Spander: New year, new message for Raiders

Slogans they got. You’re familiar with “Commitment to Excellence,” the words if not the results. Now the Raiders are presenting players

T-shirts that in effect sneer at the derision the team unfortunately has earned in recent years.

“The Affirmation, Champions,” one motto begins, on the front and then switches to the back. “We are going to win the AFC West and then after the Super Bowl.” My, my.

Another bit of discourse goes this way: “Theory. Take the next step. We must not allow other people’s united perception to define us.”

The Raiders, with their seven consecutive seasons of 11 defeats or more, have defined themselves.

But up here, off state Route 129 — “The Grape Highway,” not to be confused with San Francisco’s Great Highway —  where Wednesday the thermometer climbed to 106 degrees, something had changed.

Al Davis still is at the top of the food chain, and has made appearances at camp. Yet it’s head coach Tom Cable who genuinely seems in control.

Through words — not slogans, but commentary. Through actions.

No controversy this year. No JaMarcus Russell this year. No question who is calling the signals, (Jason Campbell) or who is calling the shots (Cable).

The Raiders play the 49ers on Saturday at the Coliseum, a preseason game. Also the third preseason game on the schedule for both, the one where teams are supposed to be implementing the ideas which will carry them into the regular season.

“A little of both,” said Cable, when asked if he was trying to plan for September or simply get in work. “The biggest thing now is to keep evaluating our football team, and at the same time, we’re going to treat this like a normal game week. We’re tickled about playing in front of our home crowd, and excited about facing the 49ers.”

At the other end of the Bay, Santa Clara, the Niners’ Mike Singletary was no more specific about his plans. “This will be a little different,” he said when someone pointed out the third preseason game traditionally is the one for the starters. “We need to see what we will be needing to accomplish.”

The Niners reached .500 last season, 8-8. The Raiders still are reaching.

“I’m trying to have a purpose every day,” said Cable, when asked about his philosophy. “Focus? That’s a good term for our team. The mantras for the staff is go out as a position coach and make one player at your position better every day. And if we can do that collectively, it allows us to improve in the right steps.”

Not long ago when the heat was on, literally as well as figuratively, there would have been whining from the Raiders in the Wine Country. Not any more.

“We went to work,” said Cable. “There’s no complaining, no moping around. Yeah, it’s hot. So what? Give us something cool to drink and keep moving.”

The hope is up.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.

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