(Editor's note: In addition to his team reports, Jason Cole will share some of the off-field highlights of his preseason travel.)
Day 6: So much for the trip to Napa. My jaunt to the wine country ended faster than an Albert Haynesworth(notes) run in the 300-yard shuttle. It’s on to San Diego tonight. The Raiders are generally pretty good with access to players, allowing reporters plenty of time to get their questions in. However, the team has this annoying habit of trying to tape every single interview, having its interns stand there recording without asking any actual questions. Furthermore, practically every interview request is handled with an underlying fear the team has that it’s going to get ripped. Here’s the bottom line: The general media, both local and national, has nothing against the Raiders. Not a single thing. The reason the Raiders get criticized is because they’ve lost 11 or more games for seven consecutive seasons. That’s it, it’s that simple. There is no agenda against the team. However, the team has created this self-fulfilling prophecy, believing that the media is against the Raiders, then treating the media with suspicion which then leads to a spiraling of distrust and anger from both sides. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Not much to see here: Second-year WR Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes) doesn’t appear to have progressed in the subtle parts of the game. Again, this is based on limited action because Heyward-Bey only had three passes thrown his way during a brief seven-on-seven portion of a non-contact practice. On his first play, Heyward-Bey did a nice job of turning veteran CB Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) around with a hard inside move and then a change of direction to the sideline. However, when the pass from QB Jason Campbell(notes) came up short, Heyward-Bey wasn’t able to fight through Asomugha to get the ball. That’s really disappointing because those are the kinds of plays that he needs to make to become a legit receiver in the NFL. The obvious problem with Heyward-Bey is that everything he has done to this point is based solely on using his speed to get into open spaces. He doesn’t use his body well to shield defenders or create space. Given that Heyward-Bey has the speed and size (he’s a solidly built 6-foot-2, 210 pounds) to do just about anything required of a receiver. His ability to develop those other skills is crucial to his chance for success. … DL Richard Seymour(notes) has been listed at defensive end most of the offseason, but he worked exclusively at tackle on Thursday. Frankly, that’s where Seymour is at his best. Unless the Raiders are going to play a lot of 3-4 looks (and that’s not what owner Al Davis prefers to see in his defense), Seymour should remain at a tackle. … The combination of running backs Darren McFadden(notes) and Michael Bush(notes) should be formidable this season, but it would really help if one of them could show the endurance to be capable of taking 20 carries a game. In particular, Bush has the ability to be a pounding runner, but he has never been able to reel off more than four or five carries in a row.
Aside from wind and food, what do you do here?: That’s a good question. The Napa Valley and nearby Sonoma are really one series of upscale boutiques. In other words, it gets fru-fru in a hurry – great place to bring the wife (or significant other), but not exactly much of an adventure. Fortunately, the Point Reyes seashore is only about an hour away. Not only is the coast amazing, but a drive to the end of Point Reyes features a spectacular 270-degree view of the Pacific from a cliff about 300 feet above the waves. There’s a great walk down roughly 300 steps to get closer to the water and the original lighthouse on the point. Throw in a drive back to Stinson Beach for lunch and you’ve got a great day.
Song of the morning: Given the location and the generally good vibe that goes with a Napa morning, “Oh My God” by Mark Ronson featuring Lily Allen worked pretty well. I like women with plenty of attitude, so Lilly fits the bill. After six days on the road away from the wife (and she has plenty of attitude), I could use some snappy repartee.
Good eats: Made it to Mustard’s on Wednesday night for the Mongolian pork chop. It was as good as Bobby Flay advertised. Now I have to figure out the sauce that goes on that chop when I get home. Sounds like plenty of experimenting to do. Throw in a cheeseburger at the Squeeze Inn and you have a good run of meals. That said, Napa is daunting when it comes to food. Sitting right outside the Napa Marriott where the Raiders stay is a stop for the Wine Train, a ride that features gourmet wine and food. Oh well, another day.