Raiders’ pass rush batters, mangles quarterbacks

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, December 13, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports


Herald Writer

KIRKLAND – Jon Kitna is concerning himself with defensive schemes, audible check-offs and hot receivers this week. He should also be concerned for his life.

With the Oakland Raiders coming to town Saturday, Kitna’s name is at the top of the endangered quarterbacks list. Oakland’s defensive line has been beating up opposing signal-callers at an alarming rate.

It’s not so much the number of sacks the Raiders have put up this season – their total of 38 is barely above the league average – as the results. Through 14 games, Oakland’s defense has knocked out nine different quarterbacks – including Denver’s Brian Griese twice. Some have eventually returned to the game, others were so mangled that they took the rest of the day off. All of them woke up the next day relieved that the experience was over.

“They’re very good at what they do,” Seahawks guard Pete Kendall said of the Raiders. “Some of (the injuries) are flukey, and some of them are results of quarterbacks taking constant pressure. I don’t think any of it is intentional.”

Perhaps Griese has been the most unfortunate target. The Raiders knocked him out of two games this season, and the latest hit might finish his season because of a shoulder injury.

The Seahawks have been victimized as well – twice, in fact. Brock Huard and Kitna both left the Oct. 22 game due to concussions. Huard left the game and didn’t play again for more than a month, while Kitna had to gut it out in a dumbed-down offense until finally leaving the game late in the fourth quarter.

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren put most of the blame for the Oct. 22 injuries on his quarterbacks. While the offensive line allowed just two sacks in that game, Huard suffered a blow to the head trying to move in the pocket, Kitna was injured scrambling.

“It was just unfortunate. Unlucky, almost,” Holmgren said. “Our protection, that’s not why they got hurt in that game. They got hurt because they didn’t dump the ball or they didn’t throw the ball. They ran instead.

“I trust we’ve gotten a little wiser and we’re doing things better now than we were then. Our protection, we’re not going to change it dramatically.”

Working in Kitna’s favor is the recent play of his offensive line. The Seahawks haven’t allowed a sack in two weeks, marking the first time in 324 games that they have held their opponents sack-less in back-to-back contests.

Some of the credit for that goes to the line, some of it to the quarterback play. The last game with Oakland served as a painful reminder that Kitna and Huard need to get rid of the ball, and they have learned from their mistakes.

“There’s a greater awareness of not taking any unnecessary hits,” quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard said. “There’s a greater awareness of getting rid of the football in time.”

Especially this weekend. While the Raiders don’t blitz as much as most teams, they have left quite a pile of body bags in their wake.

“We aren’t trying to hurt anybody,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “To be honest with you, it is coincidence maybe. I do know that we are playing hard up front. We haven’t always gotten there, but our sack total is increasing here in recent weeks.

“We are getting to the passer and are tying to disrupt his throws and making it so he cannot stride forward in the pocket and finish his passes. That is the goal we have, and that is the goal that I think every team in the league has.”

The Raiders’ starting front four of Tony Bryant, Grady Jackson, Darrell Russell and Regan Upshaw – along with pass-rushing specialist Lance Johnstone – aren’t exactly a who’s who of NFL stars (only Russell has been to the Pro Bowl). But as a group, they’ve been leaving a lot of silver and black marks on opposing quarterback’s bodies.

“They get after the quarterback, but it’s not like they do something dirty or something illegal. They just play hard,” Kitna said. “You just have to go play.

“As a quarterback, you can’t worry about things like that. Any game, you could end your career. You can’t worry about it.”

  • Notes: There is a good chance the Seahawks will not be represented at the Pro Bowl for the first time since 1980. Results of the voting will be announced today. … Quarterback Brock Huard (bruised kidney), running back Ricky Watters (turf toe), defensive tackle Riddick Parker (leg), defensive end Lamar King (dislocated shoulder) and safety Jay Bellamy (sore back) were held out of practice for the second consecutive day Wednesday, but King is the only one who has been ruled out for Saturday’s game. Huard and Bellamy are questionable on the injury report, while the others are expected to play. … Raiders running back Napoleon Kaufman, a University of Washington product, is not expected to play Saturday because of an ACL sprain.

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