The Oakland Raiders’ roller coaster of controversy and absurdity began with the abrupt firing of their coach last year.
It didn’t shown any signs of stopping this week as they prepare to open the season Monday night against the visiting San Diego Chargers.
The latest involves newly acquired defensive lineman Richard Seymour(notes), who was obtained from New England last Sunday in exchange for a first-round draft pick in 2011 but did not report to the Raiders.
The five-time Pro Bowler, though, told the Boston Herald that he would report Saturday after initially being taken aback by the trade.
“First of all, I was blindsided by this whole event,” Seymour told the Herald. “When you get blindsided, you should take a moment to gather your thoughts. I have a lot of personal issues more pressing than football.”
Seymour said he has been in regular contact with Raiders owner Al Davis and coach Tom Cable, and plans to be on the field Monday night.
“I’ll be the guy on top of the quarterback,” he said.
Cable is embroiled in his own ongoing saga after allegedly assaulting defensive assistant Randy Hanson and fracturing his jaw during training camp. The case is being investigated by the Napa, Calif., police department and the NFL.
Aside from any fallout from the investigation, Cable might be another in a line of revolving coaches if he can’t break Oakland’s string of losing years.
Since falling to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl in January 2003, the Raiders have employed five coaches in six seasons. They have posted an NFL-worst 24-72 record in that time, losing at least 11 games in a record six consecutive years.
After taking over for Lane Kiffin, Cable lost eight of 12 games during last season’s 5-11 finish.
The temperamental Davis fired Kiffin by telephone Sept. 30 and called his former coach “a flat-out liar” who was “bringing disgrace to the organization” at a press conference later that day. Davis had reportedly drafted a letter of resignation in January 2008 that Kiffin refused to sign.
Amid the continuing turmoil, the Raiders will try to break their 11-game skid to the Chargers.
San Diego also dealt with controversy this week.
Linebacker Shawne Merriman(notes) was arrested early last Sunday on suspicion of choking and restraining his girlfriend, reality TV star Tila Tequila, as she tried to leave his Southern California home. The San Diego County district attorney’s office began reviewing the case Wednesday and decided to dismiss those accusations Friday.
With the focus now back on the field, San Diego will begin its quest for a fourth straight AFC West title. The Chargers, though, are considered a perennial underachiever.
They have the fourth-most wins since 2004 with 54, but the three teams with more - Indianapolis, New England and Pittsburgh - have all won the Super Bowl in that time.
San Diego needed to win its final four games last season, beginning with a 34-7 home victory over Oakland, to finish 8-8 and edge out Denver in the division. The Chargers recorded an overtime victory over Indianapolis to open the playoffs but were stopped by eventual champion Pittsburgh in the divisional round.
“You can’t say, ‘We will get it next year.’ The window of opportunity is closing, and it’s not as wide as it used to be and we certainly know this,” Tomlinson said.
The Chargers, however, have one of the league’s rising stars in quarterback Philip Rivers(notes). Last season, he threw for a career-best 4,009 yards, had a league-leading 105.5 passer rating and broke Dan Fouts’ team record for touchdown passes with 34. San Diego rewarded Rivers with a six-year contract extension worth $93 million.
Tomlinson, who turned 30 in June, said he’s recovered from a nagging toe injury that hampered him last year. He also sat out the playoff loss to the Steelers with an ailing groin - the first time in his career he missed a game due to injury.
Tomlinson rushed for a career-low 1,110 yards, which still ranked fourth in the AFC. His 12 touchdowns were the fewest since he had 10 in his rookie season.
Tomlinson enters the season with 11,760 rushing yards (14th all-time) and his 141 total touchdowns are tied with Buffalo’s Terrell Owens(notes) for fourth on that list. The Chargers also signed backup Darren Sproles(notes) to a $6.62 million contract as the team’s franchise player.
San Diego, however, is looking to improve a defense that ranked 25th last season - two spots ahead of Oakland.
The Raiders are hoping their investment in quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell(notes) will finally start paying off after a promising end to last season. Russell, who signed a six-year deal with $31.5 million guaranteed in 2007, had an 88.5 passer rating over his final seven starts, winning three of them while throwing seven touchdowns against four interceptions.
Oakland is looking for a similar breakout year from another former top draft pick, running back Darren McFadden(notes). As a rookie in 2008, he rushed for 499 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games but was plagued with toe and ankle problems.