OAKLAND — As the Raiders (0-3) bid a grateful, if not graceful, farewell to their garish exhibition schedule tonight, they need not feel sorry for themselves.

There's the plight of the New Orleans Saints to consider.

Due to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, thousands are believed dead. Many no longer have homes, the Saints included. They might not have a stadium to play in this year, at least not one in the Crescent City.

They barely have a city left.

Given all that, the Raiders and their fans can feel blessed with riches.

"I hate to even comment on it," Raiders coach Norv Turner said, citingfootball as a trivial issue in the wake of one of the worst weather disasters in American history. "When you see all those (homeless) people, the loss of life and all the millions and millions of dollars of damage, I don't know if you can even start to talk about how it affects an NFL team or season."

The Saints have been in the South Bay, practicing at San Jose State after evacuating town along with their families before the storm hit. After the game, they will relocate to San Antonio where they will wait it out for news on what comes next.

With them has been a ghastly pall.

"We couldn't believe that this was going on where we live," quarterback Aaron Brooks told the Associated Press. "It's weighing heavily on our hearts and minds right now."

As it is the hearts and minds of multitudes who have become involved in relief efforts. In Oakland, fans attending tonight's game will have an opportunity to donate blood through the coordinated efforts of the team and the American Red Cross.

A mobile blood collection center will open inside the main entrance to the arena located directly above the ticket windows on the plaza between the football stadium and the arena starting at 2 p.m.

During the game, Raiders players Kerry Collins, Randy Moss, Warren Sapp and coach Turner will make public service announcements on the video board urging fans to contribute to the relief efforts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama by phoning the Red Cross donation hotline at 1-800-HELP-NOW.

In the meantime, there is a football game on tap starting at 6 p.m. The Saints come in with a 1-2 record, their only victory being a 37-27 triumph over Super Bowl champion New England. Losses were to Seattle 34-15 and Baltimore 21-8.

As for the Raiders, there doesn't seem to be much concern about that 0-3 record and how it could morph into 0-4.

"I think we have improved every week," said safety Stuart Schweigert. "Of course our record doesn't show it, but if people want to look at our preseason record and try to figure how good the team is off that, I think they are going to be in for a surprise when we come to the regular season."

Schweigert and his fellow first-teamers will only be in the game for 10 to 12 plays, then turn things over to reserves who have blown leads three straight weeks.

During their brief appearance, it will be interesting to see if the starters can keep up the work they did in limiting opponents to 27.8 percent third-down conversions and a 2.1-yard rushing average against the likes of Deuce McAllister.

Entering the game, the Raiders hold the No.1 ranking in NFL defense (222.7 yards a game).

Warren Sapp says the third-down defense "was a point of emphasis. If we can get off on third down, that's three less snaps we've got to face against these potent offenses we're going to see all year long."

That starts a week from today at New England.

"It will be nice to be able to get in there and know we (starters) are going to play 60 minutes and that the won-lost category is going to matter," Schweigert said. "I want to get going."

EXTRA POINTS: Rookie QB Andrew Walter will make his first appearance since the opener, having recovered from a groin pull. Walter could see action as early as the late second quarter. ... Shane Lechler will handle the punting chores. Injured on his first punt of the year when he took off running, Lechler still has not punted. ... The game will be the last for 23 Raiders who face cuts on Sunday.