On Tuesday, the Oakland Raiders fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton. On Wednesday, two of the Raiders’ biggest names on defense stretched with the team, then walked off the field and didn’t practice. The team said they didn’t practice due to “non-injury reasons.”
Khalil Mack, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, and Bruce Irvin didn’t immediately say whey they didn’t practice on Wednesday, but it seems like a good guess that it was related to the Norton news. A team spokesman said the two were simply given the day off to rest, via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, much like Charles Woodson used to be. Woodson was in his late 30s when he was with the Raiders. Mack is 26, Irvin is 30. Mack hasn’t missed a practice since missing a Wednesday session with a knee injury before Week 1, and Irvin hasn’t missed a practice all season according to the Raiders’ injury reports.
So randomly giving those two off on Wednesday would be an amazing coincidence, considering neither player seemed all too pleased with Norton’s firing.
“I like to keep my thoughts private,” Mack said when asked about Norton being fired, according to ESPN.
If Mack and Irvin skipped practice is due to Norton’s firing, it’s a sticky situation for coach Jack Del Rio. When Norton was fired, Irvin tweeted out an expletive. It seems the move wasn’t too popular.
“I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give (Irvin) a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work,” Del Rio said, according to Gehlken. “But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”
Perhaps the Raiders defenders upset with the move should take some blame for Norton’s firing. The Raiders rank in the bottom half of the NFL in just about every defensive category, including 21st in points allowed and 26th in yards allowed. Amazingly enough, the Raiders have zero interceptions this season. The players might have liked Norton, but the defense has been bad. At 4-6, the Raiders aren’t out of the playoff race. Something needed to be done, and you can’t fire all the players.
No matter, it’s a potential mess now (we’re going to go ahead and be skeptical of the “just a rest day” excuse from the team). If the two players, including the team’s best player in Mack, didn’t practice because they’re mad at Del Rio, that won’t be easy for the coach to navigate.
The issue could impact this week’s game against Denver. It could also affect more than just this week for Del Rio.
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