Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen**: Just an update, Brandian Ross wasn't able to go today and Lamarr Houston wasn't able to finish practice. Guys we anticipate [hopefully] getting back out here pretty soon: Jacoby Ford, Lucas Nix, and Stacy McGee. I'm hoping that they'll be out here real soon. The other guys, we're still working on trying to get them rehabbed and trying to get them back out here as soon as possible. As far as practice went out here today, I was real pleased with the way that the guys responded after the day off. A lot of times after you come in after a day off, it is a little bit sloppy, a little bit lackadaisical, but I thought both sides of the ball practiced at the right tempo and practiced the right way. So, we've still got a lot of things we've got to get cleaned up, but I was pleased with the way they practiced today. I thought the receivers did some nice things. I thought Denarius Moore made a great play down the boundary. Those are types of plays we expect out of him. I think he's responding to the challenge. I think the tight ends are responding to the challenge. Mychal Rivera has really stepped up and made some plays.
Q: Coach, you talked about the running game the other day, what are you seeing there, and can you go into a little bit of detail?
Coach Allen: I think we're executing in the running game. I think we understand that we've got to be a physical football team. I think our offensive line has responded to that. I think our backs have responded to that. I'm pleased where we're at right now with the running game, but we've still got a lot of work to get done.
Q: What kind of impact has coach Sparano had so far?
Coach Allen:I think both [assistant head coach/offensive line coach] Tony [Sparano] and [offensive coordinator] Greg [Olson] –just from a mindset of the type of team we want to be – I think both of those guys were great additions to our staff. I think both of them are going to help us be a better running football team.
Q: How has Taiwan Jones done in his transformation?
Coach Allen: First of all, I'll say this, it's a tough transition. He's been playing running back, and then to all of a sudden we put him on the other side of the ball and work him at corner, I think he's doing a nice job with the transition. He's still behind, as far as that transition is concerned. But the other thing I think you have to understand about Taiwan is, [that] Taiwan is probably one of the better special teams players in the league. So, I think that's always going to come down and be a factor when we start looking at the roster. I think special teams will be a big factor in that for him.
Q: With problems with injuries and such, and depth at the linebacker position, how has a guy like Kevin Burnett stepped up and filled that role?
Coach Allen: Kevin's done a nice job. We anticipated Kevin doing the things that he's been able to do. I think he's an athletic linebacker. I think he fills a leadership role for us on defense, and we expect big things out of Kevin. We expect him to make football plays for us; both in the run game and in the pass game.* *
Q: How integral are the tight ends going to be in your offense, and do you see them more as a blocker or receiver?
Coach Allen:Well I think the more versatile they can be, the better off we'll be. I think the tight end position is one of those where you're part offensive lineman and you're part wide receiver, so their ability to be versatile for us when we need to run the ball and when we need them in pass protection, they have to be able to step up and do their job, and then when we get a chance to throw the ball to them down the field, they have to go make plays for us.
Q: Injuries in general at this point, part of training camp or a concern of yours?
Coach Allen:It's part of training camp. Obviously any time you have injuries there's a concern because this is the time you develop your football team, so we need these guys out here and we need them to get rehabbed and get back out here as soon as possible.
Q: Before camp, you mentioned that it was Matt Flynn's job to lose for the quarterback position. Is it still like that, or Matt maybe separating himself, winning the job?
Coach Allen: I think all those guys are out competing. They're going to continue to compete throughout training camp and into the preseason, and at some point, it's going to become obvious who that guy is. I've been very pleased with Matt Flynn, and I've been pleased with the work of some of the young guys.
Q: Is there a point in the preseason when you want to have a No. 1 guy in place?
Coach Allen: I'm not going to set a deadline for when that's going to be. We'll have a quarterback ready to go, I promise you, by the time we get ready to open up the season.
Q: Are any of the early injuries like [Pat] Sims or [Menelik] Watson potentially serious?
Coach Allen: Well, when you say "serious," nothing's going to keep them out for a long period of time. They're dealing with nagging little injuries. I'm hopeful that we're going to get both of them back here pretty soon, but nothing season-threatening or anything like that.
Q: For a guy like Watson, that must be a big setback for him?
Coach Allen: Well, yeah. Anytime you're a rookie and you're not able to get out here and compete and learn – especially a guy like him that hasn't played a lot of football – he needs all the reps he can get. With that being said, he's working extremely hard to get back out here. Injuries are part of the game. There's nothing we can do about it other than try to do everything we can to get him rehabbed as fast as possible.
Q: You said you expect Lucas Nix to come back pretty soon. Do you expect that when he does come back he'll go right back into the first-team role?
Coach Allen: I think we'll look at it whenever he's ready to go. There's still going to be a battle there, so I'm not concerned with one day, somebody's taking the No. 1 reps and the next day it might be somebody else. We're going to continue to rotate those guys through until it really defines itself.* *
Q: Since [Lucas Nix] has gone down and [Tony] Bergstrom has been the guy for you there primarily, how has Bergstrom responded?
Coach Allen:Well I think Tony's responded. I think he's answered the bell, and he understands the challenge that's been set before him. We'll continue to work and see where it's out. I don't think anybody has clearly definitely [separated] themselves for that position yet. We're going to let it play out until it does.
Q: Knowing it's still early and you just signed [Andre] Gurode, do you at all envision a scenario where [Stefen Wisniewski] starts anywhere else for you, barring injury, other than center?
Coach Allen: No. I think he's done a nice job at the center position. All we're working on is that [Stefen Wisniewski] is our starting center, and he's done a nice job there.
Q: Coach, what does it mean to have Charles Woodson back in the Silver and Black?
Coach Allen: Well, I think having a guy of his caliber as a football player brings a swagger to everyone on the team. I think that's the biggest thing that we're looking for. Charles is going to make plays for us. That's what we anticipate him doing. We also hope that he fills the leadership role, and he's done a nice job of that.* *
Q: As we get close to the first preseason game, will the next week have any resemblance to a regular-season lead up in terms of scheduling?
Coach Allen: No, not really. We'll probably wait until the third week of preseason to get more into an in-season type of schedule, but we've still got a lot of training camp to go. There's still not any light at the end of the tunnel. We've got to keep working.
Q: [Mike] Jenkins and [Tracy] Porter are guy's that weren't incredibly sought after on the free agent market, but seem to really fill the need here. Is there any position on your team that's been upgraded more than cornerback?
Coach Allen: Well, I think the secondary in general is vastly improved. When you add a guy like Charles Woodson, you add two veteran corners and Mike Jenkins, who's been to a Pro Bowl, Tracy Porter who's won a World Championship – I mean these guys understand how to play the game. They're excited about getting another opportunity to prove themselves. They're excited to answer the bell and respond to the challenge. So far they've done a nice job.
Q: Coach you mentioned Mychal Rivera, who's really impressed you at that tight end …
Coach Allen: Mychal Rivera is one guy who's a rookie that came in and did a really nice job in the passing game, and one of the question marks of him coming in was how he was going to do as a blocker, and he's done a nice job as far as that's concerned. David Ausberry is another guy I've been impressed with. He's really improved. He has a better understanding of what we're trying to ask him to do, and we're going to continue to put the pressure on him and press him to see who, at the end of the day, stands up and responds and catches the ball and wins the battle.
Q: How will you gauge when DJ Hayden gets the red jersey off?
Coach Allen: It's going to be a doctor's decision. When the doctors clear him for full contact, I anticipate him being ready to go. He's itching and ready to get into contact and so really at the end of the day we're waiting for the doctor's full clearance.
Q: How difficult is it to evaluate the return game and your coverage in training camp practices, and what are your expectations there?
Coach Allen: Right now we're working on a lot of fundamentals, not as much scheme. We're working on a lot more of the fundamentals, and that's what you do in training camp, and we'll get good evaluation of what we're doing in the return game and special teams in general when we get into preseason games.
Q: Looking from last year to this year, what is the feel like from your standpoint, coach?
Coach Allen: Well I said it before, I like this team. I like their mindset and their mentality, the way they go about their business. We're going to be a tough, physical football team, and we're going to be a mentally tough team. That's the challenge I've put forth to this team, and they've responded.
Q: Does that mean mistake free too?
Coach Allen: That's critical in any year, to play mistake free. We have to be realistic; mistakes happen. That's the game of football. But the team that makes the least amount of errors is usually the one that wins the game.