Sports

Raiders friendly competitors

ALAMEDA -- Envious hours after the fact, Fabian Washington sent a text message to Stanford Routt.

Washington believed Routt's third interception of the season, on a pass intended for Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe on Sunday, should have been Washington's first.

"I hit him up on the Sidekick and was like, 'You know I'm jealous because I've been watching that play all week on film,' " Washington said. "And just my luck I'm watching and he got it."

Washington's definitely jealous, but his message was sent without a hint of animosity. Washington began watching Routt start games ahead of him at cornerback after two shaky outings to start the season.

But the good friends haven't let competition for a starting job affect them as Routt has taken over the past four games. They're still roommates on the road. They exchange tips on how to cover receivers as they rotate at left cornerback for the Raiders, with the belief that as long as the defense is improving, they'll let the coaches sort out who plays.

"I really didn't try to get into how they're thinking upstairs," Routt said. "I just go out there and play football. Whether I'm the slot, left corner, right corner, even if I'm playing outside linebacker, just go there and make plays."

Much was expected of the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Washington before the season. A first-round pick in 2005, he started 25 of 30 games in his first two seasons and had four interceptions last year.

Routt (6-1, 195) was the Raiders' second-round pick in 2005. He missed most of the exhibition season with a knee injury. He began their rookie season ahead of Washington on the depth chart before the latter eventually became a regular starter. Routt started two games that year.

Of Routt's three interceptions this season, two have come since he became the starter. He and Washington alternate every few series and both play against three- and four-receiver sets.

"Stanford has definitely given us a spark," Washington said. "The coaches felt like they needed to change. Was I happy with it? No, not at all, but you learn to live with it. It's the business."

Once he joined the starting lineup, Routt's play improved because he was playing on the outside, where he is more comfortable, instead of covering slot receivers as a third cornerback.

Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said Routt has matured with more playing time and become a better student of the game as he has secured the starting job for now.

"He's always around, always finding a way, always having questions, wearing our (secondary) coaches out, which is a good thing," Kiffin said. "So it's really good to see when a guy does that and it carries over onto the field and he plays well."

Rotating isn't the easiest way of playing, but each is genuinely interested in the other's improvement.

"We always help each other out," Routt said. "Meeting room, hotel room, locker room, whatever you want to call it. Hell, even in the bathroom. That's my dog. I'm going to ride with him until it all falls off anyway."

And they'll go out of their way to make each other jealous.

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