ALAMEDA — There’s a point where a bad football team isn’t respectable anymore. For the Raiders, that point hasn’t come, either from their biggest division foe, or within their own locker room.
Winless seasons, especially ones that stretch past the midway point and appear to be totally lost, can damage a team’s psyche. According to Oakland’s quarterback Derek Carr, the Raiders have maintained high spirits and practice as if the team was 9-0:
“To be honest, you would come out and just hang out in our locker room or hang out in our meetings, guys are driven to get better, guys are flying around. … When the effort goes down, that’s bad, but the energy level is like, honestly, like we’re 9-0. Guys are running around and still striving to do whatever they can to make this thing right.”
It’s easy to say that, though much harder to keep it up. Through 10 weeks without a win — including very close games against tough opponents — morale is clearly higher than one might expect.
But does the respect come from outside of the team’s facility? Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy — whom the Raiders visit Sunday — had some earnest, and seemingly honest thoughts about Oakland:
“This is a good football team. You watch their film, there’s plenty of good things that they do. As the battle we had with them the last time we were there in Oakland, obviously we know exactly what this team is all about. This is a good team. … They’re well coached and we’ve got to go out and do our best job and play our best game this week in order to win.”
The Raiders nearly triumphed over the Chargers in Week 6, a 31-28 loss that came down to the final drive. The Raiders’ offense stalled with the game on the line when Carr threw a pick on a deep ball down the left sideline.
This Chargers team, though, is coming off a bye and getting healthier with every day of rest.
Tony Sparano has lost one more game than his predecessor, Dennis Allen, and while the turnaround that fans hoped for hasn’t come, he says his head will remain high:
“It’s funny, I told players today, I got up Monday morning and I was excited to get to work. Listen, we get a chance to coach football every single week. We get a chance to work with great guys every single week. I love this football team. I think they are tremendous guys. They work hard. We’re out there today, and we’re in the situation we’re in there. We put ourselves there. They came out and gave me a great day’s work today. I really love that group of guys in the locker room. I think they do a heck of a job.”
Wednesday’s portion of practice open to the media held a special tune — one by 80’s rock group “Journey.” It was the song they’re best known for, “Don’t Stop Believing.” It was followed by a mash-up of some of Michael Jackson‘s greatest hits, and was a hit with many players.