MIAMI GARDENS, FL - MARCH 03: A view of Sun Life Stadium behind a locked gate as the NFL lockout looms on March 3, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The NFL Lockout Offseason: How The 49ers & Raiders Are Keeping Busy

49ers and Raiders have plenty of free time while everybody waits for the two sides to resolve their labor dispute. Considering all the free time players have with the lockout in place, there are plenty of interesting happenings around the country. We'll provide updates on 49ers and Raiders news as we wait for the end of the lockout. For more in-depth discussion, check out Silver & Black Pride and Niners Nation.

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Oakland Raiders Likely to Re-Structure Kamerion Wimbley's Contract, Cut Cooper Carlisle

As many reports have already noted, the Oakland Raiders will likely find themselves over the cap once the lockout has ended and the NFL season begins. Considering the fact that the Raiders would still like to upgrade their offensive line, linebacker and cornerback positions, there will need to be a lot of movement on the Raider roster over the next few days.

Two of the most likely moves will involve cutting a player who has been a starter for the Raiders for four years and re-signing a player who just arrived last season.

With the Raiders moving to a primarily power blocking scheme, it appears as though the Raiders are likely to cut guard Cooper Carlisle. Carlisle no longer fits the Oakland Raiders’ offensive line scheme and will save the team close to $3 million dollars in this years cap.

In another move to save money on this years cap, the Raiders are likely to re-structure the contract of starting outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. Right before the lockout began, the Raiders used a franchise tag to lock Wimbley in for next season. However, the tag results in a cap hit of $11 million for Wimbley. While Wimbley certainly proved he deserves to be re-signed and to be a starter for the Raiders next season, that salary is a bit high.

Since the Raiders were obviously impressed by Wimbley’s play last season, look for them to sign Wimbley to a long term contract that will give him more guaranteed money, but spread the cap hit over a number of years, making it easier for the Raiders to sign free agents this season.

As always, for a more in depth look at the Oakland Raiders, check out Silver and Black Pride.


Oakland Raiders Tight End Zach Miller Tops the To Do List As Free Agency Looms

Reports are surfacing that a tentative deal was reached in the early hours of this morning and that it will be ratified by the NFLPA at some point today. Though all timelines are nothing more than rumors at this point, some are suggesting that teams will be able to begin re-signing their own free agents as early as this afternoon.

This means that the Raiders will have an opportunity to address their biggest concern entering the 2011 free agency period, re-signing tight end Zach Miller.

Every since being drafted by the Raiders in the second round, Zach Miller has been the most consistent receiving threat on a team that has struggled to establish a strong passing game. Miller is a hard worker, a team leader and an Al Davis favorite that should be on the team for years to come.

Whenever teams are allowed to begin re-signing their own free agents, look for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders to quickly re-sign Miller to a long term deal so that they can begin to address other team needs.

As always, for a more in depth look at the Oakland Raiders, check out Silver and Black Pride.


Oakland Raiders Al Davis Abstains from CBA Vote, Another Smart Move by the Original Man in Black?

When news broke that the owners had voted to approve the new CBA deal, one of the bigger stories was the fact that the Oakland Raiders had abstained from the vote, making them the only team not to vote in favor of the proposal.

Of course, rather than taking a look at why the Radiers chose to abstain from the vote, most commentators went to their go to reaction with regards to the Raiders and simply dismissed it as the crazy actions of an old man whose time has passed him. This, however, is a dangerous thing to do. While Al Davis may make controversial decisions at times, one should never automatically discount the actions of a man with as much experience and intelligence as Al Davis.

At first glance, it would appear as though abstaining from the vote was pointless. The CBA was approved by the owners with ease, and most expect the NFLPA to approve it within the next few days. So it is not surprising that many assumed this was about nothing more than Al Davis being difficult.

But taking a look at the layout of the football world and the reactions of a couple of Raiders and perhaps the abstention was much more meaningful than people suspect.

With the lockout on the verge of ending and free agency on the horizon, there is still a lot of tension between the players and the owners. The players still feel as though they have been wronged by the owners. Even if the CBA passes this week as expected, there are still a lot of hurt feelings and a lack of trust between the players and owners.

With that backdrop, two different Raiders, including one likely to leave in free agency, went to twitter soon after the vote in order to express their pleasure with what Al Davis had done. Safeties Mike Mitchell and Michael Huff both commented on the fact that they were happy with Davis’ decision to abstain from the vote.

This made me think, what if Al Davis, is once again just thinking ahead of everyone else. With harsh feelings between owners and players, this will prove to be a very interesting free agency period. Its entirely possible that Davis wanted to separate himself from the group of owners that have left many players feeling insulted and bitter.

The Raiders have a number of key players hitting free agency, including tight end Zach Miller (the team’s NFLPA representative) and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. If abstaining from the vote helps the process of re-signing some of these guys even a little bit, it would be well worth the decision.

In the end, we may never know what, if any impact this may have on the free agent period. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Davis makes another big splash in free agency and would be less surprised if the abstention was nothing more than Davis laying the foundation for big moves in free agency.

As always, for a more in depth look at the Oakland Raiders, check out Silver and Black Pride.


The Longer We're In A Lockout, The More Valuable Aubrayo Franklin Is To 49ers

Aubrayo Franklin came to the San Francisco 49ers really under the radar and without many expectations. His first season reflected that, and his second season wasn't much better. He was too small and didn't have the gas tank to make it as an effective nose tackle in the 3-4 defense. People weren't even calling for him to be traded, they were calling for him to be cut. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula liked him and his physical tools, but couldn't seem to get much out of him. He was dead weight, and not the good kind of dead weight that sits in the middle and at least occupies space.

Running backs got by him and quarterbacks didn't fear him. The linebackers couldn't utilize his presence to make tackles and it seemed like he only had a job for lack of a better option. But in 2009 something clicked ... it's not yet clear what happened, but sometimes players just "switch on." Franklin switched on.

He was top of the league in stopping the run from his position. He was the third-ranked defensive tackle in regards to stopping the run. He was the fifth-ranked defensive lineman period in that vein as well. 93% of runs at him were unsuccessful, meaning they either resulted in negative yardage, zero yardage, or not enough yardage to convert a third-or fourth-down.

In short, he was the best nose tackle in the league, and if he wasn't, he wasn't any lower than second best. What followed him was an offseason of relative comfort and a missed training camp and minicamp while the 49ers sorted out his franchise tag business. That is to say: while Franklin sat on the tag until the last possible moment.

The result? Pre-2009 Aubrayo Franklin reared his ugly head for something like the first half of 2010. He was slow and ineffective, and generally did not look like a great player. But once he got his "football legs" back, he returned to dominant form as the season wore on. In other words, he was once again that piece of the 3-4 defense that guys like Takeo Spikes and Patrick Willis relied on so much.

His lacking play at the beginning of the season didn't inspire a ton of confidence, so the 49ers passed up the opportunity to use the franchise tag on him. They also neglected to draft a replacement in the 2011 NFL Draft, which leads one to believe that they either are confident of bringing Franklin back, or have their eye on someone else. As to whether that someone else is on the roster or not, that's open for discussion.

Ricky Jean Francois has been Franklin's backup and did play pretty well during the preseason and any action he got during the season. He's still too small and too raw, coming out of the seventh round, and doesn't appear to be ready to shoulder the burden. With a full offseason and training camp, he might be ready to take some snaps away, but he's not at all ideal, especially in this market.

Isaac Sopoaga has played the position before, and he did play it decently. However, he also needs as much time as possible to re-acclimate himself with the position, plus his 2010 was such a stellar year at left defensive end. After spending most of his career seemingly being one step away from becoming a stable starter and potential impact player, he finally got on the right track last year with an above-average season. With Jim Tomsula reprising his role as defensive line coach, do the 49ers really want to mess that up?

So then we turn to the free agent market, and there's not much there. Aging veterans Ron Edwards and Pat Williams don't figure to have much left in the tank, and in the case of the former, he never had a ton to begin with. There's not much there, Franklin is clearly the top guy at this point.

The 49ers are in a position where they have two guys who might be able to play one of the most important positions in the 3-4 defense that Vic Fangio will be running. "Might" is a scary word when you're looking for the NFC West crown from the get-go, as sorry as this division is, you need that player in the middle of your line to do his job. Those two (Jean Francois and Sopoaga) might be able to do it, but that also means they might not.

Franklin is a guy who knows Tomsula and can get things done ... he's the top free agent nose tackle on the market, and every day they spend locked out is one less that any of the options on the roster or in free agency could be spending to prepare for the defense. Laying down the cash for Franklin is getting more appealing by the day.


Fabrizio Scaccia Will Have To Return To 49ers, Leave Rattlers Once Lockout Is Lifted

Fabrizio Scaccia is a little-known kicker that currently plays for the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football League. The playoffs are around the corner and the Rattlers are gearing up to make a run at an ArenaBowl Championship, but Scaccia's days preparing for such a game appear to be numbered. Our own San Francisco 49ers own his rights and with the NFL lockout coming to an end, he can't play for another professional football team or league.

Scaccia has a lot going for him right now, and that's without even factoring in his alleged 68-yard field goal. The guy was very good in the UFL, nailing most of his field goal attempts, and only missing those above 48-yards. With the Rattlers in the AFL, I personally watched him kick away the San Jose SaberCats chances from the HP Pavilion press box a couple months ago. He nailed a 38-yarder and looked great doing it.

Now, a 38-yarder doesn't sound all that impressive until you realize that the Arena Football League goal posts are half as long as regulation NFL posts.

He's also gone 101-for-113 in extra points for the 2011 season. In case you didn't know, that's nothing short of top-three in the league. Extra points are missed with regularity in the AFL due to the smaller posts, so it's impressive that he's got that kind of a percentage going for him. When the 49ers signed him to a future contract, not much more was known than the fact that he allegedly had nailed a 68-yarder. He had a strong leg. We now know that he's at least pretty good in regards to accuracy and that makes him, from what we can deduce, an all-around kicker.

Many speculated that the team would select a kicker in the 2011 NFL Draft, but the team neglected to do so. The free agent market isn't a big one and the team is then left only with Joe Nedney under contract. Jeff Reed did some fill-in duties for Nedney when he was injured last season and did it well, but he's not under contract for the upcoming season. Nedney has been hurt off and on recently, and has never had a power leg, but has been something at least approaching dependable for some time now.

Who knows what Scaccia's chances are or what his potential is? He's young and has a big leg, and appeared to get a vote of confidence from the 49ers when the team neglected to draft a kicker. It should be an interesting offseason for Scaccia, and well ... an interesting postseason for the Rattlers. At the very least, he's in the mix.


Mike Iupati's Second Year Could Be A Big One For The 49ers

Mike Iupati had himself a pretty good rookie season as the 49ers starting left guard from week one. Iupati had beaten David Baas for the job early on and set to mauling and brawling early. He played with strength and utilized leverage extremely well. He didn't necessarily "block" defenders so much as he tossed them aside like small children. There were very few times he actually looked like a rookie unaccustomed to a new, higher level of play - he simply was every bit a capable starter from day one.

Jimmy Raye's offense, as such, went through Iupati. Frank Gore was the bell cow and Iupati led him to pasture (the good kind) more often than naught. Gore, Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon owed a lot of yards to Iupati (and an overall improved 49ers offensive line), but there was one problem with that. Offenses simply keyed in on Iupati and knew that the runs were going to be going his way.

Couple that with the fact that teams already knew the 49ers were going to run because Jimmy Raye and Mike Singletary were very much against adapting or changing a gameplan (when they actually had one). The offense was predictable and defenses were never on their toes. There were eight or nine in the box and that box was usually collapsing in on Iupati, try as he might to stop it. He won that battle many times.

But he's only one man.

Now we're in the offseason, and many folks are taking a look at potential second year players who could break out. Guys like Ndamukong Suh and Sam Bradford are listed, and appearing more frequently is Iupati. He's was called a freak in college, an immediate starter coming into the NFL, a sure-thing as a left guard and now a potential Pro Bowler. Analysts and fans feel like Iupati will make it there some day, but what of 2011?

In 2011, Iupati will continue to be the catalyst to Greg Roman's offense. Well, he'll be the thing that enables the catalyst to function - which is to say, Frank Gore will follow Iupati multiple times a games. He'll follow him to the end zone, he'll follow him to the very brink of extinction if he must!

Perhaps not that far.

But that's the point, Iupati will once again be the guy that defenses key in on. Does that mean he's going to be ineffective at times? Not likely. That's because Harbaugh and Roman's offense will be much different from Jimmy Raye's archaic offering last season. They're both power running attacks, but there's something to say about Harbaugh and his offenses ... it's not predictable. There will be motion, lots of shifting and substitutions.

Defenses can key in on Iupati all they want, they can stack the box and follow Frank Gore on every play, but they'll get beat other ways. The 49ers will pass, they'll run play action, and they'll make the defenses pay with mismatches like Delanie Walker and Kendall Hunter. Iupati will get more attention this year, but defenses won't be able to act on that attention on every play like they did last season. Barring some kind of regression, smart money is on Iupati having a monster 2011.


49ers Have Rookies That Will Contribute Early, But No Immediate Starters

The end to the NFL lockout is in sight, or at least that's what everybody seems to be hoping. At the very least, there's some pretty heavy false hope floating around, and that means it's worth taking another look at the San Francisco 49ers rookie class and what can be expected of them going into training camp. There's a lot of skepticism in regards to their 2011 NFL Draft haul, and it's understandable given most of the concerns. Guys with injury concerns, guys who underachieved, guys who were perceived reaches and multiple guys either learning a new position or stuck in between two of them.

In short, it's a really unpredictable and almost volatile draft class. It's not necessarily boom-or-bust, rather a whole layer of intrigue and ambivalence.

At the seventh overall pick, the 49ers took Aldon Smith, the defensive end and soon-to-be outside linebacker. His battle for playing time was something we have previously looked at, but a quick recap on that front if you don't want to click a link. Smith will be expected to play from day one, but a starter he probably is not. Eventually he will be one of the most important players in Vic Fangio's 3-4 defense, but from the onset, he should be expected to play on third downs, as a pass-rusher.

That's contributing, and when you're picking in the top ten, that's what you want. But he's making a transition, coming from a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end position to a stand-up outside linebacker position. Short of being a prodigy, he's either going to be a situational player or a starter who is only starting for lack of a better option. Throughout the rest of the draft, are there any guys who can contribute on that level?

There sure are. While Colin Kaepernick out of the second round will only contribute if Alex Smith or any other outside candidate doesn't perform well, there are some other guys who have a real shot. Chris Culliver out of the third round could see the field early and often if the 49ers don't bring in starting-caliber talent at the cornerback position in free agency. Offensive linemen Daniel Kilgore and Michael Person can possibly compete, perhaps at the shaky right guard position currently manned by either Chilo Rachal or perhaps Adam Snyder.

Ronald Johnson is a guy to keep your eyes on. Aside from the somewhat disturbing pieces published of late about him and his obsession with his football, Johnson is set to compete with guys like Kevin Jurovich and Kyle Williams to get playing time from the slot. That's a position of great importance to Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman, and more specifically, any iteration of the west coast offense.

Lastly, Kendall Hunter is a guy who may see the field with something approaching regularity. Short of an injury to Frank Gore, at this point a very real possibility, Hunter will likely be the primary backup. He's out of the fourth round and most definitely is a talent above that level. Gore isn't the most durable back, and the offense will most definitely go through a power rushing attack. Hunter has the ability and potential to contribute early and often.

There's not a single starter here from day one, but a couple guys could find themselves in increased roles early on. One thing seriously working against them is the way this offseason has progressed thus far: with the lockout. Harbaugh, Roman and Fangio will be focusing on getting the guys who have learned NFL playbooks up to speed first. Learning this stuff fast is the key, and that's what gives players like Kyle Williams, Parys Haralson, Manny Lawson and even Anthony Dixon an edge.


Buccaneers Quarterback Josh Johnson Does Make Sense For 49ers

Lately, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle has been talking up Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Johnson, getting an interview and talking about his connection with Jim Harbaugh. It's a tangible connection, not one just brought upon by lack of actual, factual news with a journalistic spin to make it relevant. Johnson was very productive under Harbaugh at the University of San Diego, and there's something to be said about how two people can work very well together. Have you ever had a boss you didn't like, and you ended up working poorly because of it? Contrast that to how you may have performed in similar tasks under someone else? Did you do better? It's certainly possible.

It's not like Johnson has necessarily "not meshed well" with the coaches and personnel in Tampa Bay, just more so that there is something there between him and Harbaugh. It's no guarantee that Johnson could pan out in a 49ers uniform, but isn't it worth a try? Right now, the only quarterback under contract is David Carr, and rookie Colin Kaepernick is set to be signed as soon as it's possible. Alex Smith figures to return by all accounts, so that's essentiall Carr, Kaepernick and Smith competing to start under center for the team in 2011.

Are you really comfortable with that? Smith fits the bill of a veteran at this point, Carr is one also, though one that doesn't inspire much - if any - confidence, and Kaepernick is as raw as you can get. Fans of the team have good reason to be excited about Smith, if they're going off of what Harbaugh has had to say about the quarterback thus far. He's called him a great guy, a great learner, a fantastic athlete, a tough kid ... the adjective/noun combinations could go on and on.

But as was noted when Harbaugh was first brought in, his words have to be taken with a wheelbarrow full of salt. It's not that he doesn't truly believe the things that he says, it's that Smith is his only real, viable option to start from day one right now. Without free agency, without the possibility of making trades or talking to other teams regarding them, Smith is the one guy that Harbaugh can reach, and he's done it through the media. Smith wants to feel wanted, the guy basically feels as though he's hated in 49erland.

Harbaugh is doing a great job of flattering Smith and making him feel like his future should be in San Francisco. Maybe it should be, that's not the point here. The point is that, despite getting a myriad of chances wearing the Red and Gold, Smith is about to get another one, and despite record-high confidence levels under Harbaugh and Greg Roman, it's not something that's close to approaching a sure-thing.

There isn't a sure-thing out there, and Johnson isn't the type of quarterback to fit that bill on a good day, but there's a ton of potential there, a history, and a potentially low price tag. Isn't that worth giving it a shot? Johnson's biggest knock coming out of college was that he'd take awhile to adjust to the NFL level. That doesn't necessarily mean he'd struggle with an NFL playbook, more so that ... everything above that level was a bit beyond him at that point in his life.

Now, he's had some time to work through it, and hasn't gotten an actual, factual honest chance to start. He competed with, and lost to, Josh Freeman. Freeman is on his way to becoming a top quarterback in the National Football League, so what does that say about Johnson? It's true that his time taking tangible snaps in the NFL hasn't gone so well, but who knows what levels of preparation he had taken? Who knows whether he was given an honest chance to learn and adapt?

Johnson's playing style fits just about every iteration of the west coast style offense. He's very accurate given confidence in his own arm, athletic and intelligent. In other words, he's almost exactly the kind of quarterback Harbaugh has described as being somebody he'd want. Add to that the fact that he's still young, (younger than Smith, as it happens) and we have ourselves a tangible option for a quarterback to compete for the job. The other guys have a leg-up on him with the playbook already in hand, but Johnson has worked with Harbaugh in the past, once again.

Lastly, that could help in acquiring him ... Tampa Bay can certainly demand a lot for him, but they won't get a lot, especially if he doesn't want to play there. Their quarterback situation is locked down for the next ten years barring some horrific injuries, and Johnson will want an opportunity to start somewhere. The 49ers make sense, though there are other quarterback-needy teams that could be more appealing to Johnson. It's all about the Harbaugh factor, it seems.


'Camp Alex' Desperately Needs A New Name: Bay Area Week In Review

Something we can add to Alex Smith's list of excuses: his endorsement deal with a certain vitamin-fortified "water" supplier.


Michael Huff, the JaMarcus Russell of Free Safeties? Warran Sapp Thinks So

Oakland Raiders free safety Michael Huff will be a free agent once the new CBA is finally signed. That means the Raiders will need to decide if it will be worth bidding on Huff and likely overpay for him. While the team has not made any comments on whether or not they will try to keep Huff, at least one former Oakland Raider thinks he will not be worth it.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, former Raider defensive tackle Warran Sapp said that watching Michael Huff practice made him want to vomit.

Sapp was still on the Raiders for Huff's first two years in the league and was not impressed with what he saw from the first round pick out of the University of Texas. According to Sapp, Huff was always the last person to practice and the first one to leave. In addition, Sapp said that the scout offense would often make Huff look foolish as he barely tried to make plays.

That work ethic will remind the Raider Nation of another high draft pick who thought that because he succeeded in college he did not have to keep working on his game once he reached the NFL. JaMarcus Russell is without a doubt one of the biggest draft busts in the history of the NFL. Now, it appears that the apathy which doomed Russell to a life of codeine and house foreclosures may be the reason Michael Huff has not lived up to his potential either.

Huff was a star at Texas and was chosen seventh overall by the Raiders in the 2006 NFL draft. Unfortunately for the Raiders, he never became a star in the NFL. Huff's career has been lackluster at best since he started playing for the Raiders. Rather than a highlight reel of picks and crushing hits, Huff has produced a reel of running backs making him look foolish in the secondary.

The 2010 season was without a doubt Huff's best season as a pro. However, it begs the question, was his play due to the fact that he has grown as a player or due to the fact that he wanted to cash in on free agency. Personally, I feel that Huff's best season is owed to a combination of a desire to get paid, being surrounded by better players on defense and luck.

The Raiders had a massively improved defensive line last season. As anyone who follows the game of football closely will tell you, a good defensive line is a secondary's best friend. Pressure on quarterbacks often forced rushed passes, giving the Raiders secondary a chance to make plays. In addition, if you go back and look at tape of Huff's interceptions last season, a number of them looked like nothing more than luck with a tipped ball falling right into Huff's hands.

While the Raiders are remarkably thin at the free safety position, re-signing a guy who lacks the drive to be a championship caliber player is simply not in the best interests of the team, especially at the cost Huff will likely demand in free agency.

As always, for a more in depth look at the Oakland Raiders, check out Silver and Black Pride.


Camp Alex 49ers Minicamp Returns With Most Offensive Players On Hand

The San Francisco 49ers began their second offensive minicamp coordinated by quarterback Alex Smith on Tuesday morning. Although defensive players were invited to attend and several showed up, this minicamp is about continuing the learning and implementation of the new Jim Harbaugh offensive playbook.

The offensive players received copies of the playbook during the one day in which the lockout was stayed in April. From that the players have been able to begin learning the language of Coach Harbaugh’s playbook and some of the basics. Alex Smith has been operating as de facto offensive coordinator as the team attempts to gain some level of knowledge before training camp opens at a time still to be determined.

Here is a rundown of the offensive players that were in attendance on day one of the second minicamp:

QB: Alex Smith, David Carr, Colin Kaepernick

OL: Joe Staley, Adam Snyder, Alex Boone, Mike Person, Mike Iupati

WR: Michael Crabtree, Kyle Williams, Josh Morgan, Lance Long, Kevin Jurovich, Ronald Johnson, Ted Ginn

RB: Anthony Dixon, Moran Norris

TE: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker

Michael Crabtree is the name most people were looking for at this minicamp. He arrived and was out with the team on the field. In an amusing moment that got fans all hot and bothered, Crabtree left the field after the class room session with many people assuming he was done for the day. Instead he was simply getting his cleats and returning to the field. He didn’t run a lot of routes but he was with his quarterbacks looking over some practice notes.

Colin Kaepernick was on hand, choosing to attend the minicamp instead of the NFLPA’s rookie symposium. Since recovering from a leg surgery last month, Kaepernick has begun taking snaps and dropping back, and this minicamp provides a chance to run some plays from the playbook. Apparently he’s already flashed the arm strength that scouts gave high marks.


Oakland Raiders Might Get Lucky with Michael Bush

Just when it looked like the news for the Oakland Raiders could not get worse, there is a beacon of hope. Earlier this week, reports surfaced that under the new CBA, the Raiders could wind up finding themselves over the new salary cap and forced to cut players in order to make room.

Now, it appears to be a chance the Raiders economic woes will be lessened, even if only slightly.

As has been reported numerous times throughout the NFL Lockout, assuming the new CBA moves unrestricted free agency back to four years, the Raiders will be looking at two of their bigger pieces in Zach Miller and Michael Bush becoming unrestricted free agents. This would mean that the two players would have the ability to test the free agent market and if they do choose to come back to Oakland, they would likely receive a much bigger contract than they would have under the first and third round tenders given by the Raiders right before the lockout began.

However, this morning, Adam Caplan theorized that Michael Bush actually might not be an unrestricted free agent after all. Bush spent his rookie season with the Raiders on the non-football injury list (NFI) and as a result did not see the field for the entire year. Caplan believes that because he was put on the NFI, that he may not be able to claim service for that year, meaning he has only three years credit in the league as opposed to four.

Incase you do not recall, Bush was originally considered to be a high value draft pick out of Louisville. However, a broken leg his senior year meant that Bush fell all of the way to the fourth round where the Raiders grabbed him. In addition, the fact that Bush broke his leg while in college, allowed the Raiders to place him on the non-football injury list (even though he injured it in a football game).

This could wind up being a big benefit to the Raiders. Al Davis fully intends on re-signing the back up to Darren McFadden and if the Raiders can get him for a first and third round tender, it will be the second time the Raiders will have gotten Michael Bush for a steal.

As always, for more in depth analysis of the Oakland Raiders, be sure to check out Silver and Black Pride.


Proposed Salary Cap Could Put the Oakland Raiders in a Very Bad Position

As many already know, before the NFL Lockout occurred, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis did what many thought was very wise at the time. Knowing the Raiders would have many key players potentially hitting the free agent market, Davis re-signed a few of the more important players, including Richard Seymour, Kamerion Wimbley, Stanford Routt and John Henderson.

However, as the conclusion to the lockout nears and details of the eventual deal are being leaked to the press, the Raiders are beginning to look like they may regret some of the bigger contracts handed out earlier this offseason. All said and done, the contracts the Raiders signed before the lockout began total $85.48 million.

John Clayton of ESPN reportsthat if the cap number of $120 million is accurate, and the new CBA does not exclude "dead money" for players whose contracts were voided, the Raiders could be in serious trouble.

The Raiders have $26 million in "dead money", which if the CBA counts towards the cap, will put the Raiders over the ceiling of $120 million. That would mean that instead of going out and signing players to fill key holes in their roster, the Raiders may be looking at having to cut players from their roster to get under the cap.

Also, lets not forget that the Raiders still need to sign all of their rookies. If these numbers turn out to be true, the Raiders could be in a world of hurt when the new CBA is passed.

That's all for now, but until next time, don't forget, for some of the best up to date Raiders coverage, check out Silver and Black Pride.


Oakland Raiders May Have Landed Two of the Biggest Draft Steals in 2011

Many Oakland Raiders fans are excited to see what fourth round pick, Taiwan Jones, will be able to accomplish when he makes his debut in the NFL. The speedy running back out of Eastern Washington is a player that drew a lot of interest from NFL teams leading into the 2011 draft. However, primarily due to the fact that Jones did not play for a division one program, he slipped all of the way into the fourth round where the Raiders could afford to take him despite having a double headed monster in the backfield with Darren McFadden and potential free agent Michael Bush.

Now, according to Adam Caplan of Fox Sports, it looks as though the Raiders may have another sleeper pick destined to be successful in the NFL. In his offseason analysis of the Oakland Raiders, Caplan noted that the Raiders' fifth round pick, Denarious Moore was a guy that some had placed a third round grade on.

Moore, a wide receiver out of the University of Tennessee, is another speedster that would appear to fit the Raider mold. However, unlike some of the speedsters that the Raiders have drafted in the past, it appears that Moore also has some good hands.

Moore had an outstanding senior season with Tennessee, catching 47 passes for 981 yards and 9 touchdowns while putting up one of the best yards per catch numbers in college football at 20.9 yards per catch. Considering Moore put up a 4.43 40 time at the NFL combine, it would appear that he has the rare ability to combine blazing speed with quality production.

While Moore is unlikely to see a ton of playing time in his rookie season, the Raiders do need depth at the wide receiver position and Moore could wind up being on of the long term answers for the Raiders if he is able to catch on to the NFL game.

That's all for now, but until next time, don't forget, for some of the best up to date Raiders coverage, check out Silver and Black Pride.


Oakland Raiders Will Have Big Decisions to Make in Free Agency

A look into Raiders who will hit the free agent market, as well as the positions that the Raiders will likely look to upgrade during free agency.


San Francisco 49ers Looking At Three More Unrestricted Free Agents

As details of a proposed collective bargaining agreement have leaked out, the possible new CBA could impact the 49ers in a variety of ways. The most immediate concern for the 49ers would be the return of pre-2010 rules on restricted and unrestricted free agency.

For the uncapped 2010 year, players needed six years of service time to gain unrestricted free agency. Under this proposed CBA, players would only need four years of service time to enter unrestricted free agency. This affects the 49ers in the form of Dashon Goldson, Ray McDonald and Manny Lawson. All three entered this offseason with less than six years of service time. The 49ers offered all three tenders in case they were restricted, but that is no longer an issue. Lawson has five years while McDonald and Goldson each have four years.

The 49ers already are looking at David Baas and Aubrayo Franklin as unrestricted free agents with a lot of options. Baas would appear to be the top priority given Eric Heitmann’s injury concerns and the lack of depth at center. Beyond that one could argue Dashon Goldson holds the second most value given the questionable depth at the safety position.

The big question for most of these guys is what kinds of offers they get on the open market. They hold value to the 49ers but that value is worth only so many dollars. Rumors seem to have the Washington Redskins ready to make a big offer to Aubrayo Franklin when free agency begins. I don’t see the 49ers matching a monster deal in spite of Franklin’s value to the team in recent years. It will be an interesting situation to follow in the coming weeks once the CBA is finalized.


Oakland Raiders Will Have Two More Free Agents to Worry About if CBA Rumors are True

With reports of the NFL Lockout coming close to a conclusion spreading like wild fire, Adam Schefter has reported that in the new CBA, players will become unrestricted free agents after four years as opposed to six (same as it was before 2010). This means that come time for free agency, the Raiders will have to worry not only about trying to re-sign guys like Nnamdi Asomugha and Michael Huff, but also two big time players in Zach Miller and Michael Bush.

Before the lockout officially began, the Raiders placed first and third round tenders on both Bush and Miller. However, if the details being leaked about the new CBA are true, these two players would not be eligible for tenders as they would be unrestricted free agents instead of restricted free agents.

Both of these guys are key to the Raiders continued success and will immediately become priorities to re-sign should the rumors be true. Nnamdi Asomugha may be the best Raiders player to be a free agent, but it could be argued that Miller and Bush are more essential to the Raiders success.

Miller is clearly the best receiving option for the Raiders right now. The young receiving corps has shown promise, but has had serious issues with consistency. Miller, on the other hand, has shown time and time again that he can be a consistent threat with great hands and a better work ethic.

As a backup, some would argue that Bush is not nearly as important to the Raiders. However, with Darren McFadden’s history of injuries and the Raiders clear intent to be a run first team, depth at the runningback position is crucial. The Raiders have a promising young rookie in Taiwan Jones and veterans in Rock Cartwright and Michael Bennett, however, none of these guys has shown the ability to carry a full load for a run first team should McFadden get injured this season.


Oakland Raiders Rookie Taiwan Jones Took the Road Less Traveled to Get to the NFL

Perhaps the Oakland Raiders most intriguing pick of the 2011 draft, speedy runningback Taiwan Jones sat down with Steve Corkran of the San Jose Mercury News last week and discussed the route he was forced to take on his way to being drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.

Jones is a runningback out of Eastern Washington with breakaway speed that reminds many of Chris Johnson. Leading up to the 2011 Draft, there was much discussion over where the speedy runningback might land. By all means, he showed the talent and game breaking speed that teams love in runningbacks, but was hampered by the fact that he went to a school not quite known for its football program.

After being converted from cornerback, Jones racked up 2,955 yards and 29 rushing touchdowns, plus 8 more touchdowns through the air and on kick returns. With that kind of pruduction, it begged the question, why didn’t Jones end up in a bigger school’s football program.

In the candid interview, Jones reveals that his grades were not high enough for a division one team to offer him a scholarship despite his excellent high school career. After struggling with his studies in highschool, Jones was diagnosed with dyslexia as a senior at Deer Valley High. With the added help he received after being diagnosed, Jones was able to bring his GPA up enough to play at Eastern Washington.

Once given the opportunity to continue playing football, Jones did not disappoint. Jones’ runningback coach at Eastern Washington, Chris Hansen, remarked that he would likely never have another player of his caliber at the school ever again “We usually don’t get to touch players like Taiwan. They’re going to USC and Washington.”

When asked how he thought Jones would perform at the next level, Hansen told Corkran “He’s going to make those guys look stupid, too,” Hansen said. “When he gets into the secondary in the NFL, he’s also going to make those guys miss.”

Now, with the lockout looking like it is beginning to near an end, Jones will get the opportunity to show everyone in the NFL that his success at Eastern Washington had nothing to do with the caliber of his competition. If Jones ends up being able to successfully transition into the NFL game, the Raiders could be looking at having the most dominant rushing game in the entire league.


Oakland Raiders Wide Receiver Jacoby Ford Clears the Air on Ad for the Exxxotica Expo

Jacoby Ford made a splash as a rookie when he showed that he has the talent and speed to be a game breaking wide receiver in the NFL. However, this offseason, he made a splash for something he claims he had nothing to do with.

News came out recently that the NFL is looking into possible legal infringement on intellectual property rights with regards to an advertisement for a party associated with the Exxxotica Expo, a convention of porn stars. The ad in question shows a number of NFL players, including Jacoby Ford, in their team jerseys as a promotion for the party.

Players are certainly allowed to make money off of their likeness, however, the teams, and not the players, are the only ones who have the right to allow use of their jerseys and team logos.

Ever since news of the ad came out, many of the NFL players in the ad have claimed that they were unaware of the use of their likeness. The most recent being Raiders wide receiver Jacoby Ford.

In a statement released Thursday, Ford states that he did not permit the use of his likeness and is fully behind the NFL’s efforts to get to the bottom of the scandal. Ford stated that he was disappointed that someone would use his likeness without first obtaining the propper permission and insisted that this was not the type of event he would lend his name to.

In an off-season where Raiders players have already had some off the field issues (specifically, Michael Bush’s drunk driving and Mario Henderson’s arrest for carrying a concealed weapon) Ford’s quick response to this most recent drama should be welcome by the Raider Nation.


Raiders Cornerback Stanford Routt is Ready to Step Up to the Plate Should Nnamdi Asomugha Leave the Raiders

With most analysts coming to the conclusion that Oakland Raiders pro-bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha will not re-signw ith the Raiders next season, the Raiders number two cornerback, Stanford Routt is ready to step in and take charge of the secondary.

Many Raiders fans have a love hate relationship with Routt. Some love him because his stats (especially burn percentage) were among the top cornerbacks last season. Meanwhile, others who do not buy into stats hate Routt after routinely seeing him trying to catch up to receivers who just made a catch after leaving the speedy Routt in the dust.

However, for those who are not fans of Routt, he made a convincing argument as to why he would be ready to step up to the plate in an interview on Sirius XM on Wednesday.

Routt pointed made two particularly interesting arguments as to why he will be ready should Nnamdi leave the Raiders. Routt first pointed to the fact that it was the departure of Charles Woodson that allowed Nnamdi to step up and turn into one of the best corners in the league.

In addition, Routt noted that he often played as the number one corner for all intents and purposes last season. Nnamdi’s skill is no secret in the NFL and as a result, it was a routine practice of teams playing the Raiders to line up their best wide recievers opposite Nnamdi and for quarterbacks to only attack the side of the field that Nnamdi was not playing on.

Routt still has a lot of work to do if he wants to become a solid number one cornerback in the NFL, but based on his comments on Sirius XM, it looks as though he is mentally prepared for the next step in his career. Now we wait to find out if his play on the field will match his mental preparedness.


Jim Harbaugh Doesn't Listen, Talks Up Alex Smith Some More

Awhile back, the Press Democrat reported that the NFL sent a notice to San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, telling him to ease up on public discussion regarding the team's free agents, namely quarterback Alex Smith. Harbaugh had been talking to the media every other day with some other form of praise about Smith, whether it be about the way he plays the game or the kind of person he is. Some of the claims seemed a little outlandish, but in an NFL offseason that forbids the face-to-face contact, the message was clear: Harbaugh wants Smith in a 49ers uniform in 2011.

So the league told him "Hey, stop talking about Alex Smith," and really, it was a dumb thing for them to do. It's not like it's tampering and it's not as though the two are talking face-to-face. Harbaugh is telling other people how he feels about a guy who is under contract with no NFL teams. The NFL has no right ... well, technically, they do, because they can create whatever rules they want to, but it's still silly on all fronts.

Either way, after a bit of a hiatus from his rants about not being able to quit Alex and taking flowers to Smith's wife, Harbaugh was back to being vocal about things. For one, he said that he expects this whole lockout business to end next month (that's July, folks), but beyond that wishful thinking, it was more of the Alex Smith love. Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area did a good job summarizing things:

"He's a neat guy," Harbaugh told veteran broadcaster Dick Enberg during the Padres' game against the Washington Nationals. "I'm really interested in him, in just the character of Alex Smith. He's been maligned by the hometown fans there. And his family's had to read a lot of that on the internet.

"And he's really even been thrown under the bus by his own team more than once. And the kind of character of a guy that would want to come back, prove himself with that same football team, that's rare kind of character. (It) probably falls somewhere in the endangered and extinct range. So we can win with that."

Good to see that Harbaugh notes Smith getting screwed over by the team at least a couple times. One has to feel like that kind of accountability should stay with the organization with the new regime, you don't need coaches calling out players when they're injured. Either way, Harbaugh plugs along in his pursuit of Smith, the probable starting quarterback in 2011.


49ers' Alex Smith Won't Suffer From Lack of Receiving Targets in 2011, With or Without Michael Crabtree

So much has already been said about Michael Crabtree and his antics (if they can be called that) this offseason and offseason's past. There were quotes that the media and fans questioned, and then a questionable dedication to the Alex Smith-led mini-camp. Judging by Crabtree's output thus far in the NFL, it's fair to be overly critical of him, and as a fan, it's definitely understandable to want to see more from him. That being said, Smith was adamant that there are, in fact, no issues between the two and that really is as far as we can go with that particular discussion for the current time.

However, a thought occurs: why is the spotlight so firmly on Crabtree? Sure he was the team's first-round pick a couple seasons ago, but Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman's 2011 offense isn't going to be riding on the production of Crabtree. That offense will function through Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon, whatever fullback is starting, and a set of great tight ends in Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker and Nate Byham.

While it would be great if Crabtree can realize his potential and develop a chemistry with Smith, fully utilizing the west coast offense that seems so tailored to the tenth-overall pick ... it's not a requirement for the immediate success of this 49ers team. As mentioned, this will be a power-running team, but when it comes to receiving targets, Smith is not without options, not by a long shot. At this point, I'm going to be referencing this excellent piece from Eric Branch, so check that out as well. 

Of course there's Vernon Davis, who undoubtedly has a connection going on with Smith. Throwing to Davis in 2010, Smith completed 40-of-64 passes for 588 yards and six touchdowns, good for a 124.0 quarterback rating. Before "Camp Alex", Davis was on Twitter, talking about how he couldn't wait to get out there onto the field and learn the playbook from Alex. The two are friends, and the two definitely connect on the football field. Alex definitely has the biggest rapport with Davis, and another stat from Branch reflects this: a 72.6 QB rating when throwing elsewhere.

In keeping with the tight ends, there's a guy like Delanie Walker, who is somebody that could probably start on another team. He's got great hands and great speed, and that's probably why Troy Smith had a better rating throwing to him, but he remains a reliable target for Alex. Smith boasted a 73.8 QB rating when throwing to Delanie, an under-utilized guy that all defenses would have to prepare for, if only he was used correctly. Roman and Harbaugh will use Walker, and they'll use him often, take that to the bank. Write it down. 

Don't forget that Frank Gore was the team's leading receiver before he went down with an injury, and that also fits in line with the kind of offense that will be in place. Hunter didn't have a ton of receptions in college, but he had reliable hands when he was thrown to. There will be no Brian Westbrook this time around, which hurts the receiving talents of the running backs, to be sure, but Gore is more than capable.

Davis, Walker and Gore as primary targets in a west coast offense run by a guy who loves running and tight ends? That's all without even considering the other receiving talent on the team. Josh Morgan is a guy who is always improving, and Smith had a 103.6 rating when throwing to him in 2010. Morgan also had about 700 receiving yards overall, so he's filling his role nicely at this point, and will look to keep things rolling next season. His style suits essentially any offense, and he just remains a reliable guy at this point ... so long as it's not coming down like a punt.

Then you've got a guy like Dominique Zeigler who, if he gets the chance, will make an otherworldly effort to catch any pass thrown his way, jumping diving or toe-tapping as he needs. Then, there's a rookie by the name of Ronald Johnson, who projects to be a slot guy and, as far as reports are telling us, does nothing but eat, drink and sleep football. True, Johnson is a rookie and we must temper expectations, but that kind of dedication is just what the team and Alex Smith needs.

In short, you probably don't need to worry about the Smith-Crabtree connection for a couple reasons. For one, there might not be a problem at all and Crabtree certainly will have his best chance to succeed thus far in Harbaugh's offense and for two, there are plenty of guys to go out there and catch a football for the 49ers in 2011.


David Carr Insists 49ers Quarterback Position Is Up For Grabs

There were a lot of low points for the San Francisco 49ers in 2010. Then-Head Coach Mike Singletary searching for the elusive rat and getting blown out in week one by the Seattle Seahawks probably occupy the top spots, but hand-delivering the Carolina Panthers the first win of their season is definitely rounding out the top three. It was a game that the 49ers might have won (almost undeservedly) if Alex Smith had been the quarterback from start to finish, but he left the game early on after a breakdown in protection, getting sacked and suffering a shoulder injury.

David Carr came in under center for San Francisco and he ... well ... let's just say he didn't inspire much confidence. He went 5-for-13 for 67 yards and an interception. Following the game, he was leapfrogged on the depth chart by Troy Smith, who didn't play so well himself. The rest of the season was spent with Smith and Smith alternating in some form or another, and the 49ers once again had question marks at the quarterback position.

The offseason came, the lockout is in place, and Carr remains the only quarterback under contract for the 49ers. Troy Smith doesn't factor into the team's plans for the future, but Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has made it absolutely clear that they would be doing everything they could to bring back Alex Smith. The team also traded up in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft to select rookie Colin Kaepernick. Add to all of this the fact that Carr - again, the only quarterback under contract - hasn't been spoken of publicly even once by Harbaugh in the midst of the Smith bromance, and you get ... what exactly, for the former first overall pick?

Not a bad situation at all, apparently. According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, Carr feels as though he'll get his chance to show what he can do. Carr says that Harbaugh made it clear to him that it would be a competition and every guy would have a chance to show his stuff when it all came down to it. That's great for Carr, in his mind, because he's confident in his own abilities.

Still, to the fanbase, he remains an afterthought. As Maiocco notes though, he is probably the kind of guy you want on your team in a backup or third string kind of role. Whether or not Carr actually has a shot or not remains to be seen, but it's hard to see him beating Smith for the job, and definitely impossible to predict exactly how Harbaugh will manage things.


Raiders Coach Hue Jackson Thinks Jacoby Ford Will Have a Breakout Season in 2011

After an impressive rookie campaign, Raiders wide receiver Jacoby Ford will have a break out year in 2011, at least that is what new Raiders head coach Hue Jackson seems to think. In an interview on the NFL Network on Wednesday, Jackson stated that he believes Ford will become a household name next season.

When Ford was picked by the Raiders in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, pundits originally thought he was nothing more than another Al Davis speedster without a whole lot of potential to become a star in the NFL.

However, after getting limited playing time time early in the season, Ford broke out in a week 9 game against Kansas City. In that game, Ford caught 6 balls for 148 yards and returned a kick off 94 yards for a touchdown. From that game on, it seemed like everytime the Raiders needed someone to make a big play, it was Ford who stepped up to the plate.

For a team with some serious depth issues at the wide receiver position, Ford was a welcome surprise. Now, with a season under his belt and the clear potential to be a game breaking wide receiver, Jackson wants to get the ball in Ford’s hands much more this upcoming season (assuming there will actually be one that is).

This, however, will be easier said than done. Getting Ford more reps will likely mean taking reps away from Davis’ beloved former first round pick, Darrius Heyward-Bey. Heyward-Bey had an atrocious rookie season and a somewhat improved sophomore campaign.

The fact of the matter is, the Raiders cannot afford to sit around and wait for Heyward-Bey to develop into a serious downfield threat when they have a guy who is ready to step into that role and produce now.

If Jackson can convince Davis to let him start Ford over Heyward-Bey, it will be very telling about how much Davis trusts Jackson, or doesn’t trust him.


49ers Minicamp Concludes, Michael Crabtree and Alex Smith Have No Problems

The opinion on wide receiver Michael Crabtree from the San Francisco 49ers' fanbase is one of the most varied we've seen in recent history. Some people believe Crabtree is very talented and is just waiting to break out in Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman's west coast offense, while others believe he doesn't want to be in San Francisco at all. Some folks are of the opinion that Crabtree is not happy with Alex Smith as his quarterback, while others don't really get that vibe from him. There's the opinion that he's not a team player and doesn't get along well with anybody, and then there's the fact that Crabtree himself states that he's more of a loner when it comes to workouts and things of that nature.

Well, when Alex Smith was asked before the minicamps officially began in regards to where Crabtree was, he said "Great question. Asking the wrong guy, honestly." That got a whole lot of people ticked off, mostly at Crabtree, and admittedly, it did seem pretty bad at that point. Folks questioned so much about Crabtree's dedication to this team and Smith and general, but it seems those questions were misplaced ... or at the very least, slightly misguided.

According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Smith told Bay Area reporters that he was "disgusted" by the way the quote sounded when he read it in the newspaper, and he called Crabtree to apologize. In regards to Crabtree's comments about not knowing who the quarterback would be, Smith shrugged them off and took the high road. They still do appear to be a slight jab at Smith, but it's good that Smith is dedicated to a professional relationship with Crabtree, and better still that he's adamant that Crabtree is as well. 

One thing that Crabtree continues to draw the ire of fans for is the fact that he left the field when he reportedly had some sort of foot injury. A lot of people see that as a negative, seeing as how players like Colin Kaepernick and Dominique Zeigler remained on the field, despite injuries. Whatever reason Crabtree left though, we'll probably never known.

The point remains that one half of this connection (Smith) is extremely adamant that nothing is wrong between the two, and that's a great sign. The other point is the that Smith acknowledges that the most the pairing need to work on is out on the football field, on gameday, when neither of them showed any kind of stable connection with the other. And that's what it all boils down to, Crabtree and Smith will likely both be with the team in 2011 as starters, and the most important thing is that, in the end, they both want to win football games. Hopefully.


'Camp Alex' Concludes For 49ers, David Baas Expects To Be Back

According to the Press Democrat's Eric Branch, David Baas expects to return to the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. Baas started the season "battling" rookie Mike Iupati for the starting left guard position, before being slotted into a battle with Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal at the right guard position ... before becoming the team's starting center when Eric Heitmann went down for the season with a couple different injuries. The battle with Iupati was probably not an actual battle, while he never got time to compete with Rachal and Snyder. Baas came in and played the center position, just as he was asked.

He played it well, as it happens, and though Heitmann was very, very good when he was healthy, he still has not been cleared to practice at this point in the offseason. Heitmann is signed for another year and, if he's medically able to play, one has to figure he'll do whatever he can to fight for a job at either center or right guard, but there really is no secret in that the 49ers are looking to bring Baas back after such a great year. He's younger than Heitmann and he's got much more upside, plus he looks like a giant pile of muscle if tweets from Joe Staley's Twitter accountare to be taken into account.

Baas said that he wants to return to the team, and that he feels as though the feeling is mutual. Not only is it "probably" mutual, is essentially a definite at this point. The 49ers did, after all, negotiate with Baas when they were able to at the end of the 2010 season, but he neglected to test free agency waters. Well ... so far that hasn't worked, and barring a monster offer from another team, he should be the returning to the team in 2011, especially considering he might just be the team's highest priority (assuming a handshake deal in place with Alex Smith).

He worked out with the team in the Smith-led minicamps on the fourth and final day of practice, saying that he had scheduling issues for the prior days, but he wanted to be professional about things and show that he intends to return next season.


Louis Murphy Says Oakland Raiders Should Have Another Team Workout in July

Throughout the 2011 NFL Lockout, there have been numerous stories about the team workouts being organized by players. Perhaps one of the most impressive, if not most surprising stories was that of the Oakland Raiders team workout.

Now, with the lockout still showing no real signs of ending anytime soon, it appears as though the Raiders may already have another camp scheduled for sometime in July. In response to a question from a fan on twitter about whether the Raiders had any other team workouts planned, Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy tweeted “should be 1 coming up in July”.

The Raiders’ first camp in May was impressive for both the number of attendees as well as the leadership shown. The Raiders had an impressive 32 players show up for the camp, including a number of rookies, and the camp was not only organized by veteran Richard Seymour, but he also paid for the travel expenses of a number of players. In addition, the camp was not limited only to players on the Raiders roster. The Raiders scrimmaged against a number of NFL players, such as Ike Taylor, James Farrior, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Santonio Holmes.

If the Raiders do have another team workout in July, it would be yet another sign that a team formerly synonymous with dysfunction, has become one of the more determined and hard working teams in the league.


Raiders Rookie Joseph Barksdale Confident He Will Earn Starting Job

The NFL Lockout could not have come at a worse time for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have a new offensive line coach and four key offensive linemen who will be free agents once the lockout ends. This means that a team who already had massive issues with its offensive line has not been able to do much about improving that unit this off season. However, the one way that the Raiders were able to improve upon their line was through the 2011 NFL Draft.

The Raiders drafted two lineman in this year’s draft, and though the nephew of former Raider great and current Raider assistant coach, Steve Wisniewski, has been getting all of the attention, it is third round pick Joseph Barksdale who made news this morning. Despite not having been able to even meet with his coaches or go over the playbook, Barksdale said that he is confident he will be a starter right away with the Raiders next season. If Barksdale can impress the Raiders coaching staff enough to earn a starting role as a rookie, it could make a big difference for a team that desperately needs help on its offensive line.


49ers Offensive Minicamp Starting Today, Led By Alex Smith

Around the NFL, players are organizing workouts and doing their best to stay active during the lockout. They can't, obviously, have any contact with teams or coaches, and it's all they can do to try and prepare for a potential 2011 season on their own, as it stands now. Alex Smith of the 49ers is one of those players, he's taken part in workouts for the past couple weeks with several other players, including rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick, among others.

Now, Smith is set to lead an offensive-situated minicamp for the team, and when we say lead, we mean it. It's kind of an odd situation, as Smith is still a free agent and it seems like he's now finally embracing the role as a leader, for a team he's not technically a part of right now. Still, he is very much a leader in this minicamp, which should feature a good portion of the offense.

Other teams have organized such workouts, but the 49ers had only had smaller gatherings up until this point. Smith's reasoning for the team waiting until now to have a bigger group of players makes perfect sense: he needed time to familiarize with head coach Jim Harbaugh's playbook, which he acquired during the 2011 NFL Draft when the lockout was temporarily lifted. It's a great point from Smith, wanting to understand that playbook as well as possible before working with the rest of the offense. He used the words "help" when talking about other players, and also "teach," which would lead many to believe that he's definitely embracing the leadership role.

He's always been highly regarded as far as his intelligence is concerned, and learning a playbook is something he has, how you say, become accustomed to. The workouts are supposed to begin today (Monday), as mentioned by tight end Vernon Davis on Twitter. Davis is excited to get in there and get to work. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree may or may not be attending the minicamp, but he is in the Bay Area as it stands, so we'll see.

Frank Gore is expected to re-join the team after rehabbing an injury, as are rookies Kaepernick, Kendall Hunter, Daniel Kilgore, Mike Person and Ronald Johnson. Aside from Eric Heitmann, there should be plenty of other 49ers in attendance as well. Heitmann has reportedly not been cleared by doctors to participate, after finishing 2010 on injured reserve.


Raiders Draft Pick Stefan Wisniewski, Uncle Not Talking While NFL Lockout Continues

The absurdity of the 2011 NFL Lockout continues to grow in leaps and bounds as personal relationships are now being affected. Raiders 2011 NFL Draft pick Stefan Wisniewski was brought in as a potential long-term answer at the center position, or at least somewhere on the interior of the offensive line. As a new offensive lineman with the Raiders, one of his coaches will be his uncle, Steve Wisniewski who is the assistant line coach in Oakland. Unfortunately due to the lockout, the Wisniewski’s have not spoken in even a family sense outside of the one day the lockout was lifted in April.

As the lockout wears on the league has mandated there be no contact between team employees and players until the labor dispute is resolved. This puts personal relationships in a bit of a bind. Another example would be Giants head coach Tom Coughln and his son-in-law, Giants guard Chris Snee. The league has apparently not been overly strict with these kinds of family relationships, but Stefan and Steve Wisniewski have indicate they prefer to play it safe.

It just goes to show how ridiculous this whole situation is becoming. When an uncle and nephew do not feel comfortable chatting about even family stuff, there’s clearly a problem.


49ers QBs Running Low On Wide Receivers In Practice

The San Francisco 49ers players have had a variety of workouts going on around the country as players figure out ways to stay in shape and get ready for the eventual return of NFL football. The largest single contingent of players has been the 15 or so players that have been practicing in the South Bay. That group has gotten a bit smaller at times as players spend more time working out closer to home.

Now word comes that the team had three wide receivers on hand yesterday to catch passes from three quarterbacks. Kyle Williams, Kevin Jurovich, and an unnamed San Jose State wide receiver worked with Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, and David Carr as the team tries to get in any sort of reps.

The NFL has players spread all over the country and there have been a variety of mixed group workouts based on location. Patrick Willis and Dashon Goldson spent some time in LA working out. Kyle Williams (formerly of Arizona State) has split time between Arizona and the Bay Area. It’s a unique situation resulting in players adjusting on the fly as they try to figure out how best to operate in the hazy situation that is the 2011 NFL Lockout.


Richard Seymour Leads Oakland Raiders Through Organized Practices

As the 2011 NFL Lockout wears on, players have been organizing practices with their teammates to try and overcome the lack of OTAs and minicamps. A labor stoppage that carries into the late summer means the teams preparing now are likely to have the upper hand at the start of the summer.

Count the Oakland Raiders among the teams creating this opportunity for success. Raiders players have been organizing practices in Atlanta that have included over 30 players on the team, including team leader Richard Seymour and QB Jason Campbell. The Raiders are coming off an 8-8 season that brought a level of confidence to the organization not seen recently. These workouts should boost player confidence as they make their way through this bizarre offseason.

Richard Seymour has seized on the opportunity as the organizer of these workouts. The former Georgia Bulldog resides in Atlanta and has footed the bill on accommodations, food and the training staff running the practices. The trade to acquire Seymour cost the Raiders a 2011 first round pick, which some viewed as to steep a price when the deal was first made. However, Seymour has stepped up as a leader since first arriving in Oakland. He has been a leader for the defense and helped push the defense to new heights. Now he has taken the reigns of leadership for these workouts in Atlanta. While we don’t know what the payoff will be when football gets going again, actions like these prove the Raiders are getting a huge return on that trade.


The Value Of Michael Crabtree Reporting To South Bay 49ers Player Workouts

Earlier this week word spread that 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree would be ditching his Dallas home to join some of his 49ers teammates working out in the South Bay during the lockout.

Although a vast majority of the team has been absent from workouts, there has been concern among 49ers fans about Crabtree’s absence in particular. Crabtree has missed the last two preseasons due to his rookie holdout and an injury that raised eyebrows last year. In missing this essential preparation time the last two years, Crabtree has not helped himself in developing chemistry with his quarterback(s). Crabtree is a phenomenal natural talent, as shown by how well he performed after his rookie holdout. However, chemistry with his quarterback would only boost his performance.

Although these lockout workouts are not an equal replacement for OTAs and minicamps, they can still help develop team chemistry. While it remains to be seen how this will all play out, one could argue this kind of workout time between Alex Smith and Michael Crabtree could do wonders for their professional relationship.


The NFL Lockout Offseason: How The 49ers & Raiders Are Keeping Busy

Since the NFL Lockout continues to drag on, we've been sort of frozen in time in the NFL calendar. The calendar unfroze for the 2011 NFL Draft and we even had one day of action when the lockout was temporarily stayed. However, with the 8th Circuit's decision to allow the lockout to continue pending their own decision, we're back to being frozen in time. This freeze means normal offseason occurrences are not happening. We have had no free agent signings. We've had no player trades. We've had no draft picks sign their rookie contracts (which might not have happened anyway). And of course we've had no minicamps or normal offseason training activities.

So what does that leave us with? Well, if you're Ray Lewis it means crime will soon be rising. Ray was referring to fans in the fall if football doesn't start on time. However, I'd say the odds would be higher for player's to start getting into some mischief. However, the players are doing what they can as most teams have started to organize player-led workouts. The Saints have seemingly led the way with most of their team in attendance, but even our Bay Area teams have gotten something going.

The Oakland Raiders reportedly had 34 players in attendance at a recent workout. The Raiders have a new coach in place, but Hue Jackson was previously the offensive coordinator so things actually might not be changing nearly as much as one might expect. The Raiders will have a lot of question marks when free agency actually gets going but for now players seemed psyched about how the workouts have gone.

The 49ers have been conducting workouts of their own on the other side of the Bay, although their participation hasn't quite reached the level of the Raiders or other teams. The good news for 49ers fans is that more players seem to be getting involved. The latest news is that Michael Crabtree has returned to the Bay Area from his Texas home and will be joining workouts soon.

The 49ers are also breaking in a new head coach, but their situation is arguably more difficult than the Raiders. The 49ers new coach, Jim Harbaugh, is bringing in a new offensive playbook that implements a form of the West Coast offense that will be a change from the Jimmy Raye/Mike Johnson offense of recent years. While long term that is a good thing, in the short term the players will need to learn this new offense on their own. Should make for some interesting workouts.

Until the NFL Lockout ends, we'll be using this stream to keep you up to date on the happenings for the Raiders and 49ers. Thanks to the power of Twitter, it's a lot easier to know what the players are doing on a regular basis. Whether they're heading back to school to work on some credits towards their degree, indulging in their non-football passions, or just having a fun night out at an NBA playoff game, we'll be here with updates. It's not quite what we were hoping for in the offseason, but it could be all the more entertaining to peek in on player lives. Make sure and check back throughout the offseason until the NFL Lockout is finally lifted.

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