardless if it’s against what I want to do or not,” Jones-Drew said. “They know what it takes to get to that next level, so you’ve got to be selfess and listen. And I think we’ve got a lot of guys that are doing that and it’s awesome.”

But will it translate into more than moral victories?

What's eating SeaBass?

October, 21, 2013
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No one is perfect, but Sebastian Janikowski, AKA “Automatic SeaBass,” has been as sure a thing for the Raiders as the sun rising in the east.

But with the place-kicker’s alarming accuracy issues this season, is the sun starting to set on Janikowski as Oakland’s most dependable weapon?

Janikowski, the Raiders’ first-round draft pick in 2000, entered the 2013 season with a career field-goal conversion rate of 80.6 percent, with 75 attempts from 50 yards or longer. Thus far this season, he is 7-for-11 (a career-worst 63.6 percent) overall, 1-3 from 50 or more.

Knee-jerk reaction? Maybe. Small sample size? Definitely. But this much is true: the 35-year-old Janikowski, who was signed to a four-year contract extension in training camp that will pay him upwards of $19 million through 2017, has already missed more field-goal attempts in six games this season -- four -- than he did all of last year – three.

There has been a common factor as all four misses have come when the left-footed Janikowski has kicked from the left hashmark, and the first three shanks were all wide left.

Then came last week’s misfire, the strongest leg in the game coming up short when he “toed” the ball.

Many point to Janikowski potentially having a mental block as the team breaks in a new holder in Marquette King after 13 years with Shane Lechler. Others wonder if Janikowski is still feeling the effects of calf and hamstring issues from late in camp. Hey, at least the dirt baseball infield should be gone this week, right?

Raiders special teams coach Bobby April, though, told reporters Janikowski was healthy. It all made for some interesting food for thought as the Raiders return to work Monday from their bye week to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Especially when you consider how costly Janikowski’s misses have been and, in the hindsight-is-20-20 world of sports, they could be the difference between the Raiders being 2-4 and 4-2.

A look, then, at Janikowski’s misses, and how they factored into the final result:

The game: Indianapolis Colts 21, Raiders 17

The miss: Janikowski whiffed from 48 yards as the first half of the season opener at Lucas Oil Stadium came to a close. It was his first miss from under 50 yards since 2011.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda: Not only do the Raiders pull to within 14-10 of the Colts at the half, but the Raiders would have been within 21-20 at the end of the game. And with Terrelle Pryor having led the Raiders to the Colts’ 8-yard line in the last 73 seconds, Oakland would have merely needed a chip-shot 26-yard field goal from Janikowski to upset the Colts, rather than a touchdown that never came.

The game: Raiders 19, Jacksonville Jaguars 9

The miss: Janikowski shanked it from 35 yards with 4:11 to play in the first half at the O.co Coliseum in the Raiders’ home opener. It was his first miss from under 40 yards in 54 attempts.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda: The Raiders would have gone up 10-3. No matter, Janikowski made four other field goals after the miss -- from 46, 30, 29 and 29 yards -- as Oakland cruised.

The game: Washington 24, Raiders 14

The miss: Janikowski was off from 52 yards at the 6:55 mark of the third quarter as the Raiders’ implosion under Matt Flynn, with Pryor concussed, continued in Week 4.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda: Make the 52-yarder, and the Raiders extend what had been a 14-0 lead to 17-10. Instead, Washington took advantage of the relatively short field after the miss and drove 58 yards to score a touchdown and take the 17-14 lead it would not relinquish.

The game: Kansas City Chiefs 24, Raiders 7

The miss: Janikowski raised many an eyebrow on both sidelines when he was short on his 51-yarder with 12:26 to play in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 6. Long snapper Jon Condo said he could tell by the sound of foot meeting ball Janikowski had “toed” it.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda: The 51-yarder would have given the Raiders a 3-0 lead and, coupled with Pryor’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore on their next offensive series, Oakland would have held a 10-0 advantage on the Chiefs in a game the Raiders were winning in every phase until just before the half.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Taiwan Jones, drafted to be a speedy change-of-pace back for Darren McFadden in 2011 before being converted to cornerback this offseason, has found a home on special teams.

And he’s made being a gunner on the Raiders’ punt-coverage teams somewhat fashionable.

“I think Taiwan Jones, if he’s not the best special-teams player in the league, he’s one of the best in the league,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “He’s a difference-maker in all of our coverage units.

Jones
“The type of speed that he’s got, his willingness to go down and create contact and make tackles ... those are the things that you have to have and I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Besides disrupting punt returners, often while being double-teamed, Jones has also flashed his world-class speed. On a trick play against Washington, he took the direct snap from Jon Condo after the Raiders shifted into a formation out of a punt with Jacoby Ford just off center. Jones then sped off for a 19-yard gain and a first down.

And, yes, while there was satisfaction in bursting down the left sideline on that play, his main job description is to blow up punt returns. And the way he’s been playing the position of late -- he has five tackles on the season, including two at Kansas City last weekend -- he is getting satisfaction out of it.

“I have a lot of pleasure,” he said. “I’m having fun out there. Being a gunner, it’s one of those positions where it’s not too much scheming; it’s just man on man, mano y mano out there, and whoever has the most effort out there is going to win. That’s one thing I enjoy.”

Sunday, he limited Dexter McCluster to a 1-yard punt return off a Marquette King 50-yard punt in the third quarter before stopping McCluster for a 7-yard gain on a 51-yard King punt in the fourth.

“You’ve got to watch film,” Jones said. “You’ve got to learn other team’s tendencies, key into some of the clues they give you and use them to your advantage.”

Jones said his goal is to make the Pro Bowl as a special-teamer.

“I’m shooting to be the best at what I’m doing right now,” he said.

Allen obviously believes Jones will come through on that promise.

“It means a lot because when you’re putting it out on the field every day,” Jones said, “it’s good to see your head coach notice that.”

Jones is making it easy for Allen, and opponents, to notice.

Upon Further Review: Raiders Week 6

October, 14, 2013
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An examination of four hot issues from the Oakland Raiders24-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Reed HoffmannDespite what the numbers said, Terrelle Pryor maintained, "I didn't take a beating."
Growing up? Terrelle Pryor was sacked 10 times, and the Chiefs registered 14 quarterback hits on him. Pryor carried the ball six times and gained 60 yards, but he was also picked off three times, and those interceptions resulted in 17 points for the Chiefs. You could say Pryor took a physical, as well as a mental, beating, no? “I didn’t take a beating,” he said. “I’m a big man, a grown man. They just tackled me. They got me and they made great plays. It was not a beating, though.” For what it’s worth, Pryor is listed at 6-foot-4 and 233 pounds. But you have to wonder how he rebounds from the biggest, ahem, beating of his young NFL career.

More SeaBass drama: Sebastian Janikowski has now missed more field goals (four) in six games than he did all of last season (three). And each of the left-footed kicker’s misses have come from the left hashmark. “I don’t know what the deal is with that there,” said long-snapper Jon Condo. “I mean, it’s probably just more coincidence.” Sunday’s miss, from 51 yards, was short after he seemed to stub his toe on the grass. “Right as soon as he kicks it, I can tell if he strikes it good, and I knew, I heard it,” Condo added. “Even the ball flight, you saw it kind of got up. The wind was coming the opposite way, and the rotation on it, we didn’t get a drive.”

Missed opportunities: The Raiders are rebuilding, no doubt, but they still need to learn how to tighten their grip. Two crucial mistakes cost them in the first half. First was Janikowski’s missed field-goal attempt with 12:26 to play in the first half. One series later, Pryor hit Denarius Moore for a 39-yard touchdown, meaning that had Janikowski connected earlier, the Raiders could've been looking at a 10-0 lead with their defense dominating. At least until Mistake No. 2: D.J. Hayden’s pass-interference penalty while covering Dwayne Bowe on third-and-10 from the Oakland 24-yard line. Hayden never turned to look for the ball. Kansas City went on to score a touchdown, and so what could've been a 10-3 halftime lead for Oakland was instead a 7-7 tie.

Of explosive plays VI: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by coach Dennis Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air or 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had five such plays against Kansas City (two runs and three passes), while the Chiefs had three explosive plays (one run and two passes). In six games, the Raiders have 45 explosive plays (15 runs, 30 passes), with one TD on a run and four passing scores. Oakland’s opponents, meanwhile, have 41 explosive plays combined (nine runs and 32 passes) with a touchdown each running and passing.
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Three Oakland Raiders players entering their contract years with the team have already been signed to extensions, and Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said Wednesday he has reached out to the agents left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston.

“Make no bones about it, we want to sign as many of our good players as we can,” McKenzie said. “With the cap is the way it is this year, we won’t have a chance to do a whole lot with big-money guys like those two guys. It’d be highly unlikely we could do two, but at least we’re in a situation next year to retain some of our high-dollar guys.”

Veldheer is on the partial-season injured reserve list after undergoing surgery on a torn left triceps during the preseason. He has not had any setbacks and has yet to perform football-related activities, though he is a constant observer at practice.

McKenzie, who held a half-hour roundtable meeting with seven Bay Area-based reporters, signed long-snapper Jon Condo and place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski to extensions in training camp and announced a three-year extension for fullback Marcel Reece on Friday.

“We’re working diligently to keep our own,” McKenzie said.

Another player in his contract year who has much to prove as he has yet to play more than 13 games in a season: sixth-year running back Darren McFadden.

Then how important is it for McFadden to stay healthy this season to be considered a player McKenzie wants back in 2014?

“He knows it’s important,” McKenzie said. “He wants to be out there, he wants to show what he can do for the year. It’s important because contracts are important to players.

“Definitely not going to take that outlook away from him or any other player. Everybody wants to play well so they can get that contract.”

Locker Room Buzz: Oakland Raiders

September, 8, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Observed in the locker room after the Oakland Raiders’ 21-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

No moral victories: Everyone from coach Dennis Allen to the anointed starting quarterback in Terrelle Pryor to the last inactive player sang the same verse -- there are no moral victories in the NFL. And yet, the feeling of promise was palpable in the locker room after such a heart-wrenching loss to a playoff team.

Stimmed up: Tight end Jeron Mastrud cramped up on the second catch of his NFL career, a 41-yard pickup late in the fourth quarter, and went down in a heap on the play. He had electrical stim wires attached to both hamstrings as he conducted postgame interviews.

Some veteran advice: First-year punter Marquette King wishes he had two punts back, as well as his hold on place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski's miss from 48 yards. No wonder, then, he was listening intently to the counsel of long-snapper Jon Condo at his locker after the game. “It was kind of weird,” King said. “I got blasted; kind of a welcome-to-the-NFL hit.”

Pryor soaks it in: Allen announced Pryor would be the starting quarterback going forward and after his performance, in which he passed for 217 yards and rushed for 112 more, Pryor refused to gloat. He said he was disappointed in himself. Especially his two interceptions. “Geez, man,” Pryor said. “We almost had them. Geez.”
Charles WoodsonAP Photo/Matthew HintonDefensive back Charles Woodson is the Raiders' lone representative on ESPN.com's top-100 list.
Today, the Raider Nation rejoices.

One of its beloved players is getting due respect. For the first time since our 100 top offensive and defensive players in the NFL project began Monday, there is an Oakland representative.

To commemorate his return to Oakland, venerable safety Charles Woodson checks in as the 68th-best defensive player in the league. Yes, Oakland gets the love its rabid fan base so hungers. Congratulations.

Don’t get used to it.

Hate to play the spoiler role, but Woodson is the first and only player to appear on either list. He is the only Oakland defensive player on the list, and there will not be any offensive players from Oakland on the top-100 list. Oft-injured running back Darren McFadden had some momentum, but he did not make the list.

One Oakland player in the top 200? Here’s a little perspective: The Raiders’ Bay Area rival, San Francisco, has three defensive players in the top 11. All four of Seattle’s defensive backs made the top 100.

Is this Raider hating? I’d doubt that’s the case. ESPN enlisted 63 voters, including former players and reporters (I was one of the voters). We graded more than 500 NFL players and the results were tabulated. I can assure you there was nothing sinister at work.

Woodson stands alone because a large group collectively thought he was the only Raider who was deserving.

It’s no shock Oakland doesn’t have much representation on this list. These have been hard times for the Pride and Poise. Oakland hasn’t had a winning record since 2002, and it is tied for the second-longest current playoff drought in the NFL.

Oakland is considered to have one of the weakest, thinnest rosters in the NFL heading into the 2013 season. General manager Reggie McKenzie, in his second season as the replacement to the late Al Davis, is basically starting over. It hasn’t been easy for McKenzie.

He inherited a terrible salary-cap situation and a dearth of draft picks because of poor decisions made in the Davis era. The result is a bare-bones team. And, yes, a roster not worthy of getting much top-100 recognition.

“It is as bad as it looks in Oakland,” ESPN analyst Matt Williamson said.

Gary Horton of Scouts Inc. agrees. He was not shocked to see Oakland nearly get snubbed.

“I liken them to a Triple-A baseball team right now,” Horton said. “They lost so many players to free agency because of the cap restrictions and all they have replaced them with are bargain-basement free agents. It’s going to be rough there.”

Still, both Williamson and Horton believe McKenzie’s plan of starting over is the right thing to do, because he has no choice.

While the recent past has been bleak and the immediate future doesn’t show much promise, McKenzie’s plan could help infuse some more talent on the roster. The Raiders may have a surplus of $69 million in salary-cap room next year.

That doesn’t necessarily mean McKenzie will spend wildly and build an instant Pro Bowl roster. His front-office roots are in Green Bay, and he has said he will subscribe to the Packer way as he reconstructs Oakland’s roster. That means keeping his own players first. McKenzie has shown that philosophy this summer by locking up potential free agents kicker Sebastian Janikowski and long-snapper Jon Condo to long-term deals. Other players, such as injured left tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive end Lamarr Houston and fullback Marcel Reece, could also be candidates to be re-signed before they hit free agency.

While the program is clearly in tough shape, it would be inaccurate to portray this roster as talentless. There are about 1,900 players in the league, and some of the good ones do don Silver and Black.

There is promise. In addition to the above-mentioned players, Oakland building blocks include center Stefen Wisniewski, young receivers Rod Streater and Denarius Moore, safety Tyvon Branch, cornerback D.J. Hayden, offensive tackle Menelik Watson and linebacker Sio Moore.

The cupboard is not bare. But the truth is there are few established stars currently playing in Oakland. McKenzie knows it is his job to develop them.

“When I first got to Green Bay, there wasn’t a bunch of studs there,” McKenzie said. “Then we got Brett Favre and then we got Reggie White. And things started to look a little better. Right now, we have to turn some of these guys into studs and keep building. That’s the only way this thing is going to work.”

Playing AFC West catch up

August, 5, 2013
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Here are some thoughts from around the division on the happenings that occurred while I was attending to a family matter the past few days:

Kansas City

Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson caused a stir when he said he thought Alex Smith was the best quarterback in the NFL.

My thoughts?

Pederson loves his guy and he supports him. That is great, but it’s difficult to give that statement any credence. Smith is fine. He is an upgrade from what the Chiefs previously had at quarterback. To suggest he’s the premier quarterback in the league is simply silly.

Oakland

The Raiders signed kicker Sebastian Janikowski and long snapper Jon Condo to extensions. Smart moves.

They are premier players at their position. These moves are indications of better days ahead for the franchise. The team is getting out of salary-cap jail and will be able to lock up other core players in the coming moves.

Don’t be surprised if you soon see players such as Lamarr Houston, Jared Veldheer, Jacoby Ford, Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece getting new deals. The first step of rebuilding this team is keeping its better players. Oakland has been unable to do that in recent years.

San Diego

The Chargers are reportedly trying to extend the contract of linebacker Donald Butler. Great move, Butler is a burgeoning star. He’d be very popular on the open market.

The combination of Butler and rookie Manti Te’o could be special. Locking up Butler is a must.
Running back Peyton Hillis signed with Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The 27-year-old spent last season with the Chiefs, but the new Kansas City regime had no interest in bringing him back. The Chiefs took running back Knile Davis (from Hillis’ alma mater, Arkansas) in the third round as a backup for star Jamaal Charles.

The previous regime brought Hillis to Kansas City on a one-year deal, with the idea of him being a dynamic backup to Charles. Hillis, a former standout in Cleveland, had 309 yards on 85 carries last season.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs suffered a blow on the first day of rookie training camp. The Kansas City Star reported that the team's fifth-round pick, defensive back Sanders Commings, fractured his left collarbone and will likely miss all of camp. He has a chance to help this season, but this is surely a setback. Commings had a strong offseason session.

In other AFC West notes:

The Raiders cut cornerback Coye Francies and linebacker Travis Goethel -- Francies because of a failure to disclose a physical condition. Both were backups last year. Goethel was once considered a promising prospect, but injuries derailed his Raiders career. He will most be remembered in Oakland for a disastrous night as a long-snapper in the opening loss to San Diego last season, after standout Jon Condo was hurt.

Buffalo cut pass-rusher Mark Anderson. He was injured last season. He had 10 sacks for the Patriots in 2011. Oakland needs a pass-rusher badly; perhaps it could show some interest in Anderson.

ESPN.com columnist Jeffri Chadiha thinks the Broncos can handle a four-game NFL suspension of star linebacker Von Miller.
San Diego general manager Tom Telesco told a San Diego radio station that he is happy with his group of quarterbacks when asked if he’d ever have interest in signing free-agent quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tebow’s offensive coordinator in Denver was new San Diego coach Mike McCoy. Telesco’s position doesn’t surprise me. I just don’t see the Tebow fit in San Diego.

Meanwhile, for what it is worth, the Chargers’ addition of former Green Bay inside linebacker D.J. Smith last week was a waiver claim and not a free-agent signing. He is recovering from a knee injury, but he is expected to be able to help early in the season. He will probably play special teams and be a key backup now that Manti Te'o has been drafted to start.

In other AFC West notes:

The Baltimore Sun reports the Raiders signed long-snapper Nick Guess. He is being brought in for camp. He was with Oakland for a brief time last year when Jon Condo was hurt.

In an Insider piece: Mel Kiper thinks tight end Mychal Rivera, a sixth-round pick, can help the Raiders . Rivera will get a chance to play because the Raiders have a need at the position.
Here are some highlights of our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Wednesday:

DENVER

Spencer from Denver: Is Denver's biggest need MLB? I know weapons for Peyton would be nice but Brooking is 37!

Bill Williamson: Yeah, every layer of the D needs a little more help. I'd say MLB may be the greatest need.

KANSAS CITY

Steve from Alabama: In your opinion, will Dwayne Bowe be a Chief next year?

BW: If I had to guess, I'd say yes. Andy Reid is a pass-first coach and Bowe is by far his best receiver. giving Bowe what he wants to send a strong, positive message to Reid's new locker room.

OAKLAND

Mike from NJ: I continue to think all-pro long snapper Jon Condo might be a cap casualty(1 mil), your thoughts?

BW: Every team should be able to handle the snapper's contract. Didn't he prove his value in Week 1?

SAN DIEGO

Nick from Florida: With some key cuts the chargers could very well end up being in the 16m cap range, any decent( not huge signings)FA names pop up for you that the chargers could sign?

BW: Start with the best names on the O-line.

Blog note: It’s time for a little post-season downtime. I won’t be on the blog much between now and Tuesday morning. In the meantime, I will have some posts and our blog editing team will file news updates. Talk to you soon.
SAN DIEGO -- I’m just about to head to Qualcomm Stadium for the Titans-Chargers game, but before I do, here are some quick hits from around the AFC West:

Oakland has its snapper back. Jon Condo will long snap for the Raiders at Miami. He left last week’s home loss to San Diego with a concussion and was replaced by the inexperienced Travis Goethel. He botched three snaps that directly led to nine Chargers’ points in a 22-14 San Diego win.

As expected, Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers will make his season debut after being out since late July with a foot injury.

Also, as expected, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Chargers’ running back Ryan Mathews is not going to play Sunday. He is expected to play next week. He broke his clavicle Aug. 9.

Talk to you soon.

Raiders make several moves official

September, 15, 2012
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I arrived in San Diego on Saturday to some predictable news from the Oakland Raiders.

Even though it was expected, the news that No. 3 receiver and kick returner Jacoby Ford is out for the year stings for the Raiders. Ford, who missed six of the final seven games of last season with a foot injury, suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot in the preseason. He had surgery this week.

Oakland coach Dennis Allen told reporters this week he likes his five receivers. Yet, Oakland will miss Ford’s explosion. In other expected moves, Oakland put cornerback Ronald Bartell on the injured reserve, but he was given the designation that he can come back later this season. He is expected back in six weeks. He broke his left shoulder blade against the Chargers.

Oakland signed long snapper Nick Guess and cornerback Coye Francies. Guess was signed to long snap if Condo is not cleared to play. He suffered a concussion against the Chargers.

It will be interesting to see how Guess does. He is inexperienced in the NFL but at least he is a long snapper. Reserve linebacker Travis Goethel, who was pressed into duty, had three bad snaps that directly resulted in nine points for the Chargers in their 22-14 victory over the Raiders.

In other AFC West news:

The Chargers promoted cornerback Greg Gatson from the practice squad because they are banged up at the position. Veteran offensive lineman Reggie Wells was cut to make room for Gatson. Wells was recently signed and could always be brought back when the Chargers get healthy at cornerback.

Denver has listed nickel cornerback Chris Harris as questionable to play Monday night at Atlanta with an ankle injury. He did not practice all week.

Flowers might be on track to play

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
5:35
PM ET
There is no guarantee Brandon Flowers will make his season debut Sunday at Buffalo, but there are signs that he will be on the field.

The Chiefs have listed Flowers as questionable to play Sunday. He has been out with a foot injury since July 31. Flowers has practiced fully the past two days. Also, backup cornerback Jalil Brown is questionable with a groin injury.

There are four Chiefs out, though. They are defensive tackle Anthony Toribio (ankle). Safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder), receiver Devon Wylie (hamstring) and defensive lineman Allen Bailey (ankle).

However, if the Chiefs get Flowers back, it will be a big boost. Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel told reporters Friday that Flowers could be eased back into action.

“I think that you have to kind of temper it and know that conditioning will be a factor, and if the guy is able to play, you may have to monitor his reps,” Crennel said. “Then, some of that will depend on how the game goes. Probably asking him to play 100 plays would not be the thing to do, but if you can mix in here and there and give him a break now and then, then maybe he can get through a game.”

In other AFC West news:

Oakland long snapper Jon Condo practiced on a limited basis. If he is not cleared to play by Sunday, Nick Guess will be promoted from the practice squad. Linebacker Rolando McClain (ankle) and running back Taiwan Jones (ribs) both practiced on a limited basis and are questionable to play. Receiver Denarius Moore is probable after missing several weeks with a hamstring injury. The Raiders are expected to ease him back into action Sunday.

The Chargers announced they have sold enough tickets to avoid a local television blackout Sunday against Tennessee in their home opener. The team received a 24-hour extension. The team is urging fans to wear white at the game. The Chargers will be wearing white jerseys and uniform pants.

Denver cornerback Chris Harris did not practice for the second straight day with an ankle injury. Tony Carter would be the nickel cornerback at Atlanta on Monday if Harris can’t play.

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