Click photo to enlarge
Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis answers questions during a press conference Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009, in Alameda, Calif. (Anda Chu/Staff)

NAPA -- Where's Al Davis?

The Raiders say he has been here at training camp, where he should and must be, of course.

But the franchise's presiding legend also is not fully here -- Davis hasn't made a single appearance during more than three weeks of practice, which isn't merely notable, it's potentially historic.

He's the symbol and hands-on owner/general manager, and there simply is no record of Davis ever missing this much field time during his almost 50 years in control of the Raiders.

Davis, 82, is behind closed doors. He's watching tape, sending messages, issuing orders, Being Al. But is it the same?

"The old man's always around even when he isn't around," veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said with a smile after Thursday's practice.

"It's Al Davis. The Raiders are Al Davis. When you think he's not around, he's around. He's just got somebody else looking for him."

But it's clear that the Raiders function differently on the practice field -- and maybe in general -- when Davis is not present, and his feelings are not immediately accounted for.

Practically, it has opened up a wide avenue for new coach Hue Jackson, who dominates the practice field from start to finish.

Thursday's session -- following the mood of the entire camp -- was crisp, fast and energetic, and there was no doubt who was in charge.

"It all trickles down from our leader, and that is Hue Jackson," said fullback Marcel Reece, who then quickly added: "and Al Davis himself."

After Jackson wrapped up practice, dozens of invited guests strolled onto the field to mingle with the players and coaches, a relaxed scene that felt like a picnic and would probably be unthinkable in Davis' presence.

For whatever reason, things are measurably calmer in this camp than the manias of recent years, no doubt.

Last year Davis basically hired Jackson to replace Tom Cable but didn't get around to firing Cable for a few more months.

In 2009, Cable and Randy Hanson were involved in the infamous fracas early in camp, and the JaMarcus Russell crisis was in full gear; in 2008, Davis was midway through his cold war with Lane Kiffin; in 2007, Russell held out all camp.

I could go back further, but I think you get the point. This year is different, unquestionably. It might not have a great effect on the win-loss record, but it's worth noting.

"Yeah, you don't have any distractions," Kelly said. "No excuses, you know what I'm saying? Everybody's here on time, everybody pretty much knows the system; they know how Hue wants things run every day.

"We're just going to work. That was what Hue really stressed, just put your nose to the grindstone and try to get better every day."

Cable said similar things, of course. So did Kiffin and Art Shell and Norv Turner before him, to varied results and with mixed deliveries.

But so far this season, Jackson has been the singular voice and presence, which is unique for this team.

So Hue, how would you characterize your conversations with Davis these days?

"They're great," Jackson said Thursday. "They're daily, they're constant, they're unbelievable. I love talking to Coach. We keep talking about this team.

"His whole focus and my whole focus is how do we continue to get this team better."

Jackson started his news conference by going on a riff about how he believes the media has over-reported the Raiders' recent batch of injuries but did it with his typical smile and humor.

We will see how this develops over the course of this season -- for now, the Raiders are operating on Hue Jackson's rhythm and energy level.

For now, it's drama-free.

"It's about business, strictly business," Reece said. "One thing we wanted to get rid of -- all the unnecessary things that have more or less haunted us in the past.

"Just making sure it's all business. We're trying to not just be a potential team, but a reality team."

Al is here. And he's not here.

"We always sense his presence because he wants perfection, he wants victories, he wants success," Reece said. "So you always sense his presence, and you want to make the boss happy.

"He watches everything, doesn't miss a beat, so we're just building off the leadership that we have in Al and Hue."

It's not the same, though, without Al Davis in person and on site. It's not a subtle change.

And until he shows up again, it will take some getting used to.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5442.