By Ryan Leong
There are of course only 16 games during the regular season, but this game at Cincinnati is special because it’s a reunion of sorts. It’s Carson Palmer’s first game back against the Bengals where Hue Jackson is the special teams and defensive backs assistant coach. Jackson was the Raiders head coach last year and the offensive coordinator in 2010.
Of course, much of the buzz around Wednesday’s practice is about the reunion and other lingering problems with the defense. On Monday, the team released linebacker Aaron Curry.
“We just didn’t feel like he was a fit for us moving forward,” Head coach Dennis Allen said.
Curry represents the kind of player the team does not want, one that perpetuates the bad boy image of constantly getting penalized for stupid mistakes.
In his first game back at Baltimore he was penalized twice for personal fouls and barely saw any playing time against New Orleans last Sunday.
Allen says his roster spot will likely be filled by the time they play at Cincinnati. The player likely eligible is rookie Kaelin Burnett from Nevada, the only linebacker on the practice squad.
“I think there’s a possibility we might fill it with a practice squad player, but we don’t have to make any type of decision until the end of the week, so we’re going to hold off,” Allen said.
Safety Tyvon Branch saw his streak of 57-straight games started come to an end this past Sunday. He has a neck injury and was limited in Wednesday’s practice.
The Raiders also only have one sack in the last three games and much of that due to the fact that they don’t have a solid pass rusher. They parted ways in the off-season with defensive end Kamerion Wimbley, who was the team’s best edge rusher.
His replacement Mike Mitchell hasn’t been nearly as effective despite the effort. Mitchell is chomping at the bit because he’s from the Cincinnati area.
The Raiders’ defense has allowed a whopping 135 points the last three games, something Mitchell is all too aware of.
“I don’t think you ever erase anything like that I think you just deal with it,” Mitchell said. “You deal with it, you wear it, you accept it and that’s how you play. This is a man’s game, you’ve got to man up and accept it but you’d don’t just take that. You look at what’s wrong and you do your best to get it corrected. I think the last couple of games, we stop the run but then we give up the pass. And then we stop the pass and it’s other little things so we’ve got to do a better job of locking down everything and play a complete game.”
And then of course, there’s the main storyline of Palmer’s return to the Bengals. At the time he was acquired last year by the Raiders, he was benched in favor of Andy Dalton and hadn’t been playing, but relegated to watching games from his couch. Palmer and owner Mike Brown had drifted apart and following the 2010 season in which the Bengals were 4-12, Palmer clearly wanted out but the owner refused to trade him.
After much haggling, Palmer was finally traded but at a steep price in exchange for Oakland’s 2012 first round pick and 2013 second round selection. It goes without saying, Palmer is eager to face his former team.
“Im excited. You spend a certain amount of time somewhere it’s always a little bit different going back,” Palmer said. “More importantly we have to get a win. It’s been a rough environment. Any time you lose it’s a rough environment. Having lost a couple we got to get back on a winning track. It’s a good opportunity to go on the road, go on a long trip and kind of break that spell weve had for a while and get a win, get back in the win column and move on.”
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.