Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: How does Carson [Palmer] look?
Coach Saunders: He's terrific. He's had two days of practice and he's doing a real great job. He's throwing the ball well, he's moving around well and he's picking up everything well so we're excited to have him here for sure.
Q: Have you ever picked up a quarterback and then put him in a game on this kind of short notice in your career?
Coach Saunders: I can't remember doing that, no.
Q: How difficult is that challenge for the coaches and for the player?
Coach Saunders: Well, there's a lot of information to assimilate. There's a lot of – the language barrier is always the most difficult thing I think for a transition from any team. That's why a lot of times, you see free agents go from one place to another and have a difficult time fitting into a program right away. It would be like us tomorrow going to Italy and trying to order a hamburger. You know what it tastes like, you know what it looks like, you can go back into the kitchen and fix it, but you can't find it on the menu. That's the communication part of it; it is probably the most difficult transition for any player at any position from one team to another and how quickly they're able to do that is indicative of how soon they are able to help.
Q: Once he does assimilate as you expect him to, do you see this offense as pretty much perfect for his skill set?
Coach Saunders: I think so. You know with any quarterback, you've got to match things to what he does best and that will be a growing process throughout the time that he's here. The things he does best, you want to stress as long as you have people around him that can fulfill the duties that they need to do and we've got some real skilled people on this offensive football team, and what he does with the ball, and how he's able to place the ball with his accuracy and the velocity that he has, we'll be able to do a lot of things that we would like to do on offense.
Q: Since you guys have the week off after this, would it probably be the best option to go with Kyle [Boller] this week and then give him a couple of weeks to figure it out?
Coach Saunders: Well, that's Hue's decision. I'm sure you asked him that question. Quite honestly, we haven't even talked about it at this point. So we'll determine where he is and how he's progressed, what he's ready to do and we'll determine that when the appropriate time comes.
Q: From a physical standpoint, what does Carson look like just as a quarterback out there?
Coach Saunders: He looks like an NFL quarterback [laughs]. The guy's a Heisman Trophy winner, he's been to a couple of Pro Bowls, he's a big, physical guy that moves real well and has tremendous accuracy. He can make all the throws and I think that's been well documented. If you look back at his career and the things he's done in his career, the thing that he adds that's really special is his personality really blends well with these players. I mean he's a great communicator. He didn't spend any time not getting with the receivers and talking to them with the backs and again, what he's feeling and what he sees. When you have somebody that can communicate like that and has the respect and the skill set that he has, it's really special at that position.
Q: Can too much be made of chemistry or does that naturally just kind of come along?
Coach Saunders: Well I mean chemistry, whether it's in the family or any walk of life, I think is really important with the comfort level that you feel and the trust that you have in people and the camaraderie that you have. I think it really accentuates the ability to have things positive around you happen and I think he brings a real good chemistry with him to this locker room.
Q: You were with Kansas City for a number of years and now, you're on the other side of this rivalry. What were thoughts on the rivalry then and now?
Coach Saunders: Well, I think it's one of the real true great rivalries in football and certainly in the AFC. For so many years, Kansas City and the Raiders were the top echelon teams. San Diego has had their turn and I think Denver has had their turn. It's been a great division for a lot of years. But, I work 10 years with Marty Schottenheimer there and he made it quite a rivalry between Kansas City and the Raiders. Then, Dick Vermeil followed up with the same thought process because we always felt like, to win the division, you had to beat the Raiders from a physical standpoint. Now being on the other side, it's kind of interesting because we're trying to turn the tables now and be more physical than the teams we play. So, it's kind of fun.
Q: I think Rich Gannon said he needed to be brainwashed when he got here after being with Marty for all those years.
Coach Saunders: Well, I think Marty is a bright guy and he's still coaching. I think they are in first place in the UFL and they're playing the championship game on Friday or Saturday. But when he first came into this division; and I was with him in'89 in his first year and every year he was in the AFC West with Kansas City, but he felt like it was real important to make a rivalry within the division and then he chose the Raiders because of the fact that they were division champions in succeeding years and were the team to beat. He made it like a Cal-Stanford rivalry or UCLA-USC rivalry. It was Raiders week and we had signs up in the locker room and Marty was really animated in his talks to the team before the game and during the week. It was really kind of fun because it was a special thing to be a part of. The Raiders were a great football team and we were fortunate to be vey successful during that 10-year run also. So, it was just kind of good thing to be around.
Q: In your travels, have you had a quarterback the level of Carson Palmer?
Coach Saunders: Well, I think Joe Montana was pretty good. Kurt Warner was a fairly successful quarterback, Dan Fouts completed a few balls.
Q: Are you putting Carson Palmer up there with those guys?
Coach Saunders: Well, those guys are in the Hall of Fame. Carson's been a Pro Bowl player and Trent Green played in four Pro Bowls, Ron Jaworski played in a couple of Pro Bowls, Steve DeBerg played in some Pro Bowls, so I've had the good fortune in this league to be around a lot of great quarterbacks. Carson Palmer's a special guy and he's going to be a special Raider quarterback for us.