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Raiders display cautious optimism

JOSH DUBOW
AP Sports Writer

NAPA, Calif – When coach Tom Cable arrived at training camp a year ago, he was greeted with an overweight quarterback who needed to be fined.

Along with dealing with the struggles of JaMarcus Russell all training camp, Cable was also dogged by allegations that he assaulted assistant Randy Hanson and could face criminal charges.

The story lines at the beginning of this training camp are much more pleasant for Cable, who starts his second full season as Raiders coach with a new quarterback in Jason Campbell and more optimism than usual around a franchise that has lost at least 11 games for seven straight seasons.

“There’s a lot of excitement but there’s also a lot of caution in that there’s a lot of work to do,” Cable said Wednesday. “I know we’re going to be a good team, and I’m not afraid to say that. We’re going to go after the AFC West. I’m not afraid to say that. I believe that that’s what we’re going to do. It’s not anybody’s. If they picked someone for it already, that’s too bad. It doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to play the games. This team will be ready to do that.”

The Raiders begin practice today and will use a similar format to last year, with a first four days of “intensive learning.” The players will not wear pads for the first eight sessions of practice over four days as the coaches will re-teach everything from the beginning to make sure everybody is up to speed next week.

Cable said he was pleased with how that approach worked a year ago, even if it was hard for outsiders to see the results. He said there will be plenty of time for hitting starting next week.

“There’s a ton of benefits,” he said. “I think the first thing probably is just how our team got into camp and stayed healthy through camp, other than probably the loss of Chaz Schilens. You look at the soft-tissue injuries and things like that we didn’t have, that teams typically

get in those first week, 10 days, we just didn’t have those issues.”

When practice starts Thursday, offseason acquisition Jason Campbell will be running with the first team at quarterback. When the Raiders acquired Campbell from Washington during the draft for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick, Cable said there would be an open competition at quarterback.