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NAPA, Calif. – Art Shell, back again as the coach of the Oakland Raiders after an 11-year hiatus, gave a quick primer on the subject of respect to reporters after practice Tuesday.
It was all prompted by a reporter's cell phone that went off as Shell was answering questions.
"Don't bring a phone to the deal," Upshaw said, splicing his comment into one of his answers. "I talk to the players about that."
To Shell, such respect is a simple request. He has some rules, but none of them make him seem like he's Tom Coughlin West.
"Don't be late to meetings, don't miss curfew," Shell said when asked to elaborate. "Don't bring cell phones in my meetings. Don't bring food in my meetings."
Shell punctuated all of it when one reporter mentioned how he has given up trying to understand the music listened to by his teenage daughter. Shell, who occasionally checks the listening habits of his players, had a pretty strong piece of advice for the reporter.
"You tell her (to be careful)," Shell said with just a hint of disgust. "Listen to those lyrics, [some of these artists] don't respect women."
That all sounded good. Still, it remains to be seen if Shell can nurture respect and discipline in an environment that seems best suited for growing mushrooms.
As Shell gave his dissertation on respect, his players worked out at the makeshift weight room the Raiders construct each year at their training camp behind the Napa Valley Marriott. At alternating times, the players cranked the music, some of it laced with more than a few profanities, so loud that Shell couldn't be heard by reporters from more than a couple of feet away.
Later, after Shell was done, wide receiver Jerry Porter walked out of the workout room. At the start of training camp, Porter ripped Shell and the coaching staff in the process of asking for a trade. Given that the Raiders have paid Porter a $4 million roster bonus this year and want the money and a high draft pick for him, a deal seems about as likely as the United States pulling out of Iraq soon.
Porter didn't stop to talk to reporters Tuesday (he hasn't been saying much of anything to anyone in or out of the organization since ripping Shell). Still, he managed to get his feelings across.
As Porter marched past the reporters and a handful of fans, he was wearing a t-shirt featuring a drawing of a large right hand balled into a fist
Except for one rather significant finger sticking out in vulgar salute.
To some, that might just seem to be the Raider Way. Led by managing general partner Al Davis, the Raiders have always cut a renegade path. Shell, a Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive lineman in the Raiders hey days, was there when players like John Matuszak, Lyle Alzado and Ken Stabler led Oakland to titles and then drove off after the game on Harleys.
"People who say that don't really understand what we were about," Shell said when asked about those days of yore.
What has happened since is that Davis has progressively undermined the authority of his coaches by allowing his players to do as they please. Under former coaches Jon Gruden, Bill Callahan and Norv Turner, players would regularly be fined, only to have Davis rescind the punishment.
"It was pure chaos," said a former player who was a member of the 2002 Raiders team that made it to the Super Bowl before losing to Tampa Bay. "All the stuff that would go on … we'd leave for every road trip (on Friday) just so that the guys who got drunk on the plane ride could sober up by Sunday.
"The only reason that team was able to do anything was that there were enough established veterans like (wide receiver) Jerry (Rice) and (linebacker Bill) Romanowski. The veterans kept the younger guys in line enough to make it work."
The Raiders went from the Super Bowl in 2002 to 4-12 in 2003. Callahan was fired after players lambasted his methods. Turner wasn't any better, going 5-11 and 4-12 the past two seasons. Turner's run was punctuated last season at end of a loss to Miami when he tried to talk to receivers Porter, Randy Moss and Doug Gabriel.
All three looked at Turner briefly and then just walked away before he could finish what he said.
Now comes Shell, who said he and other former Raiders have talked among themselves about the embarrassment they have felt in recent years.
"Sure, it hurt. It hurt the alumni that the team had gotten to this point," Shell said. "Sitting in New York, working for the league the past few years, people would walk by the office after the Raiders would lose and they'd say, ‘Hey, what happened to your team?' What could I say?"
For now, Shell is saying the right things and Davis is backing him up, telling reporters that Shell is in charge and can do it his way.
Still, there is a lot to be done and much of it goes way beyond X's and O's.
For instance, there is the growing belief that Moss and new quarterback Aaron Brooks aren't on the same page. Moss has been grousing privately about not getting the ball enough in the exhibition season. Privately, some say that Moss prefers backup Andrew Walter, although Walter is clearly not ready to play regularly.
When asked about that, Shell said there is still work to be done, but indicated that he's aware that there are some issues.
"Me and Randy, we'll get together about that," Shell said.
The only question is, will Moss listen?