ALAMEDA -- Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano held a funeral for the season’s first four games before Monday’s practice. He dug a hole near the practice fields, took a football and put it in the ground.
He took a shovel and poured the first pack of dirt. Then the players took their turn filling the space until the football was completely buried. It was a symbolic gesture regarding a terrible 0-4 start to the season that got head coach Dennis Allen fired.
Sparano’s point: Mourn it and move on.
The Raiders can’t change how the season started, but they can impact what happens next.
“This is all about being new right now,” Sparano said. “We put four games behind us today and we’re not going to look back. Once we’re done with this self-analysis here, we are looking ahead at 12 football games. We are not looking behind.”
That’s been a theme of Sparano’s early tenure, and he tries to get players focused on future. The bye week allowed the Raiders to separate the drama from early last week, when Allen got fired, and the business of playing the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
“You rarely want a bye week this early, because you don’t want to have to reel off 12 straight games without a break, but the bye allowed us to clear our minds and come back fresh and focused on what’s ahead,” running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. “Monday and Tuesday were rough and everybody wanted to talk about (Allen’s firing) on Wednesday. We had the rest of the week to get things out of our system, and now we’re back and ready to focus on football.”
That’s a requirement if the Raiders hope to improve this season’s lot. Sparano is pulling out all the stops to ensure that happens.
“His mindset is focused on moving forward, and that’s the focus we all need to have,” defensive end LaMarr Woodley said. “When you’re 0-4, you have to hit the reset button.”