Speaking on Wendsday to reporters for the first time since training camp in July, Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie made it clear he’s willing to adjust “on the fly” to put the best 53 players on the Raiders roster. Speaking about Terrell Pryor, McKenzie said that “He energizes more than just the fan base, he energizes his teammates and anybody that’s watching. Everybody likes to see big plays. And he’s a big-play guy.”
An eventful offseason orchestrated by McKenzie included trading for a starting quarterback with arm trouble, only to wind up starting the last draft pick made by Al Davis. He (McKenzie) also took a quarterback in the fourth round and ended up cutting him in favor of an undrafted free agent.
And he is fine with that. McKenzie said it’s more about being good than being right. “Good players will stay here. Point blank,” McKenzie said. “It’s not about driving off players who were here and bringing in our own guys. It’s about trying to put together a good nucleus and core group of guys and then funnel in players that can complement them and put together the best team. McKenzie went on to say that “Whoever plays will be whoever the coach thinks gives us the best chance to win. And that’s what it’s all about.”
McKenzie said Pryor has made progress “by leaps and bounds” since last season and said quarterback Matt Flynn’s sore throwing elbow was an issue. His arm didn’t fare him well in the preseason.” Despite Flynn having similar arm issues the previous preseason, McKenzie said “it wasn’t a major concern” at the time of the trade, adding, “If it was, we probably would have looked into it deeper.”
Speaking about the cutting of Tyler Wilson, the highest drafted player to be waived by an NFL team, McKenzie said he was simply beaten out by undrafted Penn State rookie Matt McGloin. Wilson cleared waivers and is on the Raiders’ practice squad.
“The best man wins. If you really go out there and say that every job is open for competition and the best man doesn’t win, we’re not doing our job,” McKenzie said. “But we have Tyler here, and he’s here to learn and get better. We see him as a down-the-line player for us.”
Other topics addressed by McKenzie during a half-hour session included:
*Whether he feels any vindication for the Raiders’ performance in the face of dire preseason prognostications: “Not at all. It’s way too early. Vindication is when we’re in the playoffs. … We feel we’re going in the right direction, and that’s a key.”
*The job of the coaching staff in adjusting to a new quarterback and putting together a defense that will have 10 starters who weren’t with the team last season: “You have to do what you have to do personnel-wise, and the coaches have to adjust and get them going. The coaching staff is to be commended. They’re doing a great job.”
*Whether owner Mark Davis approves of the rate of progress: “We know what we have before us, but he likes what he’s seeing so far.”
*The chances of retaining players such as defensive end Lamarr Houston, left tackle Jared Veldheer and running back Darren McFadden and other veterans brought in on one-year contracts who are producing: “We’re working diligently to keep our own. I don’t want guys going to the end of their contracts and then you’re scrambling trying to keep them.”
*The likelihood that the Raiders will end up swapping home dates with the San Diego Chargers to accommodate A’s playoff games, which would put the Raiders on the road Oct. 6 and at home Dec. 22: “Nothing has been finalized with the league. We just sit, wait and see what happens.”
So when Pryor takes the field Monday night against their division rival Denver Broncos, McKenzie said that he can “hardley wait to see what happens next…”