NAPA — The Raiders thought enough of offensive lineman Mario Henderson that they traded up in the 2007 NFL draft to make sure they didn't lose him to another team.
More than a year later, Henderson is plain lost in the shuffle of training camp. So says coach Lane Kiffin of his second-year player out of Florida State.
The Raiders traded a seventh-round selection in last year's draft and a third-rounder in this year's draft to New England for the third-round pick used on Henderson.
Kiffin hoped Henderson had improved enough so that he could challenge incumbent right tackle Cornell Green or, perhaps, veteran left tackle Kwame Harris for the starting spot. "No, he's not pushing (Green)," Kiffin said. "We're continuing to move Mario around to both sides. Mario is not improving the way we'd like him to, so we'll just continue to push him. But it's not close right now."
In the offseason, the Raiders rationalized the trade by saying Henderson is as talented as any offensive tackle selected in the third round of April's NFL draft.
These days Henderson is struggling across the board, especially with his ability to get off the ball at the proper time. Time and again, he is guilty of a false start and takes a lap around the field as punishment. Kiffin didn't mince words when it came to breaking down Henderson's weaknesses. "It's everything right now, unfortunately," Kiffin said.
Henderson didn't play at all his rookie season. He is a candidate for the primary backup spot at offensive tackle, which Kiffin considers a vital role because of the need to rely upon one person as the backup for the right and left sides. Having one player able to handle both roles enables Kiffin to suit up one fewer offensive lineman in games.
"That's just our belief in trying to suit only seven linemen," Kiffin said. "It gets you one more special teams player at another position to be able to suit on game day. If you go to eight, usually a lineman's not really valuable on special teams, and you're losing a core guy you want on special teams to help you."
Russell on the mend
Quarterback JaMarcus Russell made it through practice without any apparent setback from the right (throwing) elbow he sustained in Tuesday morning's practice. He made every throw asked of him, though he refrained from throwing as hard as he normally does on some plays.
"(He) basically did everything (Thursday)," Kiffin said. "You can see a little bit of velocity issue with him right now, different from normal. That will go away here pretty soon."
Russell sported ice packs on his right elbow and shoulder after the morning practice, but he sounded confident that he is on path to a full recovery. "I'm just trying to protect myself as much as I can," Russell said. "I just wanted to get out here (Thursday) just so I could get back in practice. I don't really like sitting out and watching guys bust their behinds when I can be out there doing something."
Russell let loose on a 50-yard throw toward the end of practice that no doubt soothed the minds of Kiffin and his assistants.
"I just put a little wrist into it," Russell said. "It wasn't really all arm. I just hitch (my wrist) and got my body into it. It didn't really take much."
Prized running back Darren McFadden was among five players who fielded kicks at practice. Hiram Eugene, Louis Rankin, Adimchinobe Echemandu and Tyvon Branch were the others. Kiffin said there's a possibility McFadden will be used in that capacity during the regular season, but only in certain situations so as to lessen the likelihood of his getting injured. "He's such an explosive player that it's something we have to look at," Kiffin said. McFadden returned kicks at Arkansas. ... Backup quarterback Andrew Walter (sore arm) missed the evening practice. ... Defensive tackle Gerard Warren (thigh) didn't practice. Kiffin said Warren's injury doesn't appear as serious as the thigh injury he sustained last season and that he is day-to-day. ... Safety Greg Wesley (back) practiced for the first time since Friday. Rookie receiver Arman Shields (knee) also returned to practice. He missed Wednesday night's practice. ... Green and right guard Cooper Carlisle received the morning practice off. "... Receiver Javon Walker and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly were held out of the morning practice. On Monday, Kiffin said he'll re-evaluate the prospect of letting players returning from injuries such as Walker practice twice a day.
— Steve Corkran