ALAMEDA, Calif. – Hue Jackson has hired a staff, talked strategy and philosophy with his new assistants, put together a playbook and promoted the Oakland Raiders in the community as he prepares for his first season as a head coach in the NFL.
The only thing Jackson hasn't been able to do as of yet is what he does best, coach a football team. Like 31 other coaches in the league, Jackson's job is on hold as the NFL has locked out its players in a labor dispute.
"I want to get to what I truly get paid to do, which is coaching football, as soon as I can," Jackson said Thursday.
But instead of installing his playbook, getting to know his new players and running offseason workouts, Jackson is left to prepare for next week's draft and wait for a resolution to the lockout.
The Raiders may have to wait longer than any other team to pick, having traded their first-round pick to New England before the 2009 season for Richard Seymour. Oakland is pleased with the results of that deal as Seymour has become a leader on defense and was picked for the Pro Bowl last season.
The Raiders have had a first-round pick every year since 1989, although they had to deal back into the round in 2005 to take Fabian Washington 23rd overall after trading the seventh pick to Minnesota in a package for Randy Moss.
Jackson did not rule out dealing into the round one again, saying the team would not "leave any stone unturned." It could be more difficult this season with the lockout because teams can only trade picks — not players — during the draft.
The lockout has made much of the offseason difficult as teams head into the draft not knowing which potential free agents they will lose or sign and which players they could potentially acquire in a trade.
That could make it more difficult to decide what the biggest needs are.
"We're all in the same boat," Jackson said. "We wish we weren't, but we are, and we'll all deal with it accordingly. You wish you knew exactly what you have and didn't have. Obviously, we all do. You can't worry about it. You have to continue to press on, go forward and make the decisions that you know you need to make."
The Raiders do have one advantage, with owner Al Davis having signed some key potential free agents to contracts before the lockout started last month, including Seymour, cornerback Stanford Routt, linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, defensive tackle John Henderson, backup running back Rock Cartwright, safety Hiram Eugene and backup quarterback Kyle Boller.
Even if Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and starting free safety Michael Huff leave as free agents, the Raiders have most of their defense back for next season, as well as almost all of their skilled position players on offense.
"We have a defensive football team that can hit the ground running," Jackson said. "A very talented defensive football team that I feel very comfortable putting out on the field and playing with."
The defense will be working under a new coordinator as Chuck Bresnahan was hired to replace John Marshall. Jackson has spent lots of time working with Bresnahan, new offensive coordinator Al Saunders and returning special teams coordinator John Fassel.
The lockout has given him more time than usual to talk philosophy with his coordinators so things will go more smoothly once the players return.
But Jackson acknowledges it might be harder to implement all the changes he wants with less offseason time with his players.
He has already put in place contingency plans for what he would do if training camp is shortened if the lockout continues into the summer.
"We're going to go do what we need to do. Now, can we do it on a wide scale? No. Probably not," he said. "But there will be changes. There has to be. This is now going to be my imprint on this football team. We'll come in here and we'll be a different group, and I think our players know that, and I think our organization knows that and I think our fans know that. Our expectation's different. We expect to win, and I think we will."
Jackson also said he was concerned about three offseason arrests for his players. Running back Michael Bush was charged with driving under the influence in Indiana in February; offensive lineman Mario Henderson was charged in March with carrying a concealed firearm without a permit in Florida; and receiver Louis Murphy was arrested earlier this month in Florida for possession of Viagra without a valid prescription, failure to obey an officer, and nonviolent resisting arrest.
"I'm very disappointed about it," Jackson said. "It's not very Raider like, but obviously there's nothing I can do about it. The rules won't let me talk to those particular players or anything. But I am disappointed. I'm sure when we're allowed to address it we will."