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It may seem odd to hear a player laud Shell for such a simple thing, but that's how bad it had gotten in Oakland. The team needs to be whipped into shape. Turner may have been too soft, but Shell doesn't hesitate to get in a player's face.
When wide receiver Jerry Porter clashed with the coach last February over Porter's desire to do his off-season conditioning in Florida, the incident ended with Shell booting Porter out of his office. Porter demanded a trade, leaving his status with the Raiders uncertain. The 59-year-old Shell has been just as assertive in his dealings with the rest of team. "When I got here, I saw that all these guys needed was some direction," he says. "They were looking for somebody to tell them what they needed to do to win again. I basically told them that I had high expectations for them and that they needed to have high expectations for themselves."
Of all the shortcomings Oakland has on both sides of the ball-last year the club led the NFL with 147 penalties and ranked 27th in defense-reviving the offense will be Shell's biggest challenge. The Raiders are counting on free-agent quarterback Aaron Brooks to avoid the mistake-prone play that cost him his job in New Orleans. A less complicated game plan, built around a power running game, will ease the pressure on Brooks.
Another key to the offensive transformation will be the play of a revamped line. Robert Gallery moves from right to left tackle. Barry Sims slides from left tackle to guard. Langston Walker moves from left guard to right tackle. Rookie Paul McQuistan, a left tackle at Weber State, is slated to start at right guard. Center Jake Grove, the one player in the same position as last year, injured his shoulder in camp and may miss the opener. In addition to the hard work needed to quickly become a cohesive unit, the linemen will be charged with making most of the protection calls, instead of the quarterback. Walker says the assignment adds pressure, but Shell likes the idea of Brooks having more time to focus on the play that's been sent in. "We want [ Brooks] to know he doesn't have to do it all by himself," Shell says. "When I watched film of him in New Orleans, that's what usually got him in trouble."
Shell, after all, knows a thing or two about line play, and the players believe in him. "There used to be a time when teams were afraid to play us," says fullback Zack Crockett. "With Art here, I think we can get back to that place."
11 SAN DIEGO (M)