Wednesday, October 1, 2008
New Raiders coach Cable holds first practice, seeks normalcy
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Early in Tom Cable's first practice as Oakland Raiders interim head coach, the special teams players gathered at midfield in a huddle before they realized someone was missing.
Cable was standing in the end zone when he heard one of his players call out for him and he quickly rushed to join the huddle before the session could break up.
"I didn't know I was supposed to do that," Cable said. "I'll catch up pretty quick. I catch on good."
Cable's first day since taking over for the fired Lane Kiffin had a few minor bumps but mostly went rather smoothly. He ran a quick-paced practice that focused on tempo and efficiency after beginning the day with a team meeting.
The message to his players was to disregard the circus of the past three weeks when Kiffin's job security was a daily question and some of the conflicts within the organization were revealed to the public.
"Once something happens, there's kind of that period of time where you say, 'Whew,' you know, get over it and then you're able to get back up, get on your feet and get on the horse and let's go," he said. "And I think that's what we did today. We'll move forward."
The happenings around the Raiders' facility on Wednesday were as normal as the previous day was bizarre. It began with a morning phone call in which owner Al Davis informed Kiffin of his decision to fire him with cause. It continued with a lengthy news conference in which Davis built his case for why he did not need to pay Kiffin for the remainder of his contract and aired the franchise's dirty laundry in a spectacle that was broadcast nationwide.
Kiffin then responded by telling ESPN that he was "embarrassed" for Davis and said he had a "sick feeling" while watching the news conference.
The decision to hire Cable as the interim head coach was an afterthought in that surreal day.
"What do they call it, the circus of the NFL," said Indianapolis running back Dominic Rhodes, who spent last year in Oakland before being released when the team drafted Darren McFadden.
"I watched it and I actually sent Lane a text message and told him, 'Thank you for letting me get out of there like you said you would,' and things went down the way they did in the draft. I'm just happy they let me get out because I would not want to be a part of that right now. You know, I don't know where they go from here. They may turn out 10 victories or whatever, but still it's no fun having to deal with that."
Running back Justin Fargas said it wasn't even the strangest day he had experienced as a Raider, perhaps more of a sign of all that has gone on in Oakland in his six years here than what happened Tuesday. Cable is the fifth coach Fargas has played for since being drafted out of USC in 2003.
The Raiders have lost at least 11 games in each season of Fargas' career when losing and turmoil have been the main constants.
"You do your best to stay focused and not let outside distractions and things that are going on in the media and whatnot distract what you do here but unfortunately, you can't do that 100 percent," Fargas said. "It's a situation that now, we have a direction, we know where we're going and hopefully after today we can put it behind us."
The man in charge of making sure that happens is Cable, whose only previous head coaching experience came at Idaho. He had just an 11-35 record in four seasons with the Vandals, but has had much more success as an offensive coordinator and line coach in both college and the pros.
He brought in his zone-blocking philosophy to Oakland last season, rebuilding a line that had been atrocious under Art Shell in 2006. The Raiders ran for the sixth most yards in the league last year and cut their sack total from 72 to 41.
Cable is an intense coach, who earns great praise from his linemen for his teaching skills. He will continue coaching the offensive line, while overseeing the other aspects of the team as well. He said he spent the entire individual drill session with the linemen but left during part of the pass-blocking drills to monitor the seven-on-seven action.
"Coach Cable is going to be awesome," left tackle Kwame Harris said. "He's done a lot for me, just playing my position since the start of this year. I think what people can expect out of him is a very straightforward, honest, sincere coach who loves this game."
Quarterback JaMarcus Russell left without addressing the media. During his news conference Tuesday, Davis repeatedly pointed out that Kiffin had not wanted to draft Russell, preferring Calvin Johnson, Brady Quinn or a trade instead.