NFL Nation: Steve Wisniewski

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- While Tim Brown is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the fifth consecutive year and is deserving of being inducted, the former Oakland Raiders receiver may not be the most, let’s say, worthy candidate of former Raiders.

Now, that’s not a slap at Brown, who certainly had a Canton-worthy career with eye-popping stats. It’s just that the manner in which the Hall’s 46-member selection committee chooses the enshrinees sets up a logjam that have many just-as-deserving candidates biding their time and waiting for the seniors committee to come their way with a life preserver.

That’s how Ray Guy, the punter who changed the game, is likely to get in this year ... as one of two senior candidates to join the 15 finalists the committee votes on to elect its class the day before the Super Bowl. It will be a class of between four and seven members.

One observer’s opinion, then, of 10 Raiders deserving of having busts in Canton, and garish gold jackets in their wardrobe ...

[+] EnlargePlunkett/Flores
AP PhotoCoach Tom Flores and QB Jim Plunkett won Super Bowl XV and XVIII together.
1) Jim Plunkett -- The ultimate Lazarus tale who won not one, but two Super Bowl titles after being given up on by not one, but two franchises. The quarterback’s career stats compare to those of Joe Namath’s and, oh yeah, Plunkett won twice as many titles as Broadway Joe. You cannot tell the story of the NFL in full without mentioning Plunkett’s tale. His fate now rests with the seniors committee.

2) Tom Flores -- The first minority coach to win a Super Bowl (I bet you thought that title went to Tony Dungy, right?), Flores won two titles as the Raiders’ head coach and, truly, it’s hard to separate him from Plunkett as they accomplished so much together. Still, Flores owns four rings total (two as head coach, a third as an assistant on John Madden’s SB XI-winning staff and the fourth as Len Dawson’s backup in SB IV).

3) Ray Guy -- A trailblazer who made opponents plan for a punter, Guy likely gets in this year as a seniors committee nominee. If so, it would be an honor long overdue and he would be the first true punter to get into Canton. Oh yeah, and he was also a first-round draft pick, was on all three Raiders Super Bowl championship teams and his athletic punt in SB XVIII was a game-saving play.

4) Cliff Branch -- Speed kills, right? A key member of all three of the Raiders’ Super Bowl title teams, the receiver’s snub remains a mystery. Especially when you compare his stats to those of Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. Branch caught 501 passes for 8,685 yards (17.3 yards per catch average) and 67 TDs in 14 seasons; Swann had 336 catches for 5,462 yards (16.3) and 51 TDs in nine seasons.

[+] EnlargeTim Brown
AP Photo/Al GolubTim Brown is No. 5 all-time in receptions (1,094) and No. 6 in career receiving yards (14,943).
5) Tim Brown -- Spare the "what if Tim Brown switched places with Jerry Rice" arguments and simply admire Brown’s body of work. No, he never won a Super Bowl, but he did amass 1,094 receptions for 14,943 yards and 100 TDs in 17 years. He deserves a spot in Canton, no doubt. It’s just, among former Raiders, he should take a number.

6) Ken Stabler -- The Snake was the embodiment of the 1970s Raiders as an unorthodox left-handed quarterback. Winning only one Super Bowl shouldn’t be held against him, right? He’s already been a finalist for the Hall three times but his legend is getting lost in the fog of time. Someone had to throw all those passes to the already-enshrined Fred Biletnikoff and Branch in the Disco Decade.

7) Lester Hayes -- The Judge was a self-described Jedi Knight of Silver and Blackdom. Opponents simply saw him as a physical cornerback dripping with Stickum who intercepted 13 passes in 1980. He’s been a Hall finalist four times already, but not since 2004, and was second-team all-1980s by the Hall despite retiring in 1986. With two rings, he was an impact player.

8) Dave Dalby -- He replaced Jim Otto and started at center for all three of the Raiders’ title teams. Dalby, though, was unappreciated as he was selected to just one Pro Bowl, in 1977. He was the anchor of a line early in his 14-year career that had Hall of Famers on his left in guard Gene Upshaw and tackle Art Shell.

9) Steve Wisniewski -- “Wiz” was a Hall semifinalist this past year for the first time and the left guard is sure to get more love in the future as the selection committee gives the grunts on the O-line longer looks. The eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro only missed one game in his 13-year career.

10) Jack Tatum -- One of the most ferocious and intimidating hitters of any era, hence the “Assassin” nickname, the free safety also had 37 interceptions in his 10-year career. Many critics, though, think he did not show enough remorse after his paralyzing hit of New England receiver Darryl Stingley in a 1978 preseason game.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Former Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown has been named a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for the fifth consecutive year in making the cut from 25 semifinalists to 15 finalists (plus the two seniors committee nominees).

Brown joins punter Ray Guy, who played with the Raiders from 1973-86, as two of the 17 candidates the 46-member selection committee will discuss on Feb. 1 at its annual selection meeting. Guy is one of the two senior candidates, along with Claude Humphrey.

Former Raiders guard Steve Wisniewski, a first-time semifinalist who was with the Raiders from 1989-2001, did not make the cut, and neither did Raiders running back-for-a-season Roger Craig, who played for the Raiders in Los Angeles in 1991 and is a six-time semifinalist and a finalist in 2010.

Rules stipulate that between four and seven Hall of Famers are elected every year, with an 80 percent vote ensuring election.

Brown, a nine-time Pro Bowler who was the Raiders' first-round pick in 1988 (No. 6 overall) after winning the Heisman trophy at Notre Dame, was also an all-league kick returner. But he will find competition for Canton as fellow receivers Andre Reed and Marvin Harrison, a first-year eligible nominee, were also named finalists.

Their respective pass-catching stats: Brown (1,094 receptions, 14,934 yards, 100 TDs), Reed (951 receptions, 13,198 yards, 87 TDs) and Harrison (1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, 128 TDs).

A year ago, Cris Carter was the lone receiver to be voted into the Hall.

The other 12 finalists are PK Morten Andersen, RB Jerome Bettis, LB Derrick Brooks, former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, LB/DE Kevin Greene, DE/LB Charles Haley, OT Walter Jones, S John Lynch, G Will Shields, DE Michael Strahan and CB/S Aeneas Williams.

The Raiders, meanwhile, currently recognize 21 Hall of Famers. Could Guy and/or Brown join them?

 
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Former longtime Oakland Raiders players Tim Brown and Steve Wisniewski, and Raider-for-a-season Roger Craig, are among the 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014.

Brown, whose 19,682 all-purpose yards rank fifth in NFL history, has been a finalist the past four years, while it is the first time as a semifinalist for Wisniewski, who was an eight-time Pro Bowl guard. Craig, who had his best years with the San Francisco 49ers, was a finalist in 2010.

The list of 25 was winnowed down from 126 nominees, which included former Raiders coaches Tom Flores, one of 13 coaches to have won at least two Super Bowls, and Jon Gruden.

The list of 25 semifinalists will be reduced to 15 by mail ballot to the 46 selectors, and those 15 will be announced on Jan. 8, and then be joined by the two Seniors Committee nominees as 17 finalists. Former Raiders punter Ray Guy is one of the two senior candidates.

Those 17 finalists will be discussed the day before the Super Bowl, and the final class, which will be between four and seven members, will be announced.

2011 AFC West draft rewind

February, 14, 2012
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As each team in the AFC West prepares for the NFL scouting combine next week, let’s review the AFC West 2011 draft classes:

DENVER BRONCOS

First pick: Linebacker Von Miller , No. 2 overall

Total picks: Nine

Stars: Miller was the shining star of this class. He won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award and he looks like he will be a dominant pass-rusher for years to come. Right tackle Orlando Franklin, a second-round pick, performed well as a starter and safety Quinton Carter really came on toward the end of the season. Carter was a fourth-round pick.

Dud: There is concern over safety Rahim Moore who regressed as the season went on. The second-round pick was not nearly as far along as Carter at the end of the season. Moore is a hard worker and there is hope for him, but the Broncos expected more from him.

Good start for Elway era: This was the first draft class under new Denver leader John Elway. The Broncos made some good draft decisions and the process seemed very organized. It was the first sign that Elway was prepared for his new role.

What’s the future of this class? This was a good class. Third-round pick Nate Irving will compete to start at middle linebacker and the Broncos are excited about tight ends Julius Thomas (fourth round) and Virgil Green (seventh round). Regardless of what happens with the rest of this class, Miller himself makes this group a winner.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

First pick: Receiver Jon Baldwin, No. 26

Total picks: Nine

Star: The player who created the most excitement was third-round pick Justin Houston at linebacker. He had first-round talent, but character issues dropped him to no. 70 overall. He was a playmaker, had 5.5 sacks and looks like he can be a major star.

Duds: Baldwin wasn’t terrible, but he was a disappointment because he suffered a broken thumb in a camp fight with veteran Thomas Jones. Baldwin didn’t debut until October. He showed flashes and I think he will be a fine player, but he hurt the team by fighting with Jones. It was a terrible start to his career.

Character questions? Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli had a reputation for steering clear of players with character issues. He changed course by taking Baldwin and Houston because of their draft value. It worked with Houston but the Baldwin fight raised more concerns. It will be interesting to see if Pioli takes any chances this year.

What’s the future of this class? I like it. Third-round pick Allen Bailey has a real chance to shine at defensive end and second-round pick Rodney Hudson may have a chance to start at either guard or center this season. Fifth-round pick Ricky Stanzi had a chance to be the backup quarterback this year. It was a good group.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

First pick: Guard Stefen Wisniewski, No. 48

Total picks: Eight

Stars: Wisniewski and fifth-round pick Denarius Moore at wide receiver. Wisniewski looked like an eight-year veteran. The nephew of former Raiders’ star offensive lineman and assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski was born to be a Raider and he looks like a future star. He’s bright, athletic and he has a mean streak. Moore opened eyes in camp and made a lot of plays during the season. There were plays when he simply took over and he ended up with 33 catches for 618 yards and five touchdowns. I wouldn’t be shocked if he doubles those totals in 2012.

Duds: It would be unfair to call the Raiders' third-round picks -- cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke and offensive lineman Joseph Barksdale (who Oakland traded its 2012 second-round pick to get) -- duds. But neither player made any real impact. They are projects and they have a chance to be good in the future, but they just weren’t standouts as rookies.

End of an era: This was the final draft selected by the legendary Al Davis. I have a feeling Moore may be Davis’ final gift to the Raider Nation.

What’s the future of this class? If Van Dyke, Barksdale, defensive back Chimdi Chekwa and running back Taiwan Jones can become major role players, this will be a great class. If not, Wisniewski and Moore will carry a class that didn’t feature a first-round pick. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor technically wasn’t part of the Raiders’ 2011 class because he was taken in the supplemental draft later in the summer. Drafting him cost Oakland a third-round pick in 2012. He was a rookie last season and it will be interesting to see how he develops. He was a Davis pick and the new regime may or may not like him. Either way, he is still a project.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

First pick: Defensive end Corey Liuget, No. 18.

Total picks: Eight

Stars: Liuget wasn’t great in a class that featured several impact defensive players. But he did look like somebody who will make an impact down the road. Third-round pick, receiver Vincent Brown, also showed nice progress. I think he could end up having a very solid career.

Duds: Second-round pick Marcus Gilchrist struggled at cornerback when he started. Still, his future is not lost. He could be moved to safety or perhaps he could be a nickel. The Chargers waived running back Jordan Todman. The team hoped the sixth-round pick could become the next Darren Sproles. Todman is now with Minnesota.

Back to the future? The Chargers surprisingly took Liuget even though many observers thought that San Diego would take an offensive lineman or a pass-rusher. Now, a year later, the Chargers are looking at offensive linemen and pass-rushers with the No. 18 pick.

What’s the future of this class? I think the other three classes in the division all have better potential. I’m not sure if this will ever be a great class, but Liuget and Brown can really help it. Linebacker Jonas Mouton (second round) missed the entire season with an injury. He will get a chance to play this season.

AFC West awards

February, 10, 2012
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McGahee & Johnson & FoxUS PresswireWillis McGahee, Derrick Johnson and John Fox were the best at their position in the AFC West in 2011.
Let’s wrap up the 2011 AFC West season by giving our annual awards:

MVP: Denver running back Willis McGahee

He was the best player on the surprise division champions. Denver’s running game was ranked first in the NFL and the biggest reason was the terrific season by the 30-year-old, who was one of the best free-agent signings of 2011. The Tim Tebow offense worked best when McGahee was leading the way. He finished the season with 1,199 yards on the ground and he showed great leadership.

Offensive player of the year: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers

It wasn’t Rivers’ greatest season of his career, but he straightened out toward the end of the season and ended up putting up solid numbers. If Oakland running back Darren McFadden didn’t get hurt in October, when he was on his way to this honor (or perhaps the division MVP), he would have been serious candidate. But it goes to Rivers, whom I still believe is the best overall player in the division.

Defensive player of the year: Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson

He is one of the more underrated players in the NFL. He is a tackling machine and a timely playmaker. Johnson was brilliant in 2011 as he had a career-high 131 tackles. Along with fellow Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali, Johnson is the centerpiece to a potentially standout defense.

Coach of the year: Denver coach John Fox

Fox made his impact felt immediately in Denver. A player’s coach, Fox’s easy personality was exactly what the team needed after the Josh McDaniels disaster. The Broncos went from 4-12 to 8-8 and winning the AFC West. Fox helped guide a defensive resurgence and he adjusted well to playing with Tebow. This is a growing program and Fox is a big reason why.

Comeback player of the year: Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil

There were concerns that Dumervil would be rusty and unable to make an impact in Fox’s 4-3 defense. No worries. After overcoming several inquires early in the season, Dumervil finished strong and he ended up with 9.5 sacks. Dumervil missed all of the 2010 season with a pectoral injury. But he came back strong and teamed with rookie Von Miller to become one of the best pass-rushing pairs in the NFL.

Most improved player of the year: Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey

Heyward-Bey deserves a lot of credit for the progress he made in 2011. I think he was one of the most improved players in the NFL. After catching just 35 passes in his first 26 games, Heyward-Bey had 64 catches for 975 yards in 2011. He still showed he has some issues with dropped passes, but his strides were huge and he took over some games. I can’t wait to see if can continue to make big progress.

Offensive rookie of the year: Oakland guard Stefen Wisniewski

Wisniewski looked like he was a 10-year veteran as a rookie. He is a natural player who is both athletic and intelligent. Born to be a Raider as the nephew of former Raiders great offensive lineman and current assistant coach Steve Wisniewski, Stefen Wisniewski upheld his family name well. There were times in the season when he simply took over. He was a steal at the No. 48 overall pick.

Defensive rookie of the year: Denver linebacker Von Miller

This was an easy one. Miller won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. The No. 2 overall pick in the draft was dominant before he broke his thumb in late November. He finished with 11.5 sacks. Miller needs to improve as a run-stopper, but he appears to have limitless potential and is already a team leader. Denver has to be thrilled with this pick.

Executive of the year: Denver’s John Elway

It’s early, but the results have been promising. Elway doesn’t seem to be one of those playing legends, front-office-disaster types. He has proven to be humble and hard working in his new role. Elway’s choice of Fox as coach was a winner and Denver had success in the draft and in free agency. No one expected Elway’s first year as Denver’s football leader ending up in the second round of the playoffs.

Specialist of the year: Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski

This is a significant award because I believe this may be the premier special-teams division in football. Janikowski stuck out as the best specialist in a division of specialist stars. He opened the season in style by tying the NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in Week 1 at Denver and he showed great consistency all season. He is a true weapon.
Dennis Allen’s lengthy search for a defensive coordinator in Oakland marches on.

The focus is now on Green Bay cornerback coach Joe Whitt Jr. His name emerged late Wednesday and it became even more relevant in the search when FoxSports.com reported Thursday that Greg Manusky -- fired as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator last month -- became the coordinator in Indianapolis on Thursday. He interviewed with Allen on Tuesday. Talks broke down late Wednesday and the Colts emerged.

Allen, formerly the Broncos’ defensive coordinator, has been having trouble securing a candidate. He was denied permission to talk to several candidates. The search winds its way to Whitt, who worked in Green Bay with new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie. Thus, the Green Bay coaching connection may finally develop in Oakland.

Whitt may be considered a risky choice since he is a position coach and is just 33. Normally, you’d like to see a candidate with more experience. But McKenzie clearly saw something in him and relayed it to Allen. Whitt was well respected by his players in Green Bay.

"Trust me," Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams once told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "The guy knows his stuff. He will be a coordinator or a something one day. I don't know exactly when it's going to be, but I think he's definitely going to have one of those upper spots."

We’ll see where his candidacy goes, but Allen may be running out of options, so perhaps Whitt will emerge as the guy.

Honestly, I don’t think the Raiders should be too broken up over it not working out with Manusky. I know folks in San Diego would have loved to have seen Manusky stay in the division. His one-year stint as defensive coordinator there was a disaster.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Tribune reports assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski will remain on the staff and work in some capacity with new offensive line coach Frank Pollack. Good move. Wisniewski is well respected and he did a nice job last year.
It will be interesting to see how Dennis Allen builds his staff in Oakland.

lastname
Allen
Allen, the youngest head coach in the NFL, spent only one year as a defensive coordinator in Denver. He spent the previous eight years in Atlanta and in New Orleans.

Allen’s most important hire will be offensive coordinator. With Allen's defensive background, he will need a strong offensive leader.

I’d have to think incumbent Oakland offensive coordinator Al Saunders has a solid chance of staying on. He is reportedly in Mobile, Ala., scouting the Senior Bowl for the Raiders. Allen is in Mobile, so the two will get a chance to talk immediately.

Saunders would provide stability to the Oakland offense, which is on steadier footing than the Raiders defense. Make no mistake, former head coach Hue Jackson ran the offensive show in Oakland. But Saunders is familiar with the Raiders offense and is capable of running it.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski sticks around, along with some other offensive coaches. Wisniewski is a bright, young coach and the uncle of Raiders guard Stefen Wisniewski, who was a standout out as a rookie.

Because Allen will run the defense, the defensive coordinator job is not as important. But perhaps someone such as Denver linebackers coach Richard Smith (who will also be a candidate for Allen's spot on the Broncos staff) could interest Allen.

Wiz II shining for Raiders

November, 11, 2011
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Oakland rookie Denarius Moore deservedly has been receiving a lot of kudos for his terrific performance in a Raiders’ victory at San Diego on Thursday night. However, the fifth-rounder wasn’t the only Oakland rookie who starred in the game.

Wisniewski
Wisniewski
Offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski continued an impressive rookie season, anchoring an offensive line that battered San Diego’s defensive front and paved the way for a 157-yard performance for running back Michael Bush while protecting quarterback Carson Palmer in the best game of his short Oakland stint.

Wisniewski – the 48th overall pick in the April draft -- made a seamless move from left guard to center after an injury to Samson Satele. Wisniewski was expected to be Oakland’s starting center when he was drafted, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the Raiders’ center of the future.

Switching NFL positions on the fly is not easy, particularly for a rookie — but Wisniewski handled it like a veteran. Indeed, he’s handled everything like a veteran this season. He is very polished and teammates have lauded him for his NFL readiness and his professionalism.

It makes sense. Wisniewski was born to be an NFL player, born to be Raider. His uncle, Steve Wisniewski, was a star offensive lineman for the Raiders and is now an assistant offensive line coach in Oakland.

The elder Wisniewski has to be pleased to his nephew-turned-pupil is quickly finding success in the NFL.
NAPA, Calif. -- In his first year as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Hue Jackson wants his players to understand the history of the franchise and the importance of restoring the winning tradition.

So Jackson turned on the film. And he pressed the way-back machine.

Jackson had a film produced that featured interviews with several of the team’s all-time great players like Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett and Jim Otto. Several other former Raider greats were featured including current coaches Steve Wisniewski, Rod Woodson and Greg Biekert.

Players spoke of what it meant to them to be a Raider. There were also plenty of highlights. To provide extra motivation, Jackson showed the team some highlights from the current players which he deemed were up to the standard of the Raiders of the 1970s and early 1980s.

“We’re chasing greatness,” Jackson said. “Not everyone is a Raider. I wanted them to see what it is and what it means to be a Raider. This is a special organization. There is history here and I want these guys to live up to being a Raider.”

Defensive lineman Richard Seymour said the message came through loud-and-clear.

“You could feel it,” Seymour said. “Just watching the film, showed the guys all the tradition of the this team. For me to see guys like Howe Long and Lyle Alzado, it was really inspiring.”

Jackson said it was especially powerful when film of Woodson, Wisniewski and Biekert were shown.

“Guys could look around and see those people in the room,” Jackson said. “Being a Raider is an opportunity. It’s a family.”

Chiefs ink Jonathan Baldwin

July, 29, 2011
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The Kansas City Chiefs have announced they have signed receiver Jon Baldwin. The Pitt receiver was the No. 26 overall pick.

Baldwin is expected to star opposite Dwayne Bowe. Baldwin is a vertical threat that the team has high hopes for. He can start practicing immediately.

The Chiefs have upgraded their passing game with the addition of Baldwin and slot receiver Steve Breaston. The former Arizona receiver agreed to terms earlier this week.

Baldwin is the second 2011 first-round pick to sign in the AFC West. Denver’s Von Miller signed Thursday. Only San Diego’s Corey Liuget remains unsigned. Oakland signed its top pick, Stefen Wisniewski, and the rest of its draft class. Third-round pick Justin Houston is the Chiefs’ lone remaining unsigned draft pick.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs released 2008 third-round pick Brad Cottam. He suffered a serious vertebra injury in 2009 and he couldn’t come back from it.

In other AFC West nuggets on a predictably busy Friday:

ESPN’s John Clayton reports that the Broncos have more cap room than expected.

It doesn’t look like the Broncos are going to end up with Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. I don’t think Denver wanted to give him the big money he wanted.

The Broncos are reportedly one of five teams that are trying to secure Houston standout fullback Vonta Leach. He has made it know he wants to stay with the Texans.

Wiz II is officially a Raider

July, 28, 2011
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The Oakland Tribune has reported the Raiders have signed second-round pick Stefen Wisniewski and have just one more pick to sign., third-round pick Joe Barksdale. He is in Napa and waiting to sign. The Raiders start practice this afternoon. Wisniewski, Oakland’s first pick, is expected to start at center.

He is the nephew of former Oakland offensive lineman Steve Wisniewski, who is an assistant offensive line coach in Oakland. The family has been waiting for this reunion to officially start.

In other AFC West nuggets:

ESPN’s Adam Schefter said on SportsCenter that the New Orleans Saints could make a run at versatile San Diego running back Darren Sproles now that they traded Reggie Bush to Miami. Sproles would fill Bush’s role in New Orleans.

I haven’t heard Sproles’ name much in the past two days, but because of his ability to rush the ball, receive the ball and return it, he does have value. The Chargers are getting tight against the cap after all their moves and they were resigned to letting Sproles leave. But if the market doesn’t develop for him, perhaps San Diego will revisit him. Yet, the opening in New Orleans could change Sproles’ market quickly.

As expected, Tennessee will cut quarterback Vince Young on Thursday. I could envision his name connected to Oakland in a backup role. But the Raiders do like Kyle Boller.

Denver safety Renaldo Hill was not at the Broncos’ first training camp practice. It could mean the team is planning to cut him later Thursday.
Stefen Wisniewski, Steve Wisniewski and Leo Wisniewski Courtesy of Leo Wisniewski Stefen Wisniewski, wearing his uncle Steve's jersey in 2000, has followed his family ties to Oakland.

One of Stefen Wisniewski’s most complex childhood decisions was between No. 76 or No. 81.

Should the Western Pennsylvania kid wear his Uncle Steve’s jersey, an ode to both family and his future, or should he go for the glory and honor his favorite non-related Raider, star receiver Tim Brown? The future Academic All-American made the only prudent choice. He wore them both.

“It seemed Stefen was either wearing my brother’s jersey or Tim Brown’s jersey. He was in one of the two,” said his father, Leo Wisniewski. “It seems like this was meant to be.”

This is a unique story of the continued rich Silver and Black tradition in one family, but it’s far from unexpected. Stefen Wisniewski was bound to be a Raider. It was going to happen.

He laughed when told during an interview that he had to be the most predictable No. 48 overall pick in NFL history. The Penn State center/guard admits it. There wasn’t a ton of uncertainty going into the second night of the NFL draft. Wisniewski was expecting to move out West. Perhaps that explains the fact that Wisniewski and his family and friends were donning Raiders’ caps seconds after his selection.

[+] EnlargeOakland's Stefen Wisniewski
Kyle Terada/US PRESSWIREStefen Wisniewski had a pretty good idea he'd end up in Oakland. "I had some good inside information."
“No, I wasn’t too surprised,” Wisniewski said of his draft night. “I had a real good idea I was going to Oakland. I had some good inside information.”

And now the Raiders will begin the Wiz II era. Wisniewski joins his uncle Steve Wisniewski in the Bay Area. Steve Wisniewski was an eight-time Pro Bowl guard for the Raiders, playing his entire career for the organization. Like his nephew, Wisniewski (acquired in a draft-day trade from Dallas in 1989) was a second-round pick from Penn State.

Stefen Wisniewski (whose first name is an homage to his uncle) was born a month and a day before the Wisniewski-Raiders partnership began. Being around the Raiders is all he has ever known. Leo Wisniewski, a defensive lineman at Penn State who was a second-round pick of the Baltimore Colts in 1982, said he and his family would go to a handful of Raiders games each year. Some of Stefen Wisniewski’s fondest childhood memories were hanging out in the Raiders’ locker room after games.

“Being around the Raiders has always been a great atmosphere,” Stefen Wisniewski said. “I look forward to being around it again.”

For the first time, Stefen Wisniewski will be living close to his uncle. Steve Wisniewski joined the Raiders’ staff in January as assistant offensive line coach. Wisniewski, who was in private business until last year, was on Stanford’s staff last year as a strength and conditioning assistant. Oakland owner Al Davis has long hired former great players as coaches, and Wisniewski, known as one of the NFL’s most ferocious players in his day, fits right in. So does his nephew.

“I didn’t go in there pounding my fist on the table, saying we had to take my nephew,” Steve Wisniewski said. “The staff knew all about him. They came to their own conclusion. If we didn’t take him, some other team would have been very happy to get Stefen. I’m absolutely thrilled Stefen is a Raider.”

[+] EnlargeRaiders Steve Wisniewski
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesSteve Wisniewski, shown here in 1996, is "absolutely thrilled Stefen is a Raider."
He is not alone. On the night Wisniewski was drafted, Oakland head coach Hue Jackson publicly penciled Wisniewski in as the starting center. Wisniewski is similar to his uncle: he's 6-foot-3, 310 pounds and is known as a smart technician who plays to the whistle. He was an All-American on the field last season and a three-time Academic All-American. He should help Oakland’s weakest area right away.

“Stefen is genetically blessed,” said Steve Wisniewski, who flew out to see his nephew play in a Pennsylvania state championship game in high school and while he was with the Nittany Lions. “He’s extremely smart and he was always dominant.”

Steve and Stefen would work on offensive-line drills on vacations as the kid grew up. That was nothing like the day-to-day mentoring Steve Wisniewski is going to give his nephew now. Stefen Wisniewski, who joined his new Oakland teammates in a four-day workout session in Georgia last month, expects his uncle to be a humble teacher who will be stern on him and his offensive line mates. He acknowledged that he was wondered if there will be any perceived nepotism.

“There is a potential complication there, but I’m sure he will make sure to be as hard or, probably even harder, on me than anyone else,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to be around him as he follows his dream, too.”

Of course, the ugly reality of the NFL lockout has stalled the Wisniewski union. Coaches cannot have any contact with players during the lockout. However, there is some allowance for players who are related to coaches to be able to talk about family matters. Just to be sure, Stefen Wisniewski said he and his uncle have not spoken since Wisniewski flew out to Oakland the day after he was drafted. When told that his uncle was interviewed for this story, Stefen Wisniewski playfully asked how his uncle is doing.

He’ll find out at some point. And this time, his Raiders’ jersey of choice will be No. 61 as the Wiz II era begins in Oakland.

Lockout hits Wisniewskis

May, 1, 2011
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The strange reality of the NFL lockout has hit the Wisniewski family.

You would think Oakland assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski and his nephew Stefen Wisniewski would be having joyous conversations this weekend. Well, they better be careful now that the Raiders took Wisniewski with the No. 48 overall pick. Wisniewski will be Oakland’s starting center as a rookie.

As a rule of the NFL lockout, coaches cannot have any connection to their players. However, there is some wiggle room for family members. The Wisniewskis can talk, just not about football.

What else would these two want to talk about these days?

This awkward situation is not unique. Bruce and Kevin Matthews are experiencing the same situation in Tennessee and with the Giants. Offensive lineman Chris Snee is the son-in-law of Giants coach Tom Coughlin.

Raiders keep it in the family

April, 29, 2011
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Wiz II is a Raider.

We saw that coming, didn’t we? Never has the No. 48 pick been so predictable.

The Raiders have been interested in Penn State guard/center Stefen Wisniewski for months. Sometimes you have to keep it in the family.

Wisniewski is the nephew of former Raiders star lineman Steve Wisniewski, who is entering his first season as the Raiders’ assistant offensive line coach. Oakland coach Hue Jackson was complimentary of Wisniewski at the NFL combine and Jackson has said the Raiders want mean, tough players. Offensive line is the team’s biggest need.

I could see Wisniewski and second-year guard Bruce Campbell each getting a chance to start right away on a rebuilding line.

So, it’s back to the future with Wiz II in tradition-rich Oakland.

AFC West draft primer

April, 22, 2011
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Aldon Smith, JJ Watt, Cameron JordanAP PhotosCould pass-rushers Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt or Cameron Jordan end up in the AFC West?
With the NFL draft starting in six days, there are many interesting storylines involving the AFC West. Let’s take a look:

Will any AFC West teams draft a quarterback? Denver, Kansas City and Oakland have all been studying several of the top quarterbacks. There is a chance Denver and Oakland could use a second-round pick on a quarterback. Kansas City will probably wait until the mid-rounds before it addresses the position. I wouldn’t be shocked if we see a quarterback enter the division Friday. San Diego could take a quarterback in the late rounds because backup Billy Volek is a free agent.

Will a top pass-rusher land in the division? Denver, San Diego and Kansas City have all looked at pass-rushers very closely. I could see San Diego, which has the No. 18 pick, and Kansas City, which has the No. 21 pick, drafting a pass-rusher in the first round. The run on pass-rushers will probably start at No. 15. Guys like Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt, Cal’s Cameron Jordan, Missouri’s Aldon Smith Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan, UCLA’s Akeem Ayers and Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson could all be in play for these two teams.

Will Denver trade out of the No. 2 pick? I know Denver is open to trading out of the No. 2 pick. It would ideally like to go down to the No. 5-to-8 range and still grab a top-flight defensive player while adding picks. Denver’s best bets may be Arizona (No. 5) and Tennessee (No. 8). One of those two teams may believe it is necessary to move up to take a quarterback. Still, it won’t be easy. The No. 2 pick hasn’t been traded since 2000.

Will the Chiefs take a receiver high? The Chiefs need a No. 2 receiver and may take one early rather than waiting for free agency. They could pounce on a receiver like Leonard Hankerson of Miami, although it might be risky waiting for him to drop to No. 51.

[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Bowers
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesInitially Clemson's Da'Quan Bowers looked like a candidate for Denver at No. 2. But he may still be heading to the AFC West.
Will Da'Quan Bowers end up in the AFC West? Before all the alarm about his surgically repaired knee, the Clemson pass-rusher was considered a possibility for Denver at No. 2. His injury will probably cause him to fall. It wouldn’t be a total shock if Bowers fell all the way to San Diego. There has been speculation that Bowers won’t fall past Minnesota at No. 12, but if he did slide to San Diego, he’d be a great value at No. 18.

Will the Chiefs’ infatuation with the SEC continue? The Chiefs have drafted a player from the SEC in the past four years, and Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli has a long history of taking players from that conference. I’ve been told the Chiefs have been scouting the entire South hard this spring. It will be interesting to see how that affects their draft class.

Will the Chiefs draft some beef? The Chiefs could add a nose tackle and an offensive tackle early. Don’t be surprised if the Chiefs try to make a trade and take Baylor’s massive nose tackle Phil Taylor if he drops some in the second round.

Will Casey Matthews be AFC West-bound? Denver, Kansas City and San Diego all have been connected to the Oregon linebacker, the younger brother of Green Bay star Clay Matthews. A lot of teams are excited about Matthews, and it would be interesting to see him end up in the division.

Will A.J. Smith be a mad trader? San Diego general manager A.J. Smith is known as an active draft trader. He has five of the first 89 picks, and he has tremendous trading power. Smith could trade up or down. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Chargers ended up with two first-round picks.

Will Denver take a running back high? Despite Denver’s greatest needs on defense, there has been speculation it could take a running back to pair with 2009 No. 12 overall pick Knowshon Moreno. New Denver coach John Fox believes in running the ball first, so help is needed. One player Denver has been targeting is Illinois’ Mikel Leshoure. He could be a target with one of Denver’s two second-round picks.

Will Oakland trade up into the first round? The Raiders are the only team in the league without a first-round pick. They don’t pick until No. 48. Oakland probably can pair that pick with the No. 81 pick to get into the end of the first round if it focuses on a particular player.

Will Wiz II come to the AFC West? Penn State center/guard Stefen Wisniewski has been connected to Denver, Kansas City and Oakland. The Raiders are obviously being connected to Wisniewski because he is the nephew of former Raiders’ offensive lineman and current assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski. Wisniewski would fill a big need in Oakland. He might be a second or third-round pick.

Will Jimmy Smith fall to Oakland? Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith is considered a top-15 talent, but he could fall because of character questions. Oakland probably would jump on him if he fell to No. 48 as a potential replacement for free-agent Nnamdi Asomugha. Still, Philadelphia or Baltimore could take him in the first round.

Will Oakland combat defensive moves by adding to the offensive line? The offensive line is Oakland’s greatest need. The other three teams in the division could add front-seven help on defense. Thus, Oakland may feel more pressure to add to the offensive line.

Will the Chargers add to the secondary? The Chargers have been looking hard at safeties because Eric Weddle is a potential free agent. This isn’t a strong class for safeties, but expect the Chargers to look for a gem in the late rounds.

Will AFC West move to Taiwan? One of the hottest names in recent weeks is Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones. Denver, Kansas City and Oakland have been connected to Jones. He also could fill a need in San Diego if the Chargers move away from free agent Darren Sproles. Jones runs a blazing 4.3 40-yard dash. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has said Jones could potentially be a third-round pick.

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