LIKE COAL miners and infantrymen, the Raiders are accustomed to carrying on regardless of conditions. They shrug or sigh or laugh cryptically, as if to say complaining is pointless.
They rarely get agitated with chaos or the lack of information. They have come to understand that disorder and darkness come with the territory, come with being a Raider.
Even at times like now, as the air thickens with uncertainty, players have to wait for the coaches, who have to wait for the owner, who moves at a pace of his own choosing.
Put another way, a lot of folks at team headquarters are feeling a little bit of the relative isolation wide receiver Javon Walker has felt all season.
The players practiced Wednesday, and they'll do so again today before the bye week schedule allows them the weekend off. There was little evident anxiety despite knowing that when they return Monday, they have no idea who will greet them in the role of head coach.
They know Tom Cable has the job as of now. They generally support Cable, and, for the most part, they like him. They know he was involved in some kind of physical altercation with an assistant coach, Randy Hanson, who befriended some of the players. They know Cable was accused of domestic abuse by at least two women. They know the Raiders have issued a statement announcing plans for a "serious investigation" into the allegations.
They realize Cable's status is tenuous, that the fate of the coach is, as always, in the capricious hands of the team owner, Al Davis. Anything and everything related to the team, they presume, is up to Al.
In the wake of the loss to San Diego last Sunday, several players expressed disappointment or disgust with the bye-week schedule. If there was such a thing, it had not been revealed to them.
That's right. The Raiders didn't know on Sunday if or when they might have a few days to themselves. They were in the dark.
So running back Michael Bush, who said he wanted to visit his grandmother, didn't know enough to determine when he could buy an airline ticket, much less board a jet out of the Bay Area.
Asked late Sunday afternoon about his plans for the bye week, linebacker Thomas Howard chuckled and said he wasn't sure, that he had not received a schedule.
Linebacker Kirk Morrison didn't want to touch the subject. "Don't get me started on that," he said, rolling his eyes.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the team sage, thought about this for a moment. Asomugha is an intelligent, rational man who takes pride in studying all sides of a situation or subject. He knows NFL players generally receive a bye-week schedule several weeks in advance. It's normal, an indication of responsive and functional management, which one should expect from a company in a multibillion dollar business.
"My guess is there might be some strategy involved," Asomugha surmised. "Tom wanted guys focused on the game, that he didn't want guys looking ahead to the time off. If guys know when they'll be off, sometimes their minds wander from the task at hand.
"I know it shouldn't be that way. We should be able to handle that, like any other team. But maybe we're not ready for that. I don't think we've reached that point."
They're not exactly allowed to reach that point. The bye-week communication is just one example, one tiny symptom of a broader leadership vacuum. The general opinion seems to be that Cable probably couldn't provide a schedule because he was waiting for it to be authorized or dictated by Davis.
There's always something, always so many barriers to efficiency, so many things large and small that remind the Raiders they exist in their own orbit.
Walker's mysterious disappearance is not much different from the curious weekly deactivations of Jerry Porter in 2006. The Cable watch of today is not much different from the Lane Kiffin watch of 14 months ago.
This is a place where players shrugged and sighed at the concept of an offensive coordinator, Tom Walsh, being hired directly out of a bed-and-breakfast inn in 2006 — after nearly a decade out of the league.
All too often, the players don't have a clue about the decisions that affect the direction of the organization. They don't know. How much, then, can they care?
The players simply carry on, picking up paychecks while chained to the NFL's theater of the bizarre.
Contact Monte Poole at firstname.lastname@example.org.