Groves adds spark to Raiders defense

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.