Sports

Raider defenders in different modes

NAPA -- Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha missed all of his team's offseason workouts and both mini camps. He signed his one-year tender as the team's exclusive franchise player on the eve of training camp, reported for duty and arrived just in time for the first practice.

However, his performance in the first 10 days of training camp has done little to bolster the notion that the more work a player gets in a team setting, the better off he will be in training camp and the regular season.

On Saturday morning, Asomugha stepped in front of quarterback JaMarcus Russell's pass intended for receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins, snared the ball in full stride and returned it for a touchdown. That upped his total to four interceptions, with three returned for touchdowns.

"He's made so many plays, more than anybody else, maybe everybody else combined in the passing game," coach Lane Kiffin said. "Part of that is he does know our offense, he knows our audibles. He studies really hard. That's part of that. He's come out and hasn't missed a beat. It doesn't say much for really needing minicamps and OTA (organized team activities) days."

Kiffin realizes that the success of his defense, in part, is dependent upon defensive tackle Tommy Kelly's performance. To that end, Kiffin is doing everything he can to get Kelly into football shape.

Kelly spent the entire offseason rehabilitating the left knee he injured midway through last season. He gained strength through seemingly endless weight-training sessions. However, he also gained some unwanted girth.

On Saturday, Kiffin installed a sequence where the offense scrimmaged against the defense in 10-play drives, with the defenders prohibited from leaving the field. He said he wanted to gauge the game-readiness of his players.

Kelly's huffing and puffing, as well as his tardiness getting in position before the snap, showed that he has a ways to go.

"As far as Tommy, it is a concern," Kiffin said. "He's one of the main reasons that we're doing that drill."

Kelly was listed at 300 pounds last season. Kiffin said Kelly is at 330 these days. He is limited to one practice per day, with his down time spent riding an exercise bike, lifting weights and partaking in individual drills.

"He's a force, he's strong as an ox," Kiffin said. "We've just got to get him into game shape so that he can play a lot of plays for us, so we don't have to be taking him in and out. He should do a lot for us."

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