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Groves adds spark to Raiders defense

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NAPA, Calif. (AP)

Quentin Groves gathered the Oakland Raiders' linebackers together after meetings Friday and talked about making the unit the heart of the defense.

Groves then went out and got into a fight with fullback Alex Daniels at practice Saturday, flinging his 6-foot-4, 260-pound teammate to the ground and landing a few punches before trying - and missing - with a kick.

''I was just trying to provide a spark,'' Groves said while taking a break between practices. ''I talked to my 'backers last night and said we have to come out and be one of the most feared groups in the league. That's what the Raiders are known for ... that's what we are.''

Groves has extra motivation, too. He's trying to find a spot on Oakland's 53-man roster and is listed behind strongside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on the depth chart.

It's not hard to find Groves on the field. He's one of the most vocal defensive players and routinely takes verbal jabs at his offensive teammates.

After Saturday's altercation, Groves joked with some of his defensive teammates about the skirmish and later smiled when talking to reporters about it.

''It's what we needed,'' Groves said. ''Anytime you go live on goal-line or short-yardage, there's going to be fights. Who wants it more? We're both in the same position, trying to make a spot on this team. Either I'm going to eat or you're going to eat. One of us has to win.''

Daniels, who is splitting time between the defensive line and fullback, shrugged off the fight.

''It was a little scuffle and then that was it,'' Daniels said. ''We shook hands, we hugged, we talked in the locker room. It was a good play and then after that it was over.''

Raiders coach Tom Cable has said in the past he had no problems with players fighting in practice but acknowledged Groves attempted kick was over the line.

''Sure it is because that would probably get him thrown out of the game,'' Cable said. ''We talked about that and they handled it as a team right afterward.''

Groves' message was clear, though.

If the Raiders are going to have any shot at ending their streak of seven consecutive seasons with double-digit losses, the defense has to improve.

Oakland targeted the linebacking corps in the offseason as part of its makeover.

The Raiders acquired Wimbley from Cleveland in March and sent a fifth-round draft pick to Jacksonville in April for Groves. They used the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft to get Alabama's Rolando McClain and immediately dubbed him the starter at middle linebacker.

They also traded leading tackler Kirk Morrison, McClain's successor in the middle, to Jacksonville.

It's part of Oakland's effort to fix a defense that was 26th overall and 29th against the run in 2009. Since their last playoff appearance in 2002, the Raiders haven't finished higher than 22nd against the run.

''We can do a lot,'' Groves said. ''One moment you might see us in a 3-4, the next you could see us in a 4-3, the next one you could see us in the 5-2, maybe even the 4-6. We just have to tune in the game plan and that keeps teams on edge.''

NOTES: QB Bruce Gradkowski has a sore groin but was able to practice. ... RB Darren McFadden left the morning workout with hamstring tightness. ... FB Luke Lawton has been officially diagnosed with a concussion and the Raiders are putting him through a battery of tests before he returns to practice. ... Cable expects to unveil his quarterback rotation Monday for the preseason game against Dallas next week.

Tagged: Raiders, Quentin Groves, Alex Daniels

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