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New-Look Raiders Ready

September 10, 2006|From the Associated Press

OAKLAND — Art Shell is back pacing the sidelines, Aaron Brooks is taking snaps at quarterback and the defense has been overhauled.

There's a new look in Oakland, and after three years of losing, the players want to show the rest of the NFL that they're no longer the same old Raiders.

They'll get that chance in a nationally televised opener on Monday night against the San Diego Chargers.

"People are curious to see how we are going to do," running back LaMont Jordan said. "Some people probably feel San Diego is going to come blow us out. Based on what we did last year, I can understand that. But we are a new Raiders team with a new attitude. Coach Shell has brought in a new attitude."

The Raiders have had three straight losing seasons for the first time since Al Davis joined the franchise in 1963 as coach and eventually owner. Last year's 4-12 record led to coach Norv Turner and quarterback Kerry Collins being cut loose, and an infusion of speed on defense.

Shell is trying to return the Raiders to their glory days, bringing back the power-running and deep-strike passing offense that was successful when he played and coached the team.

"They're going to come out and play much like we try to play, and that's to be physical from the start of the ballgame, and try to find their opportunities for a big play here and there," said Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer, who has coached with and against Shell in the past. "I think what Art brings, he brings a level of discipline and toughness."

The opener will also be an opportunity to see how the Chargers' big off-season change is going. San Diego let quarterback Drew Brees go and turned over the offense to Philip Rivers.

It also will be the team's first game since outside linebacker Steve Foley was shot by an off-duty police officer, sidelining him for the season.

But the key for San Diego to make it to the playoffs after falling short last season is Rivers, the player the Chargers have groomed to be the starter since acquiring him in the 2004 draft.

San Diego's offense will still center around star running back LaDainian Tomlinson and All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates.

"I just have to try to manage the game. I feel fortunate that I have a guy standing directly behind me that I can give the ball to that can make big things happen," Rivers said. "I don't walk into this game Monday night thinking I have to make magic."

Tomlinson has five 100-yard rushing games against the Raiders, including four in Oakland. In 10 games against the Raiders, Tomlinson has rushed for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns, caught 42 passes for 207 yards and two scores, and thrown two touchdown passes.

The Raiders hope the additions of speedy rookies Michael Huff at safety and Thomas Howard at linebacker will limit Tomlinson and put pressure on Rivers, who has a rookie protecting him at left tackle in Marcus McNeill.

"I think they're going to rely on LaDainian a little bit more than they did with Brees," safety Stuart Schweigert said. "Rivers is still learning the offense a little bit. I think he's a guy we can force into mistakes. He takes some chances. Sometimes they turn out good. Hopefully, Monday they will turn out bad for him."

The key for the Raiders' offense is Brooks. A starter for more than five seasons in New Orleans, Brooks struggled in his final year with the Saints with 17 interceptions and 13 touchdowns.

After dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last season, Brooks is eager for a fresh start in Oakland.

"As a team this can be the beginning of a new birth, the whole thing of a winning tradition around here," Brooks said. "That's the feeling I get from my teammates. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to get back on top and experience what it is to be a Raider."

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