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Coach Sparano Talks Injuries, Keeping Spirits Up


Opening statement: "**From an injury standpoint, David Ausberry did not practice with a foot. Khalif Barnes was limited today with a quad. TJ Carrie did not practice today with an ankle. Chimdi Chekwa was full today in practice. Jonathan Dowling with a back did not practice. DJ Hayden was limited today with a groin. Gabe Jackson did not practice today with a knee. Jamize Olawale was limited today with a hamstring. Carlos Rogers did not practice, knee. Justin Tuck did not practice, neck. Menelik Watson was back today and he was limited."

Q: Did TJ Carrie's ankle get worse from yesterday?

Coach Sparano:"It was a little sore today and we were out on the hard surface today because of the rain. It was a little sore today, so we'll see how it goes tomorrow."

Q: Is Menelik Watson cleared to play?

Coach Sparano:"He's been cleared."

Q: Is there a timeline on Carlos Rogers?

Coach Sparano:"No timeline right now. We are really just taking it day by day with Carlos. Some days have been better than others. At this point in time, not enough progress consistently to get him out there on the field."

Q: How much was DJ able to do and how did he look moving around?

Coach Sparano:"DJ was able to do a fair amount. We had a limit on what we wanted him to do today. Today was a third-down day, with a couple of additional periods in there. We really just let him play third downs today."

Q: The audio during stretching, was that your idea?

Coach Sparano:"Actually I had nothing to do with it. I wish I did have something to do with controlling the music. Quite honestly, it's one of our players who picks those things. I said to pick something with a message, but I don't have anything to do with that. If I did, we'd be listening to Frank Sinatra."

Q: Who is the player that picks the music?

Coach Sparano:"Brice [Butler] is the DJ; a self-proclaimed DJ."

Q: Did you like the message?

Coach Sparano:"I liked the message. I like the fact that they're thinking about the message. I think those things are good."

Q: A lot of talk yesterday about how everything has remained pretty upbeat and you're pleased with the way that the team is handling everything. How much does it mean when you have guys like Antonio Smith, who is in there conducting interviews with himself and has a karaoke machine, but also is still taking care of his business? To have people like that when things aren't going great…

Coach Sparano:"I think it's great. You can have a team full of glass-half-empties and I think that would provide a terrible, terrible environment at this point. Our guys really have a good time with each other in there. They have a good time with each other, they have a good time with their coaches. There are guys that have good attitudes but understand that when it's time to walk out on the field, it's time to work and put in a good day's work every single day out there. I haven't been disappointed in a lot of days at practice. I've come in here and said to you, 'Today wasn't good enough.' There hasn't been a lot of days that I've been disappointed with their effort in practice and I think that's carried over into games, from that standpoint. It hasn't been an effort thing. You have those type of people in your locker room, it brings a little levity to the table like that. It keeps things a little loose, so that's a good thing."

Q: Isn't it hard to believe, too, that Antonio Smith has lost 23 straight games and he's still in good spirits?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, that's a good point. It is hard to believe. Antonio's personality is one that is really dynamic that way. A guy can put things in perspective really easily. He understands his job and understands that he's a veteran player on this team. He's been really good. I said this about Charles [Woodson] last week, I'll say it about Antonio, too. He's been really good for the team and really good for me as well. It's nice to come in there and see him smiling and dressed up as a… whatever it is. He brings a little levity to the table."

Q: Nine games in with Austin Howard as a guard. Has that conversion gone as you had hoped?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah. I think it's gone pretty well. Austin still has areas that he can improve on. He's just a young player. He's only played in the game now for four years here. He's got areas he can improve on. They all do. I've seen good progress out of him. All of a sudden, his sets are a lot better. He's using his hands better. The run game stuff inside, the way the game is played in the core, in the center, is really so much faster than outside. Outside you have a lot more air, now you are playing against faster people out there at times, but things are on you really quick inside. That is not an easy conversion. You can put a Band-Aid over the thing at times by putting a player in there for two games, but to play a season like that, it's a hard conversion to make. He's done a good job that way. He's progressively getting better. In fact, I felt like in the ball game, he played probably one of his better games fundamentally, from a technique standpoint, that was a pretty good game for Austin."

Q: Stefen Wisniewski has had a lot of change around him since he has been here. How much has he developed since you've been here?

Coach Sparano:"He's developed a lot since I've been here. I think that without 'Wiz' [Stefen Wisniewski] out there right now, I think, I certainly think 'Wiz' is a guy that provides good stability for Derek [Carr] and for everybody around him. He's a smart, intelligent player that can get things lined up when there's a lot of moving parts out there. He sees the big picture. If I weren't out there at practice, 'Wiz' can honestly run the meeting. He's an extension of me that way and really understands everything that we're doing that way, so he can put it together really easily and he's valuable that way. I think the people around him, it makes it a lot easier to put pieces in there when 'Wiz' is in there. All of a sudden you have a guard down or in this situation Gabe [Jackson] is down, Khalif [Barnes] goes inside from outside and having 'Wiz' in there, it smoothes everything over because he's a guy that can bring the answers to the table easily."

Q: Does Gabe Jackson look unlikely to go on Sunday?

Coach Sparano:"We'll see when we get back in there. He did his work today with the trainers and we'll have a little bit more of an evaluation tonight. But, at this point right now, not practicing for a couple days and really not getting pushed on, we'll have to see. I don't think that looks great."

Q: Did you think that Austin Howard was better suited for guard?

Coach Sparano:"Well, one of the things is that at the time when we were looking at him in free agency, looking for some players at that point and somebody big and physical, young. There was a list of players that we had identified and of course I had history with Austin. During that time with Austin, I had seen him practice some at guard and I've seen this kid move, I've seen the things that he can do and I always felt like this guy can be a heck of a guard. A little bit remind me of [former Cowboys offensive lineman] Leonard Davis when I had Leonard Davis, and that was, I got Leonard and he was a tackle and we moved him to guard and the guy went to a couple, two or three, Pro Bowls there. It just reminded me a lot of that, his athleticism for a big man, his power for a big man. So, when we started evaluating those people I just thought why wouldn't we take, why wouldn't we try to find the best player that we can find at that position at that time, and Austin was a guy who was willing to make that move and wanted to be a Raider and certainly wanted to be here in this place with us, so it worked out really well."

Q: How hard is it to develop a message for your players to keep them up?

Coach Sparano:"In getting the message, and I'm trying to answer your question properly here, in other words, in me thinking through the message, these things come to me fairly easy because I really talk to the team right from my heart. Honestly, I'm not just saying that. I say exactly what I feel. It's something that, I had an episode a long time ago when I was in college where somebody really didn't, they didn't really tell me the truth, kind of told me what I wanted to hear. Told me what I wanted to hear, told me what I wanted to hear and at the end of the day, the light finally went off and I kind of realized, you know what, I really wasn't doing a good enough job but the guy just kept telling me what I wanted to hear. That wasn't fair. So, I always felt like if I ever got in that position I wouldn't do that, I wouldn't tell them what they wanted to hear, I would tell them the truth, because the truth is the only way, one way or the other, to get to the end result. So, when I speak to the team, I speak to them right from the heart. I speak to them and I tell them the truth. I think as grown men they can handle that, they like to hear the truth. It's easy to get the message when you feel like it's coming from somebody's gut. If I feel like somebody is standing in front of me and they're talking and they're just talking to talk, I might tune them out myself. In this situation, if I have something to say, I say it and it comes from the heart. If I don't have anything to say, I don't say it. I think they respect that too. That part of it has been fairly easy and these guys are easy to wind up, they're a good group, so you can get them going pretty easily."

Q: What truth are you telling them now?

Coach Sparano:"It could be about anything. It could be about how we got to where we are right now. It could be about how we're going to get out of where we are right now. It could be the fact that maybe we're the only people that can get out of this thing right now. These things are truths and a lot of situations you can, whatever the scenario is, whatever the message of the week is that week is what I'll give them, but the message usually changes. The direction is different each week, there will be a different message, a little different challenge and I think they get it pretty easily."

Q: Does the fact that you like the guys on the offensive line make it more frustrating as far as the struggles you're having running the ball?

Coach Sparano:"Frustrating, no. I mean, it doesn't make it frustrating, I just know that these people can do it. In fact this morning, I went in there with them today and we watched about 25 plays, just 25 plays, random plays, just different ball games of us running the football. Running the ball and running the ball effectively and doing things the right way. When you do things the right way and everybody does their job, the result is pretty good, it really is. It's pretty good. Those are just 25 plays. They weren't all-star plays or anything like that, just good solid run plays. I know what we can do and I've said it before, I know it hasn't been done, but I know that we can do it."

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