HEAD COACH HUE JACKSON
What’s been the difference between 4-2 and 4-4?
More media pressure (laughs).
On the field, then, what’s been the difference?
I think the biggest difference is obviously when you’re winning there’s just a good feel to everything that you do whether it be at practice, off the field, what you eat, how you go about your business and everything. When you’re losing, it doesn’t feel as good. The last two weeks we’ve had some losses and we need to rebound.
Dumb question, how much does the loss of Darren McFadden the last two games have to do with the way they’ve turned out?
I’m not going to tell you that it has everything to do with it. Obviously you’d always like to have your best players, but we’re not going to make any excuses. We’ve lost because we haven’t played very good football.
How much of the playbook do you feel Carson Palmer has grasped right now?
He’s probably got 70 percent of it. There’s probably a good, strong 30 percent that he needs to still get himself up to speed on, but I think he’s done a tremendous job. He’s given us opportunities to win. We’ve scored points with him, obviously the last game. We just need to finish the game in all phases, offense, defense and special teams.
Can you define ‘tremendous job’ and the things you see him doing?
To me, when I say that, I’m not saying just throwing the ball and this type of thing. Obviously we made a huge trade and brought this young man in, and he had no training camp. He had no prior knowledge of his teammates or any of that, and you throw him in a game three weeks ago and he gets scuffed up a little bit. And you put him in a game as a starter this week and he goes out there and leads the team to 24 points. Obviously we’ve turned the ball over and we need to get better at that, but we were right around our averages. I think we were scoring about 26 or 27 when we were rolling pretty good. We got 24 and we need to keep finding ways to going back to being the offense that we know we can be. But I think he is not limiting us from being what we need to be.
Can you figure out anything that’s wrong with
I don’t think anything’s wrong with Philip. I just think sometimes things don’t go as well as you hope for them to. The guy’s a really good player and he’ll come out of it and he’ll play well. He knows how to play the game at a high level and he’s done it and he’ll do that. I think you guys are very fortunate to have Philip Rivers, despite –
I’m sorry to interrupt. If you had Philip Rivers, do you want that guy to go full blast even though he’s getting intercepted or do you want him to dial it back a bit?
I don’t think any quarterback goes out there with the thought process of throwing interceptions. I really believe that with my whole heart. I don’t think that’s their M.O. But I think the really good players in this league and the really great players in this league, they play without fear. If you start playing this game with fear, fear of the interception, fear of what’s going to happen, then I think it’s hard to be a really good player in this league. I think we all know interceptions are part of the game. You don’t want too many. Obviously it hurts your football team. You don’t want to put anybody in a bad situation, but you can’t play the game having fear, no more than you can coach it having fear. You’ve got to go play and coach to the best of your ability and let the chips fall where they may.
When you say Carson isn’t limiting the things that you’re doing, does that mean he can come in more than a month into the regular season and you don’t have to alter the plays you’re calling?
No. What I’m saying, there’s been an alteration of things. Obviously we’ve had to do that. I guess my point is, he’s played in this league long enough to understand defensive schemes, things that you’re trying to accomplish on offense, so I think he’s ahead of that curve, which gives you an opportunity to progress faster than you normally would with someone who doesn’t have any sense of the system (and) doesn’t have any sense of anything. I know him; he knows me. We have a somewhat familiar system for him and I think he’s growing every day.
How does the personal relationship between you two come into play?
The fact that I know him. I know what he likes to do, what he doesn’t like to do, how he likes to prepare, how he likes certain things laid out and structured. What we try to do is bridge the gap between him, myself and the offensive football team, and I think it’s working.
What do you make of this division?
Obviously it looks like it’s a tough division. Everybody’s tied right here at the top other than Denver and Denver beat us last week, so it makes for a great race down the stretch here. Anybody can beat anybody. I think that’s proven. The team that plays the best on game day is the team that wins the game.
Has McFadden been ruled out of this game?
No he hasn’t. Not at this point.
QUARTERBACK CARSON PALMER
Coming back home, huh?
Yeah. I’m excited. It’s a great stadium to play in. I’ve played there just a couple of times. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s always great to be playing in California and being a national televised game, a Thursday night game, I know their fans will be in it. We’ll have some fans there and there’s a lot riding on this one. It’s a huge game for both teams.
Do you feel like you’ve been in the hurry-up offense for about three weeks now?
Yeah. I feel like I’ve been cramming for a final exam for about three weeks now. It’s been a ton of info in a short amount of time and really trying to kind of weed through some things and figure out what fits me best and our team best. Trying to figure out how to exploit my strengths and the guys around me, (their) strengths. It’s been fun. It’s been a huge challenge, and right now I’m really starting to feel comfortable and good in what we’re doing.
Was there a huge difference in your mind between your first game with the Raiders and the second one?
Oh yeah. The first game was surreal. To play four or five days after being signed when you’ve been out for so long, the second or third series, it was like, ‘Am I really playing a football game right now, trying to come back from a 21-point deficit?’ It was interesting, and then to have a couple weeks under my belt and really get reps in practice and really understand the protections, understand the playbook, there’s really no comparison between the first game and the second game.
Does the frenzied nature of this make it difficult to play instinctually and with a clear head or are you still overthinking stuff a bit?
At first yes, but now that I’ve had a chance to look at the game film, watch myself and study myself running our offense and running our schemes, I’m really excited to play again. I’m really looking forward to having a chance to go out and put better play on film and just go out and be successful. It was overwhelming at first and it’s slowly died down and now I kind of feel like I’m in the middle of the season like I should be.
What were you doing before the trade? I assume you were in Del Mar. How much throwing were you doing? What was your life like?
In my mind I was semi-retired. I was still working out. I was only throwing a couple times a week, but I was hanging out with the family a lot, running around doing kind of honey-do things around the house that I hadn’t gotten done. I wasn’t really sure. It was tough to focus on working out and training when you think it’s kind of for nothing, because I thought I might not be playing this year. So it was just a weird time. I thought hopefully I’d get a chance to play the next year, but everything happened very fast a couple weeks ago. I’m just excited to be where I am now.
But you did reach a point where you thought you weren’t going to play at all this year?
Yeah. It’s hard to totally say that and totally let your mind commit to that. I continued to work out and like I said throw a couple times, but just playing catch is a lot different than going out and throwing and stuff, 7-on-7 drills, team and live-action stuff. But I didn’t fully commit to not playing again.
Did you pay much attention to the Chargers at that time?
Yeah. I watched the Chargers games. I was watching as many football games as I could on Sundays.
Your last game in Cincinnati was against these guys. Tell me about that memory and the fact that it was your farewell game.
It was a big game for us. It was an even bigger game for them. We had a bunch of injuries and we had some new guys in the game and got some good work in the week with the younger receivers we had at the time. We played well on offense, well on defense and fortunately got the win and had a chance to knock a team out of the playoffs.
Did you have the sense at that time that was it for you playing there?
No. No. We still had another game. That was Week 16.
You compared this to cramming for a final exam. What’s the equivalent to studying in the library? Are you in the film room just crazy hours?
I was here from sun up to sun down at the facility in the film room, in meetings with the coach, in meetings with the players and having meetings by myself with just stuff all over my desk and piecing things together. So it was pretty similar to cramming for an exam.
Did you take the allowed four days off during the bye week?
It wasn’t four days off. I didn’t have any days off. I was here studying, watching film, watching all the previous games this team had played. I was watching our future opponents, studying the playbook and then getting the receivers and the tight ends together. We weren’t allowed to do it here so we had to go kind of off campus and we were getting throwing workouts in during the day.
How long does it generally take you to get really sharp into a season or preseason?
That’s not been the biggest issue. The biggest issue is just adjusting to the pounding, really, from a game standpoint. Going into last week I hadn’t been hit or knocked to the ground in nine months, so just getting your body back used to that. It kind of felt good to get banged up and be sore. As weird as that sounds, my body hadn’t felt that in a while and it kind of felt good to be back in mid-season mode where you’re just kind of sore and get out of bed slow in the morning. If you have to wake up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night, it’s a little bit painful just getting out of bed. I noticed that more than the conditioning and shape because when you play quarterback you literally turn around and hand the ball off (or) take a five-step drop and throw it. It’s not like I’m running for 150 yards a game. That wasn’t a huge adjustment.
Was there one play where a guy hit you and you went, ‘Oh, man, I’m back?’
Yeah. I got hit pretty good – a guy got a personal foul on me and he definitely earned it and I’m sure he’ll be fined. But yeah, I got one of those last week and it kind of felt good to hopefully get that one out of the way.
Any thoughts on Philip Rivers and what he’s going through?
When you watch another quarterback go through what he went through a couple weeks ago, your heart goes out to him. Those things are just freak accidents. You don’t know why they happen. You don’t know what’s behind it. Any quarterback could be in his shoes. That could happen to any of us. Regardless of statistics, if you’ve got a chance to win your division or be in first place in your division, that’s all you can ask for, really. Of course you want to be perfect and win every game, but that very, very rarely happens, obviously, and he’s put his team in a position to be playing for first place. That’s all you can ask of your quarterback.
Are you surprised by the hailstorm of criticism that’s come down on you since this thing started?
No. I knew what I was getting myself into.
Do you feel you have an advantage because the Chargers don’t have a lot of game tape on you as a Raider?
Not really. This organization isn’t going to change what they’re about. This offense has been successful for the first eight games, so it’s not like we’re just throwing it all out the window and going to come up with some new stuff. There’s plenty of film, especially playing a division opponent like the Chargers. When a team sees each other twice a year, you get a feel for what they do on third down, first-and-long, second-and-long. You get a feel for that just through the experience of playing that team. We’re going to run our offense, the same offense we’ve been running all year, and just go out and try to execute it. If they come out with a good plan than we’ve got to make plays. We’ve got to make more plays than they do.
Just curious, where were you throwing the ball around here, and how much of an alert did you have that this trade was going to come down?
I didn’t have an alert literally until it happened. But I was kind of bouncing around. I was throwing up in Orange County when I’d have a receiver up there. I was throwing at a park down in Solana Beach. I was getting together with my brother – I went up in Tahoe and trained during training camp up there in the high altitude thinking that something was going to happen. I train normally at the high altitude at Lake Tahoe in the offseason anyway. So I kind of was going about my business as normal, and then the season started and there’s a local park by my house I was throwing at. Like I said, Solana Beach and Torrey Pines High School. Whatever field I could get with whatever guys I could get out.
On the likelihood of defensive coordinators throwing the sink at him and forcing him to prove he has a grasp of the offense
I think we’re prepared for anything. We’ve studied our hots (hot reads). We’ve studied our hots as individuals on the outside and on the inside we go through our game plan and we go through kind of our checks and balances as far as what we’re going to run certain runs into and what we’re not going to run certain runs into and how to adjust our protections versus different looks. I’m going to go in the game as prepared as I possibly can. You never know once you get into the heat of the moment. If they’re doing a bunch of different crazy stuff, we just need to react to it and make them pay.
Did the Broncos do anything crazy that felt like they were trying to test your grasp of what you’re doing?
Not really. They came out and played the way they play. It’s a good defense and we didn’t make enough plays against them, but they didn’t come in with any new crazy schemes or drastic blitz packages or anything like that. They came out and played their defense and played better than we did.
What are your initial impressions of the other guys you have there on offense?
It’s a great locker room. Everybody’s together. There’s no finger-pointing. There’s no egos. There’s no guys pounding their chests win or lose. And offensively, it’s a very young crew but just a hungry crew. Not many guys would stick around during their bye week. Most guys would kind of go home and see their families and go off and go on a vacation, but this group stuck around and they were hungry. They want to be good and they want to be good now. Being a veteran, that’s what you want from a young group of guys. They don’t act like they’ve made it or they’ve been there and done that. They want a chance to be great and they want to get as good as they can, as quickly as they can. That’s been really refreshing. It’s been fun to be around.