Bartell, Spencer look for new starts with Raiders
The offseason moves that brought Ron Bartell and Shawntae
Spencer to the Oakland Raiders on the surface seemed to be a
perfect a union.
A team looking to go in a new direction at cornerback brought in
two veterans sorely in need of fresh starts.
Bartell and Spencer have brought sage leadership skills to a
young secondary in Oakland that is adapting to a brand-new
defensive system after years of playing predominantly press-man
Whether they can be impact players for the Raiders (No. 23 tie
in the AP Pro32) as well as teachers remains to be seen with the
first test coming in Monday night’s exhibition opener against the
Dallas Cowboys (No. 15, AP Pro32).
”They’re smart guys, man,” Raiders safety Tyvon Branch said.
”They know the game. They’re wily veterans. They’re older guys so
they know the ins and outs of the game. It’s not so much a skill
set with them, it’s the mental capacity, and they know a lot about
The two 30-year-old cornerbacks – both coincidentally born on
Feb. 22, 1982 – spent their entire careers with one team before
signing in Oakland within days of each other in March.
Bartell had been let go by the St. Louis Rams after missing
almost the entire 2011 season with a neck injury. Spencer was
released by the San Francisco 49ers after losing his starting job
last season shortly after injuring his hamstring on the third day
of training camp.
”I think it was needed,” Spencer said of his change of
scenery. ”I think the direction San Francisco was going was
obviously in a different direction, and I think it was something
that was positive for both sides, for them and me. I’m looking
forward to just getting a fresh start.”
It’s a similar situation for Bartell, who was St. Louis’ top
cornerback for years before sustaining the season-ending injury a
”I’m just happy to be back on the field, be healthy, and be in
a situation I think is perfect for me with a great group of guys
that I get to play with, a good coaching staff, a good front
office,” Bartell said. ”It’s just a blessing to have another
The Raiders made the moves to add Bartell and Spencer after
cutting starter Stanford Routt one year into a $54.5 million,
five-year contract, releasing Chris Johnson and letting Lito
Sheppard leave in free agency.
That left Oakland with only second-year players DeMarcus Van
Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa as cornerbacks who had started a game in the
The two veterans are being counted on as much for their vast
experience as for their talents on the field.
”I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or a dis,”
Bartell said. ”I’ve played a lot of football. Shawntae’s played a
lot of football. We’ve seen a lot of different things. We’ve
started a lot of games. We have some knowledge. There’s a
familiarity with a lot of receivers around the league and just
tendencies and just knowing the game of football. I never want to
step on coaches’ toes and try and be a coach out there, but young
guys do ask questions because they know you have experience, so I
just try to let them know my experience and just try to teach them
how to be a professional.”
Bartell missed virtually all of 2011 after sustaining two neck
fractures in the season opener after being blocked by a
Philadelphia lineman. No one knew the severity of the injury at the
time and Bartell nearly went back into the game.
Tests after the game showed the breaks and Bartell was in a
brace until December. He said it took until March until he had his
full range of motion and strength back.
”You get banged up a lot in this game, but it’s the first
injury I’ve ever had where I’ve had to miss a significant amount of
time,” he said. ”Luckily for me, it was not a simple injury but a
straightforward, or fracture, and everything healed up fine. I’m
just ready to play ball and I’m happy to be back.”
Coach Dennis Allen has been pleased with Bartell’s progress in
offseason workouts and since returning from a hamstring injury that
cost him the first week of training camp, but still sees some
”It takes a while,” Allen said. ”It’s not an easy game. It’s
a tough game played by tough people. So, it takes a little bit of
time to knock the rust off. Fortunately for us, we got a lot of
time to get him ready.”
NOTES: Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden attended the team’s
training camp for the first time since 2001 to prepare for Monday
night’s telecast. … LB Mario Kurn and WR Duke Calhoun left
practice with knee injuries that Allen said looked to be
significant. … Tests on TE Brandon Myers’ injured shoulder came
back negative and his status for Monday is undetermined.
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and