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Sunday, July 31, 2011
Raiders re-sign Michael Huff

Associated Press

NAPA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders are bringing back another of their free agents, completing a deal with free safety Michael Huff.

Huff signed his contract Sunday and reported to the team's training camp in Napa. While he can't practice until Thursday, Huff stood on the sidelines wearing his familiar No. 24 jersey and watched his teammates go through a two-hour workout.

It was a surprising scene following an offseason filled with rumors of Huff parting ways with the team that made him the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft.

"It was funny because every week it was a different story," Huff said. "I know everybody associated me with (former Oakland defensive coordinator) Rob Ryan going to Dallas, and I'm from Dallas so everybody put two and two together. The whole time I knew what was going on and the Raiders knew what was going on, so there was really no panic on our side."

Huff, who earned $5.75 million in 2010, is coming off his best season after struggling his first few years in the league. The sixth-year veteran had 94 tackles, three interceptions, four sacks and three forced fumbles in 2010.

Mike Mitchell and Tyvon Branch have been alternating between the two safety positions through the first few days of camp. Huff's return likely means Branch, last year's leading tackler, can remain at strong safety.

"He's one of the guys that can play several things, but he's our safety," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said of Huff. "He's returning at the position he played and I'm expecting a big season from him."

There has been talk of possibly moving Huff to cornerback, a need position for the Raiders after Nnamdi Asomugha signed a $60 million, five-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Huff played there sporadically last season after injuries to the team's other cornerbacks depleted the depth.

For now, though, the plan is to keep him at safety.

"Whatever the defense needs I'll do it," Huff said. "I'll play dime. I'll play a little linebacker in there. I'm not really too big but I'll do anything to help the defense. I just want to win."

Although Huff was free to sign with another team, he declined any offers to visit and didn't take phone calls based on previous discussions he had with the Raiders' front office.

"(Teams) called but I didn't answer," Huff said. "I knew I wasn't going anywhere. They drafted me so I've been here through the bad times. I'm looking forward to turning this around and being here through the good times."

The Raiders had the league's second-ranked pass defense last season but surrendered 29 touchdown passes, fifth most in the NFL. Improving that unit was a priority in the offseason.

Oakland hired Hall of Famer Rod Woodson to assist defensive backs coach Kevin Ross, signed Stanford Routt to a $31.5 million, three-year contract, and drafted cornerbacks DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa. Chekwa dislocated his left shoulder during Saturday's practice and was wearing a sling on Sunday.

Asomugha's departure, while certainly not unexpected, left a void Huff hopes to help fill.

"He's the one that kind of showed me how to watch film and showed me how to study," Huff said. "I definitely give him a lot of credit for helping me grow to the next step. Now I have to take that next step. What he taught me, I gotta teach the young guys that."

Huff is the fifth free agent who has returned to the Raiders since the end of the lockout. Oakland also signed eight of its potential free agents before the lockout.

Tight end Zach Miller remains the team's highest profile free agent.

"I've talked to him several times and hopefully that situation will be resolved soon," Jackson said. "Which way it's going to go, nobody knows. Obviously, his teammates, his coach and everybody else would love to have him back here but again, no different than everybody else who's a free agent."

NOTES: KR/WR Jacoby Ford is sidelined indefinitely after breaking a hand on Saturday but Jackson expects the second-year player to be ready in time for the season opener. Ford set a single-season team record with three kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2010 and was also one of the Raiders' most explosive wide receivers.