Gradkowski calm but eager for new start
ALAMEDA – Bruce Gradkowski’s excitement over being named starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders didn’t last long. Having seen the team already make one change after only six quarters, the journeyman backup realizes there isn’t much job security.
Gradkowski on Thursday worked through his second full practice since coach Tom Cable picked him to replace Jason Campbell as the Raiders starter.
The promotion capped a 10-month stretch during which Gradkowski suffered a pair of season-ending knee injuries, tore a pectoral muscle then watched as Oakland cut former No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell, traded for Campbell and immediately named him the starter on the eve of training camp.
Despite getting reassurance from Cable otherwise, Gradkowski isn’t taking anything for granted.
“No matter what coach said, you just never know,” Gradkowski said. “Winning’s the name of the game, and if I’m not getting it done I’m sure he’s going to try to find someone else who will. You just have to respect that.”
It’s the quickest non-injury related quarterback change the Raiders have made since relocating to Northern California in 1995. Aaron Brooks was replaced by Andrew Walter in Week 2 during the 2006 season after injuring his throwing shoulder.
This is nothing new to Gradkowski. He came off the bench to replace Russell midway through last season and led the Raiders to wins over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in his first three starts before suffering the season-ending knee injuries in Week 14.
That made him somewhat of a folk hero in Oakland, where fans had grown bitter because of Russell’s poor performances and lackadaisical attitude. In four starts, Gradkowski passed for 844 yards and six touchdowns with one interception. His 89.7 rating as a starter was easily tops among the three quarterbacks Oakland used last season.
Just as quickly as his popularity with the Raiders was taking off, Gradkowski was injured. The misfortune continued in the offseason when Gradkowski tore a pec muscle while lifting weights, shelving him for most of the Raiders’ offseason workouts.
That was followed by a groin injury early in camp that cost Gradkowski two weeks, giving Oakland more reason to go with Campbell as the starter.
“Last year was last year, and you’ve got to get it done this year,” Gradkowski said. “Coach Cable sat us down and told us the news, and I was excited. But the excitement ends right there. I really haven’t done nothing in my mind.”
While Gradkowski answered questions about the quarterback change at a podium adjacent to one of the team’s three practice fields, Campbell politely declined to be interviewed when approached inside the Raiders locker room.
“I can’t talk to you guys,” Campbell said. “I would but (the Raiders) asked me not to.”
Campbell, whom owner Al Davis compared to two-time Super Bowl winner Jim Plunkett shortly after the April trade from Washington, has a 61.9 completion percentage this season but passed for only 267 yards and led just one touchdown drive in 1 1/2 games. He was also sacked six times, a key issue given Oakland’s pass-protection problems.
Cable cited the energy Gradkowski brought to the Raiders’ huddle as a factor in making the change and said the quarterback’s handling of his own health issues over the last year increased his popularity in the locker room.
“What it does more than anything, it earns the respect of your teammates, to battle through all those things and still stand tall,” Cable said. “He didn’t panic. He was very disappointed … but the thing about Bruce is whatever curveball you throw at him, he just takes it and keeps pushing.”
Notes: The Raiders added rookie Quentin Scott and re-signed S Stevie Brown to their practice squad. To make room, Oakland cut LB Slade Norris. … LG Robert Gallery (hamstring) did not practice and is questionable to play against Arizona, Cable said. WR Chaz Schilens (foot), LB Travis Goethel (back) and DT John Henderson (foot) are also questionable. S Michael Huff (headache) was limited while RB Michael Bush (broken thumb) and DT Richard Seymour (hamstring) had no restrictions.