When Al Davis was recruiting Greg Ellis to Oakland following his release by the Dallas Cowboys in June, he made sure Ellis knew he'd have a chance for revenge against his former team.
"That's the game that Al Davis told me about when he first called me," Ellis recalled. "He said, 'Greg, guess where we're going to be on Thanksgiving.' I said, 'Where?.' He said, 'We're going to be in Dallas playing your Dallas Cowboys.'"
Ellis gets a warmup act against his former teammates on Thursday night, in the exhibition opener for both teams. Ellis will likely play briefly in his Raiders' debut, but the game does give him the opportunity for a reunion.
"It will be a good chance to see Greg, I don't know how much he will play but it will be good to see him," Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said. "It will definitely be tough to see him in a different color jersey. We'll get a chance to 'chop it up' with him as we say. In other words, talk to him and it will be fine."
Ellis spent 11 seasons with Dallas before being released by the Cowboys. He had 20 1/2 sacks in a part-time role the past two seasons, but will go back to being an every-down player with the Raiders following the trade of Derrick Burgess to New England.
He wants the chance to prove he still has plenty left in the tank after being let go by the team that bypassed Randy Moss to draft him eighth overall back in 1998.
"As far as having a chip on your shoulder, I think, every year you come into a camp, you've got to have that," Ellis said. "You have to have that little extra umphh, if you will. Because you've got to prove yourself all over again. What you did last year is in the record books. Now it's a new season. Whether if I was in Dallas, whether I was here, doesn't matter. I got to come here and do it again."
Ellis played outside linebacker the past two seasons in Dallas' 3-4 system but will start at left defensive end for Oakland. That is the position he played while with the Cowboys before being moved by former coach Bill Parcells at the end of the 2006 season.
Ellis was the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year in 2007, making the Pro Bowl for the only time in his career. Ellis had been at odds with the Cowboys for several years. He was finally released by the team on June 2 in a move Dallas owner Jerry Jones said was based more on performance than pay.
"There wasn't any bad blood between myself and Jerry or the Cowboys," Ellis said. "Jerry told me, 'Greg, as soon as we know for sure what we're going to do, we're going to execute that move.' And they did."
Ellis has had at least 7 1/2 sacks in seven of his 11 NFL seasons and has started all but six of the 162 games he has played in during his career.
The Raiders need a dependable pass rusher, considering no one on the team had more than five sacks a year ago. That's a big reason why Davis targeted Ellis.
"I was happy because he expressed a lot of interest in me, a strong interest, and it's always good to be wanted, as opposed to have to go out there and hunt for a job," Ellis said. "It's a different story. I'm blessed that somebody actually wanted me to be a part of their team."
Most of the Raiders starters will play only one quarter Thursday, although first-round pick Darrius Heyward-Bey could play the entire first half at receiver. Coach Tom Cable also plans to rotate two of his three running backs _ Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush _ for the first half.
Backup quarterback Jeff Garcia will sit out with a calf injury, giving extra playing time to Bruce Gradkowski and Charlie Frye as they fight for the third-string job.
Safety Mike Mitchell, Oakland's second-round pick, will be sidelined after straining his hamstring in practice Tuesday. Linebacker Jon Alston is questionable with a foot injury.
AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron in San Antonio contributed to this report.