I went out to the field behind the Napa Valley Marriott on Wednesday to see what Tom Cable had to say about the Raiders and the start of training camp.
There was one awkwardly funny moment worth repeating. A writer for one of the big national web sites asked a couple questions regarding Jason Campbell, Oakland’s new starting quarterback, then followed up with this query: How strange was it to deal with a QB who had no love for the game?
Cable bristled. “That’s ridiculous,” he said. “Anybody who says that’s a fool. Because he and I have talked about it. I wouldn’t have traded for him if he didn’t love it.”
The writer had to interject and inform the coach that he was referring not to Campbell, but to JaMarcus Russell.
The Raiders opened practices in Napa this morning, a full four days ahead of the Niners. That would seem to be a more aggressive tack, but below the surface the teams might not be that different in approach. As he did last year, Cable is instituting a four-day “teaching period” to open camp. The Raiders will throw and catch and jog through plays, but they won’t put on pads and hit until Monday.
That, of course, is exactly when the 49ers start practice, and they plan to hit the ground running.
One difference between the teams: the nutcracker. Art Shell ran the infamous one-on-one hitting drill – also referred to as Oklahoma – in Napa, but Cable doesn’t do it. When I asked him about it Wednesday, he quickly emphasized that his practices will indeed be physical, nutcracker or no.
“We’re going to hit,” Cable said. “We’ll have a pretty lively camp here before we’re all done. We got a long road to go. The important thing is hopefully we get through this thing healthy and this team that showed up last night gets a chance to go out together at Tennessee [on Sept. 12] and play together and everybody is healthy. We’ll certainly get the physical work in.”
Singletary took heat for the nutcracker after several players (including starters Patrick Willis and David Baas) were injured in the drill last summer, and he has been answering for it ever since, to the point of his annoyance. At the 49ers’ State of the Franchise event Tuesday night, a fan asked Coach Sing if he would run the nutcracker again. Shaking his head, he answered, “I should’ve changed the name to waltz or something.”
Singletary went on to say that he consulted with offensive line coach Mike Solari and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula on ways to make the nutcracker more effective. Without elaborating, he said he has tweaked the drill based upon their recommendations.
The fan – @ElvinPritchard on Twitter – even suggested that the 49ers stage a throwback nutcracker drill pitting Singletary against hard-nosed running backs coach Tom Rathman. Without blinking, Singletary replied, “I think you’d have to take that one up with Coach Rathman.”