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ALAMEDA – Raiders linebacker Miles Burris came to work on Monday to find his equipment and his nameplate on the other side of the locker room. He was one of several players relocated in an effort to create a new vibe and a fresh start in the week after head coach Dennis Allen was fired.
Interim head coach Tony Sparano has also made several changes to the Raiders work week, including how and when they practice. Tempo has been elevated, with the team working faster and more aggressively than before. He’s backed up Wednesday sessions to give the team more rest heading into the week’s toughest workout.
He’s adding practice periods focused on fundamentals – sessions typically reserved for training camp and the offseason program – to improve in areas where they’re lacking. Those areas were identified during the bye week, which allowed for detailed self-analysis. Sparano pinpointed areas for improvement, and set out to fix what he could quickly.
The Raiders seem willing to try anything to rebound following a disastrous 0-4 start, even if that means getting back to basics.
“There’s a fire lit in that locker room,” Sparano said. “They see change. They know there’s change right now and let’s be completely honest, and I said this the other day and it didn’t get written and I’m going to say it again, we were all part of the problem, every single one of us.
“There are prideful people in that locker room. They’ve got a lot of pride and I’m proud of them with the way they came out there today and practiced. It’s been a tough week for the players, too. I realize they got away and that type of stuff, but it’s been tough. There’s been change. They weren’t sure what to expect when they got back here and in some situations, still not too sure. I haven’t let all my secrets out there with them yet. I kind of like keeping them, as I told them, a little uncomfortable sometimes. Comfortable is not good. Uncomfortable sometimes isn’t a bad thing.”
Sparano has no problem taking a hardline approach, speaking candidly about play good and bad. That seems to be a break from Dennis Allen’s style and a welcome switch for some.
Whether the little changes make a big difference on Sundays is up for debate, but Sparano wants a different feel around his team. The old system wasn’t working, and Sparano is trying to set up something as new as possible considering so much remains the same.
The key, players believe, is buying in.
“Anything will be beneficial if you put your mind to it that it’s going to help you out,” defensive tackle Antonio Smith said. “If you have the mindset of using the tools that you’ve got to get better, it’s going to be beneficial.
“I think there were some technical issues that we were messing up on that these fundamental periods could help out on. Every little thing could help. As of right now, I’m open to anything and everything to get this thing turned around.”
Said Burris: “Change is a good thing. We all want to win. There’s a fire and a hunger within the group to get things turned around. That’s clear in how we’re going about our business. We’re excited about the chance to get rolling.”