Raiders flee sinking ship

Tuesday, November 4, 2003 at 1:00am

How quickly are things deteriorating in Oakland? Quicker than you can say Rick Mirer is in the game.

That's what it came to for the Raiders Sunday, when they found a way to lose to the Lions in Detroit. Earlier this season, they lost in Chicago. It's one thing to lose to the Chiefs, or even Tennessee. But the Lions and Bears? Oh, my!

The loss ensured that Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson would bring the guns blazing again, and he didn't disappoint. Woodson had ripped coach Bill Callahan before the game, saying, "We have a coach with a very big ego, you know what I mean? And he's not listening to the veterans. And that's what's sad about it. When you get to a point in your life where you can't listen to guys with the experience that we have on our offense, then there's something very wrong."

After Woodson's comments were published, Callahan said, "There's always going to be criticism when you're sitting on a 2-5 record (now 2-6). I've said that. I've mentioned that I'm accountable for where we're at. I certainly don't duck that.

"I don't respond to anything that's negative, and I'm not going to even comment on anything like that."

As for the way he has run the team, Callahan said, "By and large, for this team, I've managed it extremely well and I'll continue to do a good job. I'm very confident in managing this club.

"The leadership on this team is pretty strong. There are a lot of veterans in that room. For anything negative to be said, that's of their own volition. I'm not going to play into that, I'm not going to respond to that, and I'm not going to respond to any negativity or acknowledge it."

Which is like putting your proverbial head in the sand. If a player perceives there to be a problem, there's a problem. And it sure won't be settled by ignoring it.

After the loss to Detroit, Woodson said, "It was just time to let everybody know what was going on. That's the feeling of the whole team. I'm really just the spokesperson. The more you talk to other guys and get feelings from them, you'll understand where I'm coming from."

Of course, few other players were willing to strongly support Woodson, who will be a free agent after the season and likely will be playing elsewhere.

"He doesn't speak for me," right tackle Lincoln Kennedy said. "We've got a lot of things to focus in on. The last thing we need to worry about is the things Charles said."

Added defensive end Trace Armstrong, "In a situation like this, it can certainly get worse. If you fragment and guys get concerned with only themselves, it will get worse."

Woodson also didn't let up when asked about former coach Jon Gruden.

"I just think with Gruden, you knew exactly what he was going to do," Woodson said. "At this point, guys don't know what we're going to do from week to week. He (Callahan) might say one thing on Monday, and on Saturday, it's something different. With Gruden, you knew what it was. We worked with it, and it worked. He built this team back up to where it was. Now it's falling apart at this point."

Said wide receiver Jerry Porter, "I don't think think there's any validity to those statements. We're in a funk right now. That's all."

Meanwhile, wide receiver Tim Brown said Callahan is pretty much the same as he was last season when the Raiders went to the Super Bowl. While acknowledging that Callahan continued to change this year's offense when veterans didn't favor that approach, Brown said, "But he didn't listen to us last year, either. Even with everything, the plays are there. We just haven't made them. There's a small, small line between winning and losing."

Speaking of Gruden

The Bucs are 4-4 and obviously struggling. But is the team in a "crisis" situation? That's how some in Tampa were referring to the first half of the season.

"You know, 9-11 was a crisis," Gruden said. "Death and illness. That's crisis. Crisis is one thing. Some of the things that were addressed as crisis here were, in my opinion, a little bit overrated."

As for how tough it is for a champion to continue to play at a high level, Gruden said, "This is a short-term lease in the NFL. If you don't re-establish your code every Sunday, you get your block knocked off. You look at the league every week and there are two or three games you say, 'How the heck did that happen?'

"There's a lot of parity in pro football. Anybody can beat anybody. We respect that. You can't rely on your past history of success or failure to carry you into the next game. That's what this team has to do."

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