ALAMEDA -- Strong safety Michael Huff lost six games during his standout collegiate career at the University of Texas. He endured as many losses in his first eight games with the Raiders last season.
Raiders defensive end Jay Richardson lost only one game in high school and nine at Ohio State. He already has endured six defeats in the first half of his NFL rookie season.
In every corner of the Raiders locker room sits a player who came from a winning college program but now struggles with the harsh reality of playing for a team that lost an average of 12 games each of the past four seasons and is on pace to do so again. The next challenge comes at 1 p.m. today against the Chicago Bears at McAfee Coliseum.
Keeping such players motivated and focused has turned into one of the most important aspects of first-year coach Lane Kiffin's job. The task consumes him.
"I worry about it every day," Kiffin said. "Every day and every night. As soon as we lost one game, I worried about that. That's my job to worry about that and find ways to motivate them.
"It's a daily battle, and when you lose (games) it makes your battle a lot harder. That's part of the job."
Acquiring players from successful programs is viewed by most coaches as a key consideration in personnel decisions. Players accustomed to winning bring a certain swagger and are apt to inspire others to perform at a higher level.
Richardson said he heard about the Raiders' penchant for losing as soon as the Raiders selected him in the fifth round of the NFL draft in April. Changing the losing culture is among the challenges facing players such as Richardson, Huff and rookie quarterback JaMarcus Russell.
"Winning's definitely a culture, a mentality," Richardson said. "It's something that everybody has to buy into and sell out for. We'll get there."
Then again, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Tyler Brayton, defensive tackle Terdell Sands and outside linebacker Sam Williams have been saying the same thing since they joined the Raiders in 2003.
The Raiders were fresh from a Super Bowl appearance and in the midst of three consecutive winning seasons then. Since that time, the Raiders have won 17 games and lost 55, the worst mark in the league during that span.
Barring a stunning second-half turnaround, it won't be long before the Raiders are out of playoff contention for the fifth straight season and talk turns to next season. In other words, "Here we go again."
Kiffin knows the drill, even if he came from a Southern Cal program that rarely lost. He has spent enough time researching what went on in the Raiders' locker room the past four seasons to know the potential for a drastic attitude change once things sour.
"It's really easy to be positive, it's really easy to talk about how great we're going to be and how great you're going to do and to come to work every day fired up when it's a three-day minicamp in the offseason or you're on a two-game winning streak," Kiffin said. "Lose four in a row and you'll see the character of people."
So far, it hasn't been a problem, Kiffin said. Players such as Richardson, Huff and Russell keep working hard, staying the course and believing that they are part of something that promises to yield dividends.
Huff is considered a positive locker-room influence. This, despite his adjusting to a culture where losing is commonplace.
"It has been difficult," Huff said. "Last year, I was coming from a team that won a national championship and didn't lose any games to here and winning two games. It's the hardest thing I've ever been through."