NAPA — Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha missed all of his team's offseason workouts and both mini camps. He signed his one-year tender as the team's exclusive franchise player on the eve of training camp, reported for duty and arrived just in time for the first practice.
However, his performance in the first 10 days of training camp has done little to bolster the notion that the more work a player gets in a team setting, the better off he will be in training camp and the regular season.
On Saturday morning, Asomugha stepped in front of quarterback JaMarcus Russell's pass intended for wide receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins, snared the ball in full stride and returned it for a touchdown. That upped his total to four interceptions, with three returned for touchdowns.
"He's made so many plays, more than anybody else, maybe everybody else combined in the passing game," coach Lane Kiffin said. "Part of that is he does know our offense, he knows our audibles. He studies really hard. That's part of that. He's come out and hasn't missed a beat. It doesn't say much for really needing minicamps and OTA (organized team activities) days."
Kiffin realizes that the success of his defense, in part, is dependent upon defensive tackle Tommy Kelly's performance. To that end, Kiffin is doing everything he can to get Kelly into football shape.
Kelly spent the entire offseason rehabilitating the left knee he injured midway through last season. He gained strength through seemingly endless weight-training sessions. However, he also gained some unwanted girth.
On Saturday, Kiffin installed a sequence where the offense scrimmaged against the defense in 10-play drives, with the defenders prohibited from leaving the field. He said he wanted to gauge the game-readiness of his players.
Kelly's huffing and puffing, as well as his tardiness getting in position before the snap, showed that he has a ways to go.
"As far as Tommy, it is a concern," Kiffin said. "He's one of the main reasons that we're doing that drill."
Kelly was listed at 300 pounds last season. Kiffin said Kelly is at 330 these days. He is limited to one practice per day, with his down time spent riding an exercise bike, lifting weights and partaking in individual drills.
"He's a force, he's strong as an ox," Kiffin said. "We've just got to get him into game shape so that he can play a lot of plays for us, so we don't have to be taking him in and out. He should do a lot for us."
Rookie wide receiver Arman Shields missed practice once again. Kiffin said: "We need to get him back out here. He was doing a lot of good things for us, but his knee continues to bother him. But hopefully we can get him out here as fast as we can because he is still somebody we need to figure out." Defensive tackle Gerard Warren (thigh) and offensive lineman Fred Wakefield (rest) also missed practice. Defensive tackle Terdell Sands returned to practice one day after having fluid drained from his left knee. Quarterback Andrew Walter also returned to practice after resting his sore arm. "... Marcel Reece has been moved from tight end to a fullback-like role, which necessitated a jersey switch from No. 81 to 45. In turn, tight end Darryl Strong went from No. 45 to 82 and receiver Chaz Schilens from No. 82 to 81. "... Three football coaches from Austria, one from Sweden and another from Mexico will work alongside Kiffin and his staff for at least part of camp. Four of them arrived Friday and will remain through the Raiders exhibition game against the 49ers on Friday night. The fifth will work through the end of camp. Also, two Spanish radio broadcasters were invited to attend camp. "... The Raiders confirmed in a release that the Raiders Rookie Zone will remain a staple at home games this season. The area opens two hours prior to kickoff and is located on the concourse between sections 234 and 235. For more information, log on to www.raidersforkids.com.
— Steve Corkran